Setting the Record Straight

In the realm of print media in the U.S., there arguably is no entity as powerful as the New York Times. Such a position of power carries great responsibility-responsibility to be a champion of fairness and equality-which the Times often claims to be. To its great discredit however, the New York Times has established a new low in journalistic abuse with its blatantly bigoted magazine article of November 7, 2021, “The Untold Story of Sushi in America” written by Daniel Fromson. The bigotry displayed therein is both racially and religiously offensive.

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Responses on the Offensive New York Times Article

The New York Times Magazine published an incendiary article on November 5, 2021 on its online platform and November 7, 2021 in its printed edition that demeans the founder of the Unification Movement, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who is deceased, and derides the spiritual movement that he inspired.

This article uses visual animations and illustrations that revive century-old stereotypically racist caricatures of Asians. This article is currently circulating through its reach and readership around the world.

This highly offensive article should be removed immediately.

The media should never be a platform to discriminate against a faith or race. While The New York Times continuously claims to be the champion of equality for minorities, this article and others vividly show the Times’ hypocrisy.

" triggered a heavy pain in my gut from traumatic memories of being an object of racial bullying as a kid."

“This story could have been so much more if it were actually about sushi and less about bigotry and mockery of faith. At first, I was elated by the title. I felt an immediate connection: My favorite food is sushi, I am of Japanese descent, and was born and raised in America. Sadly, not only did it kill my appetite, it triggered a heavy pain in my gut from traumatic memories of being an object of racial bullying as a kid. I never imagined such a trigger from reading the New York Times. Decades since the days of hearing “chink boy” and being ridiculed by people slanting their eyes at me singing “ching chong chang”, now in 2021, I would hope we had matured as a diverse nation to respect to one another despite our differences. Yet, in this article, my faith is belittled and Reverend Moon, whom I have deep respect for, is degraded as a “zany memory” fit for “a ‘Seinfeld’ joke”. And the illustrations were hardly about sushi. The same “round-faced” Asian appeared 13 times with various facial expressions as I scrolled through the online article. Were they meant to be humorous depictions of Rev. Moon? It is deeply offensive, and not just for my faith but for any faith group. I would be equally disturbed if the heads of Joseph Smith, Elijah Muhammad, or Jesus Christ were floating around like a balloon in a New York Times article. I hope the New York Times takes this into consideration with better judgement on future articles impacting targeted groups.”

– Henry A.

"...if one were to write in a similar manner about an indigenous leader for example here in Montana accompanied by questionable racial-cartoon innuendoes..."

“I was both surprised and perplexed with the article by Daniel Fromson “The Untold Story of Sushi in America”. Although I have valued reading your journalism online, this article, in particular, caused me to pause. Simply, if one were to write in a similar manner about an indigenous leader for example here in Montana accompanied by questionable racial-cartoon innuendoes, such an article would certainly face great backlash understandably and justifiably. Let’s strive to respect the integrity and honor of all cultures, races, creeds and colors.”

– Mike Yakawich

"It is like a greasy, slimy hit-piece filled with the unhealthy “trans-fats”..."

“The recent article, “The Untold Story of Sushi in America” fails in so many ways to convey the ‘equity’ and ‘inclusivity’ that the Times likes to crow about to its readers. The article by Daniel Fromson presents itself as an innocuous piece about a popular food like sushi, but readers find out that “sushi” in the title is just bait. The title is simply the disguise for a not-so-subtle, beneath and between the lines, attack upon religion. It is like a greasy, slimy hit-piece filled with the unhealthy “trans-fats” of condescension and cynical derision toward a faith. It comes across as a “wanna-be-cute” but genuine hit piece against a deceased, but still-revered religious leader. Despite the Times self-proclaimed “saintly” stance against racism through its own 1619 Project, Fromson’s article shows the Times editorial board to be hypocrites of the highest magnitude. The Times is apparently willing to mix into its “news” buffet this poisonous blend of amateur images and slanderous, bias-riddled “reporting” for general consumption. They should have stuck to sushi – it is far healthier.”

– D.A. Jamison

"As an active second generation member of the Unification Movement, I feel obligated to counter this narrative that denotes a failed new religion whose lasting legacy may be merely the proliferation of sushi shops."

“As an active second generation member of the Unification Movement, I feel obligated to counter this narrative that denotes a failed new religion whose lasting legacy may be merely the proliferation of sushi shops.

On the contrary, the extraordinary effort to pioneer the seafood industry in America was done in tandem with groundbreaking peacebuilding and humanitarian activities that had an equally if not vastly greater impact on the world as we know it.

Rev. Moon was the first private citizen to meet with the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, to broker reunions of separated families and advocate nuclear disarmament.

Today his son Dr. Hyun Jin Moon is leading an unprecedented grassroots coalition of 1000 NGOs in South Korea rallying for the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

If that goal is met, it would indeed support Rev. Moon’s aspiration to solve the world hunger problem, especially for 25 million North Koreans! We are working diligently towards that end.

Please do more research into our movement’s greater accomplishments beyond the realm of seafood.”

– Nathaniel Takayoshi Breland

"...a white man who dares to describe an Asian man, as 'zany' and 'kooky.'"

“I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and I am very proud of my activist, diversity roots.

Our group of people of color organizations were the first to move into the newly renovated Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym Armory, the former location of the Vietnam Anti-War Riots. I proudly sat on the board of the Asian American Student Union from freshman year, and in my final year, I sat on the Advisory Council of the Multicultural Student Center.

We fought for all our students to find a place for their identity on campus so they could succeed. We supported the South Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian clubs; stood in solidarity with the Black Student Union, Union Puertorriquena, the Latin American Student Union and the Native American student groups.  I was part of the group that started the Multicultural Freshman orientation program to help embrace incoming students of color so they knew, in all the “different” that they brought to campus, we were happy and ready to help them shine. I initiated the first ever Asian American Conference on campus with my cohort and co-founded the Asian American Student Council and Multicultural Student Council. And in that place, I found a home for my faith. I found a safe place to explore what I wanted to keep, and what I wanted to change.

Fast forward 10 years, New York City only a few years after 9/11, I was fighting Islamophobia on the streets of Queens to rebuild a sense of shared community across suspicions and deepening divisions. And I worked together with people who were like family, people as diverse as the human race rainbow – the local Afghan Mosque, the Unitarian Universalists, the neighborhood associations, local public leaders. I was recognized by the local NAACP and the Queens Borough President’s Youth Council. It was hard, but so fulfilling.  We built comradery and solidarity. When a homicide happened in our local neighborhood, we all came together to comfort each other and build back stronger.  Through all this, I was allowed to be myself, to tell them who I was, with pride not shame.

It takes a lot of work to create an environment like that for multicultural students or a community that just experienced a terrorist attack in Ground Zero to feel safe enough to come to terms with who they are, their personal histories, and feel confident enough to take it and make their future.

So, it is very offensive when I see all that work to create inclusivity blown off by the New York Times and especially in the NYT Magazine distributed with the Sunday Times. The first spread on your November 7, 2021 edition is about Black Lives in New York City. A little over a year after the world rose up to defend Black Lives #BlackLivesMatter and the NYT Magazine championed the cause. And later the world fought back to #StopAsianHate. The New York Times documented the rise in Asian hate crimes. So it cuts deeply when the same newspaper publishes an article by a white man who dares to describe an Asian man, as “zany” and “kooky.  Did you know Rev. Moon’s influence is old enough to actually be someones identity and culture? In fact, it is mine.

At UW-Madison I learned about “Orientalism,” and how this outdated perspective was finally dismantled in academia and anthropology. I took that conversation to cafes, where it became the source of organizing programs that addressed stereotypes harmful Asian stereotypes in pop culture, and published an article about published the university’s Asian American publication. I’m sorry, did I miss the memo that we were going back to the early 1900’s when we examine exotic-primitive-oriental customs and religions? I swear we grew past that as a country and as a people. But maybe the New York Times has certain privileges to make up rules as they go?

I am old enough to remember the moment when “Moonies” was finally deemed an offensive. Great, people couldn’t use my identity as a curse word. But the New York Times can now use the word, with capital letters and quotation marks.

What if I replaced “Moonies” with the “K” word or the “N” word. Or the “J” word? I’m Japanese-American and being called “J” word is a real experience.

Pick any other ethnic, religious, racial group and called them their derogatory slang. Would Daniel Fromson’s article stand? I don’t think so, I really hope not.

But maybe your magazine has certain institutionally protected powers that allow your publication the privilege to be demeaning to minorities of your choice? I thought that’s exactly what the New York Times has been fighting against so hard for the last year and a half.

Then, could you explain why my culture, faith and race puts me in a lower class than any of those groups that you wouldn’t’t dare treat the way you treated my faith and culture?  What makes me second-class to the respect you give to others?

Maybe I missed something? Perhaps your editors only pick and choose favorites, and those who are not picked are allowed to be mistreated on your pages, along with praises of the very artist your editors selected to provide the even more derogatory animations and drawings, including the editors choosing to show a sketch of the Japanese flag and a flying Rev. Moon.  It is obvious the intention was to paint us as “kooky”, “zany” and a “joke” to society. Because this hits close to my own identity, your intentional racist and discriminatory text and images spits on all I have fought to build for minorities and people of color.

Yeah we got problems, yeah we are undergoing a schism, but isn’t that the course of all faiths or religiously-motivated movements as they evolve and develop? So now the New York Times can decide if the Sunni’s are superior to the Shiites, or that Reform Judaism is more legit than the Orthodox communities in Brooklyn? Or that the Anabaptists are heretics? Even writing these thoughts in hypotheticals make my skin crawl because it would be so wrong.

And your weirding of True World’s connection to Rev. Moon’s movement is like if the New York Times publishes an article on the conspiracy theory of why the Jewish communities own so much property in New York City. Is that ok? I don’t think it’s ok. I hope it’s not ok. Besides much of the actual sushi restaurants I frequent are definitely not owned by the “Moonies.” Perhaps they get fish distributed by them, but the owners are far from it. The U.S. is now choosing to discriminate who we do business with due to religious differences? I thought that was backwards, small-minded, (put the prefix of choice)phobia?

It’s this kind of media use that fueled the hate radio in Rwanda. How could it be happening in the U.S.?  But maybe you know something that I don’t because you’re the “New York Times”.

Mr. Fromson, I love your writing style. It is witty and clever, but the content, seriously, it is outdated, it is offensive, and it is racist.

And editors, maybe you need to take another look, because I think you used the wrong Style Manual. I think yours was from the 1960s.”

– Asian American activist (she/hers)

And Howard Self, President of Right To Believe called out the New York Times for their history of discrimination against the Unification Movement.

The New York Times has not replied to any letters sent thus far, nor have they posted the letters.