A Most Unlikely Hero Depicts Hidden Racism in Military

A new documentary, "A Most Unlikely Hero," will be shown Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m. in the Hatfield Room in the Hatfield Library at Willamette University. This free event will include a conversation with filmmaker Steve Okino and Bruce Yamashita, who battled injustice in one of America's most powerful institutions.

Hawaiian native Yamashita never intended to be an activist, but he was bewildered when he ran into a relentless barrage of racial slurs and attacks after signing up for the United States Marine Corps. Yamashita waged a lonely five-year "fight to get my dignity back," unexpectedly uncovering evidence of widespread discrimination. In a case that rocked the Corps and the nation, military officers eventually admitted to disparate treatment of minority Marines.

"Yamashita's long battle for justice revealed a strong pattern of discrimination in America and transformed him from an everyday citizen to an unlikely hero," said Gordy Toyama, director of Multicultural Affairs at Willamette University.

The case eventually resulted in fundamental reforms in the Marine Corps.

"The film should convince anyone who believes that America has become a color-blind society that race still remains the principal barrier of exclusion for non-whites, even highly accomplished ones like Bruce Yamashita," said Toyama. "Okino has produced a powerful film that captures Yamashita's determination and courage in defending people of color."

The film has been shown on public television stations and campuses throughout the U.S. For more information see or call 503-370-6265.

The event is sponsored by Willamette's Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Portland chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and Alpha Zeta Nu, a Willamette student organization.