While visiting my friend today, I was witness to an unpleasant situation that had been unfolding before her for hours prior to my arrival. This friend works on the social media end of an international corporation. This company is associated with a celebrity who has an opinion on the verdict of the Martin/Zimmerman trial. The opinion as I read it wasn’t explicitly violent or incendiary, however because it appeared on the internet a veritable shit-storm quickly arose.
The internet is a wonderfully speedy vehicle by which to share our thoughts and opinions. Unfortunately, the internet also lends itself to aggressive behavior that hides behind a veil of anonymity. But what happens when these rage-filled, cloistered attitudes come together in the real world?
With the acquittal of George Zimmerman last weekend, we’ve seen demonstrations of all sorts burst out across the country, from L.A. to Chicago and New York. The virulent banter online hasn’t dissipated at all, either. But angry people accustomed to ranting from the comfort of their own computer screen are not exclusive to the United States; neither is blatant racism.
On the other side of the world, racially-spurred riots have broken out in Tokyo. The rioters in question call themselves the Zaitokukai, or “Citizens Against Special Privileges for Zainichi.” Zaitokukai is a web-based nationalistic organization that has only started to demonstrate out in public in the last few months. Zainichi is a term simply used to describe a foreigner living in Japan, but this group is targeting Koreans in general and long-term Korean residents in particular.
They have been busily protesting the territoriality of the Dokdo/Takeshima Islands (sound familiar?), and detractors of the “necessity” institutionalized prostitution of Korean women during WWII. The theory underlying these complaints is based on their belief in the inferiority of the Korean “race” and therefore the obvious superiority of the Japanese “race.” This school of thought, if you can call it that, goes back long before the Internet, practically back to the days when a writing system was still a new concept. The internet has only aided and exacerbated the problems they wish to cause.
The Zaitokukai’s protests have typically involved marching through the streets, shouting political slogans through megaphones, and waving the pre-1945 Japanese flag. Favorite phrases for protest posters include “Go Back to Korea” and the increasingly popular “Kill the Koreans.” Recently one of their demonstrations escalated into physical confrontation with a group of counter protestors, the Reishisuto, or “Resistance Troops Against Those Who Discriminate.”
America and Japan could both stand to draw a lesson from these incidents: Japan will not find peace or satisfaction on a far-off island, nor a far off fantasy “free” of people they are unwilling to know or understand. America will not find peace if it always turns to reactionary, hair-trigger rhetoric at the sight of racial injustice. As citizens of an increasing globalized, borderless world, we need to call racism out where we see it, and work toward ways of bringing together people of all backgrounds in a constructive and peaceful forum. If we can come together in force to be angry, we can surely come together in force to be peaceful.