On Oct. 1, the new name of a rail line in Doraville, Ga., is currently under fire for being racially insensitive. Formerly called the Doraville to Airport Line, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) decided to give its lines color designations instead. The Doraville line is now called the Yellow Line.
This is troubling because the area around MARTA’s Doraville station is heavily populated by residents of Asian descent.
Historically, the color yellow has been used to describe the Asian race in a negative way. The Yellow Peril (also called the Yellow Terror) is associated with the skin color of East Asians and the belief that mass immigration of Asians threatened American sensibilities, wages, and standards of living. The term originated with the 19th century immigration of Chinese laborers and later encompassed Japanese immigration in the 20th century as well.
At the moment, John Yasutake has spoken out to MARTA about this racially insensitive name in Doraville. Yasutake is the manager of Equal Opportunity and Conflict Resolution in MARTA’s Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office.
In a letter to MARTA’s General Manager Beverly Scott, Yasutake points out that Los Angeles designated a rail line expansion that travels through Los Angeles’ Asian communities as the Gold Line instead of the Yellow Line, offering Doraville an alternative as well as pointing out that Los Angeles paid extra care to not designate the rail as yellow.
At the time of publication, MARTA had not yet responded to Yasutake’s concerns, though we are optimistic that he will be able to work with MARTA to fix this matter.
This incident serves as a good reminder for everyone who cares about cultural and racial sensitivity to continue to be vigilant of ignorance and racism — even when it’s unintentional.
Though we have elected a president who represents multiculturalism, it does not mean that our work as citizens is done. Yasutake did the right thing in being a representative for the Asian community near Doraville. We cannot always be aware of everything that is happening in our neighborhoods, and we depend on empathetic individuals like him to speak up.
We should take an example out of his book and do the same. When there is an incident that appears racially insensitive, we shouldn’t feel silly to point it out. We shouldn’t think we are being overly sensitive or that we are playing the race card.
Issues of racial disparity and the existence of negative racial stereotypes still exist strongly in the United States, and we need to fix this. The first step in fixing this is acknowledging that a problem exists.
We would like to thank Yasutake for fighting for the little guys. ♦