LTE: The Use Of The Rising Sun Flag During Snowball Fight

This is in response to your recently posted entry on Winter Storm Juno that describes how students passed the time during their snowday. In particular, the article detailed an organized snow ball fight on Lower Campus.

The editorial staff of the Heights has decided to use a picture of the snow ball fight featuring a large number of co-eds looking to defend their fort that has Rising Sun Flag flying over it.

Very likely, the students who were no doubt having a great time participating in the snowball fight are unaware that they are flying a the flag of the Imperial Japanese Military and seen as a sign of Japanese Imperialism and aggression. In many parts of the Asia, in particular Korea (both North and South) and China, it is akin to Swastika flags in the west.

I find both the decision to fly the flag in these “war games” and the decision to feature of picture of it to be in very bad taste (although the idea that a random student had a Rising Sun Flag in their dorm ready to be flown is more disturbing). I hope the university I love so much can use this as an opportunity to educate beyond the euro-centric focus of the liberal arts education of Boston College. I loved my time at BC because it exposed me to much more than I initially desired to learn. It is important to not be explosive in response, but to learn from it. This was echoed in 2013 when the UFC great, George St. Pierre wore a gi to the ring featuring the Rising Sun to pay homage to his Japanese martial arts training. When informed of how many view the symbol, he agreed to never wear it to the ring again apologizing that he was unaware that it would offend.

Full disclosure: I, as a Korean-American and double BC grad, was not aware of the true meaning of the Rising Sun until this incident, nor would I expect many other on campus to be either.

This letter is not meant to demonize what has happened in the past, but to prevent any further unintentional reopening of wounds on campus. This is letter is not meant to trumpet ignorance, but expose an absence of education about non-western history. I know BC has come a long way in regards to making students of color (AHANA) feel welcome, but as long as the student body is so strongly ethnically and culturally homogeneous, there will always be stumbles along the way. Diversity is not a celebration, but a wonderful opportunity to learn first hand about others. BC students are up to the task.

 

Jay Lee

LSOE ’05 / LGSOE ’07

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6 Comments

  1. The beauty of America is that we have freedom of speech. If someone wants to fly a Rising Sun, Soviet, Israeli, or NAZI flag so be it. I’ll only fly the good old Red, White and Blue personally but I have nothing against Japanese folks taking pride in their imperial past despite the countless war crimes they committed

    • True, but if someone flew a swastika, there would be an IMMEDIATE response, not only from the general population, but at the snowball fight itself.

  2. Jay – this was an excellently written and phrased article.
    As a current BC student, I have quickly come to realize that, writ large, there
    is little desire for most students at BC to learn about the cultures of their
    classmates. It is too easy to become friends with someone here because they
    happen to come from the same school or town or if they share the same
    interests. Those interests largely come from clubs or classes, and in those
    clubs and classes we gravitate towards the familiar. For the typical “white guy
    from Long Island/New Jersey,” it’s easy to remain friends with a large number
    of students who dress, talk, walk, and think as if they are all one person. Now
    I don’t say this to characterize or condemn all BC students, some are the most
    open-minded people I’ll probably meet, but much of the culture on campus is
    focused on the familiar. It is exactly this reason why I love your letter to
    the editor. We all need a call from time to time to remind us that our actions
    may be ignorant or exclusionary. It’s through this that we can take a step back
    to think about the small actions and things we say that allow ourselves to fall
    trap to the social norms of the Boston College community. Though something like
    this may be all in good fun and the person with the flag meant no harm, but we
    must also remember that certain things that we do may negatively impact those
    closest to us. Thank you for a well-phrased wake up call.

    • Thanks Jason
      I had a much more explosive response prepared, but that would definitely have been counterproductive. I echo many of your sentiments, but the only way to combat the homogeneity of our campus (we have been described as J. Crew U) is to gently open up conversation. While I was at BC, I had the distinct pleasure of being mentored by Associate Dean John Cawthorne. While he is no longer with us, he would have first received a chuckle from this, and then encouraged an exploration of all sides without emotion.
      Freedom of Expression is one of our greatest rights, but also our most dangerous.

  3. >In many parts of the Asia, in particular Korea (both North and South) and China, it is akin to Swastika flags in the west.
    And in many parts of the Middle East flying the flag of Israel would cause similar reactions because of the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine. Would you agree with banning the Israeli flag from campus grounds and elsewhere?

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