“Ethnic Profiling” series to open at Wash U

An exhibition called “A Challenge to Democracy: Ethnic Profiling of Japanese Americans During World War II” will open at Washington Universityon Oct. 2. Part of a semester-long series of lectures, debates, plays, and films that are open and free to the public, the exhibition will focus on some of the work of photographer Ansel Adams and painter Chiura Obata.

This series, titled “Ethnic Profiling: A Challenge to Democracy,” was organized by the Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values at Wash U. Numerous educational programs other than the main exhibition have already begun to take place, and will continue to do so throughout the semester.

Stuart Yoak, Executive Director and Lecturer in Professional Ethics at the Center, says the purpose of the program is to “educate, stimulate discussion and raise awareness of one of the most serious and pressing ethical issues facing our country.”

Yoak says that many of the issues the U.S. faces today are similar to those from decades ago.

“The period of the 1940s was a time in which our country was in great fear,” Yoak said. “Because of that fear our government incarcerated over 120,000 innocent American citizens… without any charges against them, simply because they were of Japanese origins…. We were struck by how many of those same fears are with us today and how ethnic and racial profiling continue to be a major concern for our democratic society and our way of life together.”

The series is designed to engage the community, both at the university and outside of it, in discussion about ethnic profiling in our society today.

“The act of profiling occurs each day across this country whenever we as people fear the other who is different from us,” Yoak said.

Yoak says he hopes participants in the program will gain “an awareness that profiling has been a part of our history for a long time and is still very much with us today as was demonstrated by the grade school children who were turned away from a swimming pool in Philadelphia because, since they were African-American and Hispanic, they were considered a security risk to the Caucasian swimmers in the pool.”

Upcoming events include a showing of the film, “A Powerful Noise,” with a follow-up panel discussion on Oct. 1, and a discussion of the novel “When the Emperor Was Divine” at the Big Read Festival at CHS on Oct. 10. All are invited to attend any of the events in the series and join in the discussion. A schedule of the programs can be found on the Washington University website.