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When Cultures Clash: Two Stories of America Today

July 15, 2013
Plain English Version

What do the New York Mets, American Indians and Japanese and Korean “Comfort Women” Have in common?

All are in disputes over how they are portrayed by others. No country in the world has a more diverse population than the U.S. We are a country of different people and different cultures.

Take the case of the N.Y. Mets and the American Indian Community House (A.I.C.H.). The Mets invited the A.I.C.H. to have a Native American Heritage Day on July 25, 2013 at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, New York. There are about 10,000 Native Americans living in New York City.

The Indian group was elated. They were going to make a big day of it. They began to plan a pregame program that would include traditional dancing and singing outside Citi Field.

However, the Mets realized they were playing the Atlanta Braves that day. The Braves are famous for their Tomahawk logo and the Tomahawk chop chant during their games. The Mets became worried that the Braves would take offense if there were protests by the Indians about the Braves’ symbols.

No word came from the Braves, but the Mets feared there would be protests by “outside” groups.

The Mets decided to reduce the day’s activities. There would be no singing and no dancing. And now there won’t be any American Indians, either.

A.I.C.H. pulled out of the event.

An Indian official said, “It seems like we fall into this type of thing a lot. We are led to get enthusiastic about something, and then it’s like, ‘Oh, never mind.’ It’s disappointing, but it sort of amplifies a pattern of what we’ve been dealing with for hundreds of years.”

The other story is in Glendale, California. The Korean community is putting up a statue to honor the Korean “Comfort Woman.” The figure is a memorial to the estimated 100,000 to 200,000 women who were used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Japanese, here and in Japan, protested. Some Japanese experts say the number was more like 20,000 and that most of the women volunteered their services. They said the statue would rekindle mistrust between the peoples. Korean supporters said it would help the two communities reach a common understanding of the comfort women’s wartime suffering.

A Korean official said, “Our activities are not intended to strain the relationship between Koreans and Japanese. Its purpose is to improve it by getting ourselves on the same page in terms of our perception of history and moral standards.”

The monument is to be installed on July 30, 2013.

These two stories show how groups have to be mindful of others’ feelings even when they begin with the best intentions.

Sources: The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times

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