An Ounce of Prevention

December 5, 2008 at 3:44 am | Posted in fmori, Youth | Leave a comment

By Floyd Mori, JACL National Executive Director

Recently I attended a congressional hearing on Youth Crime and Violence. A basic premise was that “prevention” is far more effective and less costly than punishment and suppression. This is the case with most things in life. Child poverty, inferior education, and lack of adequate health care are root causes of youth crime, and yet these are weaknesses in our society that can be prevented. Therefore, the focus of the hearing was to enhance programs that are aimed at prevention in order to have a real impact on the problem. The evidence of life around us collaborates this premise.

If I may draw a parallel, it is my feeling that our community is besieged by the crime of ethnic denial and cultural neglect. The result is poor self image and an absence of self identity. Yet at the same hearing mentioned above, developing a sense of identity was a major element in building self worth and a sense of well being. To me, this is a crime that can be mitigated by more aggressive preventive measures.

The media along with social and political pressures have forced us to become more “American” in order to fit in and get ahead in today’s competitive society. In past decades, “American” meant to be more white, Anglo-Saxon, and protestant like Joe the Plumber mentioned during the recent campaign. The reality is that America has become more diverse, and it should be more fashionable and politically expedient to just be who you really are. That means to continue to embrace the values and culture of our forefathers who came from a different part of the world than Europe. It is somewhat sad to hear young people state that they have little or no contact with their ethnic roots or with others of the same ethnicity.

It seems that today many youth do not discover the value of their heritage and culture until they enter college. Modern social and economic progress will be dependent on the values that our forefathers embraced. Hard work, honesty and respect of family are at the core of Asian values. These values have been largely lost in the America of today. The easy way out, any means to meet an end, and a dysfunctional family structure is what America seems to be today. So to be “American” is not the wave of the future. To be yourself and be proud of it is what will bring outstanding achievement, self respect and peace of mind.

So where are we in fulfilling this preventive measure in our communities? One of the missions of the JACL is to preserve culture. I think we need to do more. We can do more to involve our children and families in embracing and understanding the great values of our Asian heritage within a framework of our American society and to help them be proud of their ethnicity. Preventing the loss of our identity and culture is a great investment into the future.


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