Title: 53 Oh, I killed a jap a while ago... 1996
Size: 144" x 60"
Description: Mixed Media Collage on canvas
Comments: In 1997 I read an article in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County edition, about a young white man writing to a friend in prison about a murder he committed. The letter began with, “Oh, I killed a Jap a while ago...” Then it gruesomely described in detail how he killed this young Vietnamese man.
This racist statement brought back painful memories of my childhood and the constant prejudice I faced daily because I lived in an all white neighborhood. It was as if I was the one this man just killed. And I remember thinking to myself, “It’s happening again.” I thought of the racial hatred of the “white” society which put my parents, grandparents, and relatives in internment camps during WWII.
It was this rage I felt that made me paint three large paintings on this subject. One painting didn’t seem to be enough to justify the act.
It was interesting to me that my face was so passive, while I was being “crucified” by white America once again. I had so much hate and bitterness in my heart that there was no room to forgive.
That’s when I realized that I was just as bad as the white man and others like him who hate. My hatred, though not as destructive physically, was just as damaging emotionally and psychologically. I was judging a whole race of people just as this man was doing to my race. I was a racist in my attitudes and thoughts. But unlike this man who acted upon his hatred, I’ve suppressed it and denied its existence.
For me, acknowledging that I have this anger in me is the beginning in getting healing and moving on with my life. And then I will be able to forgive the sins of those who hurt me.
It was eerie to find out how closely the killer looked compared to the pictures that depict Jesus.
I later found out the police department did not think that this was a hate crime, even though they found white supremist material in his apartment and had his letter.
Was it because it was only a “Jap” who died?