Has Anyone Ever “Earned” the Right to Use a Racist Comment?

When I wrote The Bottle Tree, my comment on racism and the interaction between races, it was because of some events I witnessed and some segregation that was being self imposed by different groups. Anyone that knows me know that I am not a racist in any way. There are people that I don't like and actions that I don't like, but it really doesn't matter whether the people are white or black or brown or yellow. 

There are cultural differences between segments of the population and I, personally, believe that rather than these cultural differences being torn down or don away with they should be celebrated. Blues music, for instance, one of my loves wouldn't be the same if it wasn't for the black jook joints from which it sprang or at least evolved. Yes, I said black rather than African American, I'll discuss that in another post in the future.

But before I get too far off on a tangent, let me explain why I am writing this post.

I recently became fascinated with WW2. To me, that period in time represented the best and worst of humanity and was an era when America stood for something.

It's gotten to the point where my wife recently walked into the living room, looked at the television and said, "Are you watching a war movie again?"

I've watched Band of Brothers more times than I can count and never tire of it. This topic is one that the more you learn, the more you want to learn. The Monuments Men just came out and we went to see it on opening day. We've become at least a little desensitized to the heinous acts committed by the Nazis against Jews and other races they deemed inferior, but the scene of them using flamethrowers on great works of art just because they couldn't have them brought the mindset of those people into another light.

My wife had an uncle who lived in Louisiana and came to the hospital when our beautiful and smart baby daughter was born all those years ago. I remember seeing him on a few occasions and someone mentioned he had been on the Bataan Death March. I didn't ask anything about it although he did mention it one day when I was commenting on a Toyota that I liked.

"I'd never buy anything made by the Japs," was all he said.

In the small town where I live now, a woman used to work for me and she told me that her father used to own a gas station and she can remember him going out to the pumps and telling people who pulled up there in Japanese made cars that he wouldn't serve them. She said it was because of WW2.

On my first trip to Hawaii, in the October following the September 11th attacks, we visited the Arizona Memorial, one of the absolutely most emotional places I have ever been. You stand there at the railing, looking at the oil occasionally bubbling up, seeing the ship below you and you can't help but be a little choked up.

While I was on the memorial, there was an older Japanese man (from Japan as opposed to being an American of Japanese descent) who kept walking back and forth from one rail to the next, peering over before moving to the other side to do the same. I noticed an older American man, sporting some kind of hat and patches that indicated he'd been in the service, watching this Japanese tourist do this. The men were of an age that both could easily have served in the war.

" I can't see it, where is it?" I heard the tourist ask in very heavily accented English.

The American looked at him for a second, then said, "On the bottom, right where you Japs left her."

He then turned around and walked off, getting on the tour boat and leaving.

Were these men racist? I can't say, although they certainly look at things with a different viewpoint then I would.

This next part is going to surprise some people that know me but it's my opinion that someone who was on the Bataan Death March, or at Pearl Harbor at the attack, or any of a hundred different situations have earned their right to have their own viewpoint. In their case, I don't think the behavior is because the people are of a different nationality but more because they had personally seen people of that nationality commit brutal acts, and perhaps even suffered them, in the name of their nation.

That's a different thing entirely from me watching a movie and feeling that way, or feeling that way about someone who looks different than me just because they look different than me, or feeling that way about a religion whose members have never personally harmed me in the name of their religion.

But that's just my opinion.