I recently studied an article about a talk by Sister Chieko N Okazaki in the April 2018 Ensign. I was impressed whilst reading the short bio of Sister Okazaki at the start of the article. You can read it at this link or the bio is just below:
“Chieko Nishimura Okazaki (1926-2011) grew up in Hawaii, USA, in a Buddhist family of Japanese ancestry. She joined the Church when she was 15.
By then, Sister Okazaki had come to acknowledge the complexity of her ethnic and cultural status. Worried about how others would perceive them after the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Sister Okazaki and her mother gathered and burned every Japanese memento they owned. But then she looked in the mirror and thought, “I have never set foot in Japan. I am not Japanese in my heart. But I cannot run away from myself. My eyes, my skin, and my hair are Japanese.”1
Sister Okazaki confronted racism throughout her life. She began teaching soon after World War II when anti-Japanese sentiment still ran high in the United States. Three mothers refused to allow their children to be in her class. But Sister Okazaki soon won them over.
Sister Okazaki was the first woman to serve on all three of the women’s auxiliary boards: first Young Women, then Primary, then Relief Society.”
I am aware that this type of cultural prejudice is unfortunately as prevalant today as it has always been. You would think that as the world becomes smaller through new and improved systems of communication and a diversifying of many cultures this would not be the case. Sadly, there is still a lot of unwarranted hate in the world. You only even have to look at something as trivial as football fans to see this in action. One set of fans automatically go against other fans and hurl abuse simply because of the team they support. Were they to meet each other in other settings they may have struck a wonderful friendship up. Yet, it is their categorisation of ‘those fans and that club’ that instantly have them make a judgement about those individuals.
The harrowing thing about cultural prejudice is that, unlike football teams and fans, culture and race cannot be ‘chosen’. We are born with it. As such, if someone is prejudiced against someone else for their race or culture, they are making judgement on that person just because of the way they were born – not on ANY of the choices that person has made! This is clear to see in the example of Sister Okazaki. The sorrow she must have felt when treated in this way because, simply, she looked different must have felt bad. She even said she did not ‘feel’ Japanese, but the way she looked made the difference.
She shared a wonderful talk about this cultural difference and the Gospel. She said:
“The basket and the bottle are different containers, but the content is the same: fruit for a family. Is the bottle right and the basket wrong?No, they are both right. They are containers appropriate to the culture and the needs of the people. And they are both appropriate for the content they carry, which is the fruit…
Brothers and sisters, whether your fruits are peaches or papaya, and whether you bring them in bottles or in baskets, we thank you for offering them in love.”
It does not matter what we look like, but what we live like. Obviously, this is something that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we would believe as we believe we are all children of our loving Heavenly Father, no matter the colour of our skin. However, this talk – along with the context of Sister Okazaki’s life-experience – was an eye-opener. I fall victim to making judgements about others and I wish to work on that.