Thursday, May 28, 2009

Healing Racism in Anchorage Discussion Group Tonight

A compass piece by Grace Jang, a journalist at KTVA, was published in today's ADN. She wrote about being at a local talk radio show.

As part of the discussion, the talk show host brings up race and begins to imitate an Asian accent: "Ah, you like, ah, you know, you like a rice."

Both his guests, neither of whom is Asian American, groan disapprovingly.

Seconds later, he interrupts his guest with another Asian imitation.

And then again:

"I can dog Koreans because I'm married to one."

She goes on to write that the manager apologized to her (she's Korean-American) and she told him it was no problem. But later...

I discuss the issue with my co-workers and the response is almost unanimous: Why didn't you say something right then and there?

My response: I'm a reporter. I was there to observe. Never in my decade-long career in journalism have I ever been the story, been in the story or been part of the story -- nor do I wish to be.

But wasn't I offended as a Korean American? The host disrespected you personally and professionally.

Honestly, I respond, I hear that kind of stuff so much, it becomes white noise. Especially from a conservative radio talk show.

Later, at home, I wonder: What would I have done had I been a listener in my car? Would I have said something? Was I hiding behind my profession?

This the sort of incident that requires us to have organizations like Healing Racism in Anchorage (HRA) where people have studied the issue of racism and understand the various forms of denial. Where we have searched for techniques to gently, but seriously, explore the issue and help people learn skills to interrupt racism. (I have been on the steering committee of HRA for a number of years.) HRA was one of the sponsors of Dr. Brokenleg's week here in Anchorage.

Tonight, HRA is beginning one of our six week courses. It will meet

Thursday nights from 6:30pm - 9:30pm

at UAA's Rasmuson Hall 207A

until July 2. If you are interested you can register at the door, subject to space.

It will look at the word racism and the various meanings people attach to it. It will look at how racism in American history - from slavery to the displacement and slaughter of Native Americans to the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII - all leave a legacy that affects not only the descendants of victims, but also of the perpetrators.

The discussions are hard, but the ground rules require everyone to be respectful, and encourage everyone to honestly explore their beliefs and feelings on this topic. There is a structured curriculum based on research done on racism and the healing of racism.

The charge is $25 for members of Healing Racism Anchorage and $50 for others. (Membership costs $25)

I tend not to read the ADN online because the comments are so uncivil. I went there today to get the link. In this case though, the comments help make the point that racism is alive and well in Anchorage. People have strong beliefs and don't even realize that what they are saying reveals an ignorance about people who are different from them. There are also some more enlightened comments. Here are a few of the comments:

jjmichaels wrote on 05/28/2009 01:15:14 PM:

I'm very offended by these comments, because who, who, who will speak for the rice. Maybe it was offended for being likened to a Korean. And what about the Chinese? They love rice. And how can you "dog" Koreans without a barking buffet? Maybe if people weren't so thin skinned when it comes to satire and the mere use of words, there would be no racism. Your wounds are all self inflicted. Perhaps you should spend you time concerning yourselves with things that actually HURT people. I think you would have more than enough to keep your simple minded selves busy.

A little blaming the victim here. It's your fault that you're so thin skinned. Where's your sense of humor?

cafeina wrote on 05/28/2009 01:22:05 PM:

I grew up in multi-cultural neighborhoods, went to diverse schools and have always had friends from diverse backgrounds (both ethnic and social). As a child, I thought that people viewed others as individuals not as stereotypes. I didn't really know what racism was. Then I grew up.

There are many people who understand that there is only one race: human. There are people who respect and celebrate cultural diversity. Then there are those who see skin color and stereotypes only. There are those who make racist remarks without remorse. And most frighteningly, there are those who fully believe the stereotypes, racist beliefs and preconceived notions.

You absolutely have to pick your battles in order to survive in this world. But as humans, we need to speak up whenever we see injustice. That is the only way that this world will become a better place. Racism is a learned behavior. It is spread from generation to generation. The only way to end racism and hate is to spread a new message for

aabco7 wrote on 05/28/2009 01:26:10 PM:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

The concept of Americans being first and foremost something else "_(fill in the blank here with say Martian--American is divisive. We are all Americans. Or not.
Americans are indivisible according to the pledge of allegiance, not divided by color, origin etc. To continue to use this terminology is in itself horribly damaging and offensive. Stop with the hyphenated name calling!

valleydrummer wrote on 05/28/2009 01:33:03 PM:

Just to set a few things straight, the Korean people, as wonderful as they are, are not a "race". They are a nationality and have their own distinct culture. I lived there for three years and learned to love and respect their culture. I also learned during that time that they, as a group, are some of the most racist people on the planet.

The idea that cultural diversity is somehow good is nonsense. We have a culture here in the USA. We developed it by taking things we liked from many, many others. When people from other countries view us, they do not make comments about race, they just say, "american", it's too bad we don't do the same.

My experience is that most minorities in the US would be more than happy to blend in. But as Grace Jang says, " I hear that kind of stuff so much, it becomes white noise." The point is that others insist on the difference, that you aren't as American as white people.

And on the positive side, maintaining one's cultural heritage adds richness to the mix that is the United States. Certainly Italian-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, German-Americans all can be both American and can remember their ancestry as well. I find that it is often people who have no knowledge of where their ancestors originally came from who resent those who do.

It's such a shame that people still harbor such distrust and sometimes even hate for people they don't know or undertstand.


  1. Racism and extremism is the sideeffect of the economic crisis. If something is not good (high unemployment rate, epidemics) then people find someone to blame for it.
    For example Jews were blamed for the Great Depression in Germany or in the French revolution the aristocracy was blamed for the bankrutcy of France.

    I may remember wrong but I think you mentioned that you were/are colelcting Alaskan blogs. I found one on the net and I would like to share it with you. Her blog is not the one you would expect me to follow.

  2. Certainly economic hard times exacerbate racism, but it's a little more complicated. If we weren't already racist, then these targets wouldn't be as easy to target during hard times.

    Thanks for the link to Brittney's blog. There are, it turns out, way too many Alaska blogs to keep track of. But hers has a unique quality to it and her photos are really good. And I could recognize where she took a lot of the Anchorage pictures. I can understand you following her blog. She's a true artist.

  3. Yeah, but I am not a great art fanatic. :D


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