Tom Hanks: America is Overcoming Racism, ‘It’s Just Taking an Awfully Long Time’

March 12, 2010 - 2:18 PM
Academy-Award winning actor Tom Hanks told CNSNews.com on Thursday that ignorance and racism are going away in America, but 'it's just taking an awfully long time' for racism to be replaced by acceptance
(CNSNews.com) - Academy-Award winning actor Tom Hanks told CNSNews.com on Thursday that America is overcoming ignorance and racism, “it’s just taking an awfully long time” for racism to be replaced by acceptance.
 
Hanks, one of the executive producers of the new HBO series "The Pacific," appeared at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. to pay tribute to veterans of World War II.



Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on March 5, Hanks said that “The Pacific” depicts a war of “racism and terror” and asked the interviewer if that sounded "familiar to what we might be going through today."

In an exclusive interview with CNSNews.com, Hanks further explained--but stood by his statement--that the Pacific theater of World War II was a war of “racism and terror,” saying that he thinks America has made progress since then away from what he called “ignorance” and “racism.” (See video above and transcript below.)
 
“I’d like to think that as our time has gone by and as Americans have found themselves in 2010, ignorance is being replaced by a certain amount of enlightenment and racism is going to be replaced eventually by an acceptance,” said Hanks. “It’s just taking an awfully long time.” 

When asked about his statements on MSNBC that the World War II in the Pacific was a war of "racism and terror" which he compared to what is going on today, Hanks said: “Well, I said it’s familiar with what’s going on today. You can walk into the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, in the Pacific wing, and Stephen Ambrose himself has made that very point. It’s up in black and white, that after Pearl Harbor, these people that were very, very different from each other, the Americans and the Japanese, who had different heritages, who had different theologies and different ways of government, had a different sense of society went at it tooth and nail.
 
“It would be naïve," said Hanks, "to assume that racism was not part of the quotient of World War II and it’s historical fact by way of just simply suicide bombers from the air and as well as the terror that was visited upon civilian populations throughout the Pacific that terrorism was not part of the equation as well."

In his interview with MSNBC, Hanks said: “‘The Pacific’ now is coming out where it really represents a war that was of racism and terror and it seemed as though the only way to complete one of these battles on these small specks of rock in the middle of nowhere was to-- I'm sorry-- kill them all,” Hanks told MSNBC. “And does that sound familiar to what we might be going through today? So it's-- is there anything new under the sun? It seems as if history keeps repeating itself.”
 
Here is a transcript of CNSNews.com’s conversation with Tom Hanks about his “racism and terror” remarks:
 
CNSNews.com: “You said that the Pacific represents a war of quote ‘racism and terror’ and the only way to complete one of these battles was to quote ‘kill them all’ and you compared it to what’s going on today. This--”
 
Tom Hanks: “Well, I said it’s familiar with what’s going on today. You can walk into the National World War II museum in New Orleans, in the Pacific wing, and Steven Ambrose himself has made that very point. It’s up in black and white, that after Pearl Harbor, these people that were very, very different from each other, the Americans and the Japanese, who had different heritages, who had different theologies and different ways of government, had a different sense of society went at it tooth and nail.
 
“It would be naïve to assume that racism was not part of the quotient of World War II and it’s historical fact by way of just simply suicide bombers from the air and as well as the terror that was visited upon civilian populations throughout the Pacific that terrorism was not part of the equation as well.
 
CNSNews.com: To connect that today, do you support President Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, to take down al Qaeda, and the fact that he has not ended the war in Iraq yet?
 
Hanks: “Well, I’m not so sure, I’m not, even though we do have people that are trying to kill each other and shooting guns at each other, the connection there is not as clear cut and I think it would be foolish to assume that it is. What is going on in Iraq is completely singular to Iraq. What is going on in Afghanistan is completely singular to Afghanistan.
 
“I’ve made other--I made another movie about Afghanistan that is now almost ‘gone with the wind,’ ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ in which the Soviets were there and the Pakistanis and the Afghanis were fighting in a completely different sort of thing. To ask me, now look, I’m an actor, do I support what’s going on? I’m not a politician and I’m not a statistician and I’m not a legislator. I’m a guy who looks at what’s going on and understands that there’s nothing but struggle and inside that struggle are the proclivities of humankind and like Ernie Pyle himself said: ‘Anybody who likes going to war is a damn fool. Anybody who wants to prolong a war is a damn fool. Anybody who wants to walk away from a war unfinished is a damn fool.’”
 
CNSNews.com: “Now, how about the racism and terror comments that you made about the Pacific. How does that connect at all to what is going on--since you did say that it was connected?”
 
Hanks: “Yes, I did. I did say that. Yeah, I did. And, in fact, I have talked to all sorts of people who have, in the vernacular, used incredibly racist terms about the people on the other side of the fence, and we can see all the time that comes over in the regular news media from their side, from the other side, terms that can only be viewed as racist. But let’s just take the word “racism” out of it and put “ignorance” instead, because it’s, racism, is a mere virulent form of what that ignorance is.
 
“I’d like to think that as our time has gone by and as Americans have found themselves in 2010, ignorance is being replaced by a certain amount of enlightenment and racism is going to be replaced eventually by an acceptance. It’s just taking an awfully long time.”