TOMODACHI Critical Conversations Explores Voices of the Japanese American Experience on Race

On September 5, fifty participants joined the virtual TOMODACHI Critical Conversations Series Part 2, titled “Voices of the Japanese American Experience on Race.”

Part 1 of this series took place on July 25 and addressed the question “What is BLM?,” focusing on Japan’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement and how individuals could become more active participants. Part 2 examined the Japanese American experience, addressed concepts like allyship and the model minority myth, and looked at the impact that race has on our daily lives and how it can help us play a role in advancing U.S.-Japan relations.

USJC Associate Mana Nakagawa (ELP ’14) fluidly weaved in her expertise as Facebook’s Head of Diversity Strategic Initiatives as she moderated a session of panelists including: Council Leader Dr. Curtiss Takada Rooks (JALD ’04), Professor in Asian Pacific American Studies at Loyola Marymount University; Satsuki Ina, a writer, activist, psychotherapist and Professor Emeritus at California State University, Sacramento; and USJC Associate Courtney Sato (ELP ’13), Assistant Professor in the Department of Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora at Tufts University. Inspired by the panelists’ insights, participants deepened their understanding of the interconnectivity between the BLM movement and the Japanese American experience throughout our histories.

The event was attended by participants from both the United States and Japan, with most Japanese participants having studied abroad or spent at least two weeks in the United States. They were split into smaller discussion groups, led by facilitators from the USJC U40 (under 40) community committed to the ideals of diversity, inclusion and awareness through education and dialogue. The discussion groups were created to provide close peer-to-peer discussions in a safe space.

One of the Japanese participants, Chisaki Nishimori, shared that “in Japan, even individuals who haven’t personally experienced racism have been able to increase their awareness and saw the need to recognize that they might have been biased unconsciously, and that it’s important to educate yourself. Also, if you don’t know about racism or discrimination, we need to take action to tell others who don’t understand and to take steps to understand BLM and other issues more deeply.”

Click here to see Critical Conversations Part 2.