Essay on discrimination – part 2
I asked the progressive reverend for help when I saw him for an English lesson at the church. The progressive reverend held an annual rock concert with local youth at his main church, which my sister also played in a band one year. He’d put up the national flag on the wall of the stage, crossed with black paint, and wrote, “No Emperor.” The reverend was from the Kansai area and spoke in a dialect I had only heard on TV. He was cheerful and friendly, unlike the glum predecessors.
The progressive reverend told me, “you may think the discrimination is only racial, but there is the class discrimination.” He told me about burakumin discrimination.
The root of the burakumin goes back to the feudal era. The caste system of the Edo era was based on four occupations, Samurai, farmers, artisans, and merchants. Those who didn’t belong to any of the classes were called Eta (impure) and Hinin (non-human). Burakumin was supposedly the descendant of those who belonged to the pariah class. Reverend said he’d lend me a book about burakumin discrimination. He also suggested I learned about racial discrimination and gave me names of movies. They were:
- Mississippi Burning
- The Roots
- The Color Purple
On the way home, I asked my mother to stop by the rental video store. I was able to find Mississippi Burning. As the reverend warned me, it was a complicated story to follow, but I was able to figure out that the men in white triangle hoodies were terrible, awful people that threatened the lives of black people. The video rental shop in town didn’t have The Color Purple, but I should have known it was originally a novel, so I could find one to read. But I missed the opportunity and only read the masterpiece 20 years later.
The book the reverend lent me was in a manga format, and was about an actual murder case called Sayama jiken, in which a 15-year-old girl was raped and strangled to death. The suspect was a burakumin, who was forced into a confession.
In the end, it all became too much for me. Neither racism nor the false accusation of murder was within my life’s spectrum at the time, and I didn’t have a deep insight on these subjects. I submitted the essay about an embarrassingly shallow perspective on how one should not judge people by their skin color. I won no prize, of course.
Perhaps due to my tunnel vision from the riot in the U.S., it didn’t occur to me to write about the most relevant subject to myself – sexism. Yet I had only woken up to the concept, and sexism and misogyny were too normalized to feel them. And little had I known that I, as an Asian person, could become the target of racism.
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