6 Years Overseas, Evading the Issues of America

This past weekend was my Japanniversary. As indicted by the title, I’ve been live here for three years with six consecutive years abroad.

I had a new video scheduled to premiere tonight, but I decided elected to postpone it.

Truthfully, I didn’t have a great weekend. I wasn’t in a great mood after seeing the video of George Floyd being murdered. Then I saw a video of man named Christian Cooper being threatened in Central Park.

Yes, Christian Cooper was threatened by that woman.

We all know the brutality associated with policing in America, even during interactions that we’d presume to be innocuous. Drug busts that turn into murder. Traffic stops that turn into murder. Wellness checks that turn into murder. This is why I get the heebie-jeebies when I read announcements about social distancing and face-mask policies being enforced by the police, because I know what simple infraction can lead to in America.

When you call the police on black folks in America, you’re sending a very clear message. I’m better than you, therefor I need someone to remove you; in handcuffs or a body bag.

And then this other video tripped me out, where a father and son chased down and murdered a man jogging down the street. This is normal in my country. These are just examples of standard killings in America, we also have mass shootings that occur throughout the nation.

For six years, I’ve been living overseas. For six years, I’ve been able to observe my country from a different vantage point.

I went back to work on Saturday. After two months of teleworking, my company opened its offices following the Japanese government declaring an end to the country’s state of emergency. Despite being one of first countries to be affected by the pandemic, the situation here has been stellar when compared to the rest of the world. We were never on any formal lock-down order. And now that my office has opened up again, I was able to talk to catch up with folks about current events and the things that impact our lives.

What I find most interesting is that many Japanese people, or at least the ones I talk to, have an intellectual curiosity in understanding the fundamentals of American culture and society. Why is the United States in the shape that it is today.

I often feel that most Americans don’t want to broach the that subject. Either they don’t care or maintain primitive values that they’re not willing to explore. I have a graduate level education that focuses on international politics and culture from one of the most conservative states in America. I’m ready to talk about these kinds of things. So when I’m asked by Japanese people, I’ll break it down for them. We’ll discuss the criminal justice system, American economics and public school issues. I’ll also provide my own anecdotes to these conversations.

The concept of America’s violence is novel to a Japanese local.

After work, I filmed my impromptu rant. I found an open area outside, setup my camera and spoke my truth. As much as I enjoy writing and filming the things that I enjoy in life, I think its important that I make myself abundantly clear about the things that disturb me.

And I guess I must’ve been giving off an irritated vibe, because some random guy stopped by to see if I was okay.

With the look of his teeth and hair, he might’ve been homeless, but I still appreciated the sentiment. Believe it or not, this kind of stuff is normal in Japan. Japanese people are very accommodating.

Initially, I wasn’t going to put this out, but I feel compelled to air my opinions.

So what’s the solution?

My time overseas is the result of circumstance and opportunity, but I will return to America at some point. I’d love for my country to be in better shape than when I left it. The first step is acknowledging that we have a problem. Well, we have many problems. The state of affairs in America are the result of an accumulation of issues that have yet to be resolved. Issues that affect all Americans, but are worsened when you look like me. In my opinion, the most pressing issue that affects public safety is the prevalence of violence in the United States.

In America, we’ve codified the allowance of violence.

We have Stand Your Ground laws that validate the use of deadly force. That case I mentioned earlier where two individuals killed a man who was jogging. They were arrested, but my best guess is that they will be acquitted of their crimes because of the way the law was written. Reasonable doubt goes a long way. And that’s American citizens killing other American citizens.

Let’s look at law enforcement, their actions hurt more because they’re the ones sworn to protect and serve.

Case after case of injustice in our country. Their issues far are more systematic. One death is already too much, but in 2016, 1093 Americans were killed by law enforcement. Far more Americans are brutalized by police. Their policy allows for this. Police departments procure military-grade equipment and project a paramilitary vibe but they are not trained to de-escalate the situation the way the actual military operates. It’s not the bug, it’s the feature.

Until we pass strong policies and legislation on a state and federal level, police officers will continue to kill Americans with near impunity.

There’s this false narrative about a war on police. And yeah, being a cop is tough work. Earlier this year a man walked into a police station in New York City and opened fire. I give the NYPD every credit for not killing him on the spot after he surrendered.

But then you have other stories where a police officer was fired for NOT killing someone. The officer was a military veteran who knew the value of restraint. He was responding to a situation where a man with a gun was suicidal. The officer assessed the situation and realized the man did not point an immediate threat and attempted to talk him down.

The pointy end of the pistol was not pointed at the officer.

Unfortunately, his colleagues arrived, they shot the suicidal man on the spot. And then fired the veteran for putting his fellow officers in danger. That alone speaks to the issues plaguing our country. We can do better. They’re many organizations dedicated to fixing this issue, Black Lives Matter being the most popular. While I wholeheartedly agree with their cause, I want to draw attention to Campaign Zero.

Their goal is to model policing in America based on our nation’s contemporaries; Japan, Germany, The UK, etc. Countries that don’t have the brutality issue.

Most Americans don’t travel and even fewer have the opportunity to live overseas, so they don’t know what a better life looks like. What it looks like to live without fear.

Indeed, America has one true and present factor that separates it from the rest of the world; guns. We’re swimming in sea of firearms and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s our constitutional right that’s liberally exercised around the country, is without a doubt a factor in the level of violence citizens incur on themselves, and contributes to the anxiety law enforcement has when policing us.

I feel worlds better now that I’ve said my piece. I supplement all my Youtube videos with a blog post, but this one required extra attention. It’s easy to make and put out a rant, but it’s important to put extra context to those words. Like I said, living overseas is awesome, but it pains me to see the state the my country is in. The divide seems to be getting worse while little is being done ease that tension.

I think what bothers me the most is that I feel like I’ve done all the right things an American is expected to do.

I’ve served my country, I am educated and every once in a while I’ll wear a suit and tie to work. But it doesn’t matter how tailored my resume is, or if I choose to shave and tidy up my hair, I’ll always be viewed through biased lens by strangers on the street; whether in America or abroad. The anxiety kicks in when that bias is magnified while on American soil.

P.S.

At the time of this article’s posting, the U.S. President encouraged state governors to use their state National Guards to combat protesters. He also threatened to deploy the U.S. military on domestic soil, an action that is unconstitutional, if National Guard doesn’t satisfy his taste for barbarism. I’m getting Central Park Five vibes. Those who are protesting outside the White House are protesting police brutality and state violence, and the President’s solution was more state sanctioned violence.

I’m going to say something deeply unpopular…

Barack Obama let me down. I have a fond memory of attending one of his speeches during my stay in Pensacola in 2010. I even shook his hand. In hindsight, reflecting on his legacy, Obama had the power to create immense change but he didn’t use it. I don’t know if it was because he lacked the courage or inclination, but he focused on incremental change at best. There was a time in American history when the Democratic Party had the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency but accomplished very little. We got the Affordable Care Act, but even that was a compromise. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party left the door wide open for the next guy to reverse the baby steps they took. And that next guy turned out to be the dude President Obama shitted on during a White House Correspondent’s dinner. My wife and I debate Obama’s legacy, and I always fall back on this simple point (keyword–simple): Marijuana is still illegal on a federal level and men continue to find themselves swallowed up in the criminal justice system because of it. An easy memo from Obeezy could’ve changed that, but he chose not to address it. Why?

If we don’t seek radical changes to the system, we’re preserving the status quo. After eight years of an Obama Presidency, you would’ve thought we would be past this. Cornel West said it best, Black Lives Matters started under a Black President, and Black Attorney General and Black Homeland Security Secretary.

Sources:

6 thoughts on “6 Years Overseas, Evading the Issues of America

  1. Our hearts are heavy. Check out George Floyd’s brother talking about the violence. Or Deroy Murdock. Or Tim Scott. What is happening in the US right now is bad, in my opinion what is worse is the violence. Mobs of angry people just looking for an excuse to rob/beat/burn.
    The media is just looking for another story, justice for George has been lost. Why aren’t more of the vandals/looters being arrested? Why does NYC have a catch and release program for criminals? Why did Washington DC drop the criminal rioting charges for people arrested the last couple of days? Americans want to feel safe, that’s for sure.
    And I know there are many places in the US that do not tolerate the kind of behavior shown by the media. One bad apple spoils millions, literally in this case
    Please Continue the conversation

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Let me just say I really like your blog and your latest heartfelt post as an African American man.
    But don’t let Japanese people off the hook for their fundamentally racist/xenophobic society. That doesn’t mean you have to tell them the truth when you are communicating with them especially if it’s work.
    The overwhelming majority will not listen anyway, they will disassociate the way the culture does normally. Lies are acceptable in Japanese culture to the point where it can become pathological.
    Japanese people are happy to talk about Martin Luther KIng, segregation, racism in the US and elsewhere but can’t handle any questions about Ainu people.
    Most of them don’t even know or want to know that the Ainu are the original people of most of Japan, not just Hokkaido. Did you know that the Ainu people were deprived of the chance to participate in the opening of the Tokyo Olympics ceremony? Where are the Ainu business people, sports and movie, music identities, politicians? There are none, not even in Hokkaido.
    There are ethnically Japanese people – born in Japan with Japanese parents and Japanese grandparents – whose ethnicity is Korean. They are Zainichi. What many people don’t know is many of them have North Korean passports because NK stepped in to help them when Japan refused to grant their families Japanese citizenship.
    Without that they were stateless and even with the NK passport it is very limited where they can visit in the world.
    As for the peaceful Japan that doesn’t have the racism or ethnic tensions of other countries – yes, the tensions have been repressed, their minorities are just about invisible. But when it comes to ‘gaijin’ – I don’t see any difference between the deaths of foreigners that have occurred in custody in Japan and the deaths of black people and yes, white and other people too, at the hands of American authorities.
    Ignorance is bliss they say, that’s why so many Americans seem to think that they’ve escaped in Japan. They haven’t, they just are privileged regardless of their race. That includes you.
    The African man who died because the Immigration officers at Narita stuffed a towel in his throat and choked him to death as he resisted deportation even though he had a family in Japan is an example of ‘non racist’, ‘safe’ Japan.
    Other examples are deaths in immigration detention – foreigners left to rot when they need medication and they died through lack of medical care. A recent example in May this year of Japanese police brutality against foreigners is when a Kurdish man was dragged from his car after a traffic stop and roughed up. I personally know someone who is subjected to verbal harassment by the local koban just about every time he goes shopping including with his ‘hafu’ kid because he previously refused to show his foreigner ID when he was going about his business shopping with his kid.
    And of course there’s no lawyer you can have during police interrogations, forced confessions are normal and a ‘justice’ system based on assumptions of guilt to begin with.
    Enjoy your ‘safe space’ and privilege in Japan. It’s an illusion that I’ve come across many times here as an old-timer with ‘hafu’ kids who have been bullied in one way or another since they were in nursery school. As a fellow American, I see your point of view but you are privileged here as a male from a western country and as somebody who obviously has made a nice little bubble for himself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for publishing my reply although it had a few comments that I look at now and see as too general.
    Respect to you sir for allowing my opinion and apologies for the generalisations.
    And I’m not doing the old trick of ‘Here in Japan there are problems so the ones in the US are not so bad’, sorry if I gave the impression.

    Like

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