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Google celebrated civil rights leader Yuri Kochiyama and some people think it's promoting radicalism

I met her a few times. She wasn't a radical.

Google Doodle celebrating Yuri Kochiyama
Alyssa Winans

Because the internet is often a great place for amplifying amateur observations and because Wikipedia lacks context and because it's one of the most divisive election seasons ever, today's Google Doodle celebrating the life of civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama turned into a thing.

Some internet people said Google was celebrating a radical. Indeed, Kochiyama's Wikipedia entry cites her as "one of the few prominent non-black Black separatists....Influenced by Marxism, Maoism, and the thoughts of Malcolm X."

Couple this with conservatives blasting Facebook for its left-leaning bias and you have what amounts to a typically tone-deaf move from a Silicon Valley giant, or larger evidence of a socialist conspiracy.

Anyone who had worked with Kochiyama knows these characterizations are wrong.

When I was in my early 20s and being a good Asian American, meaning I attended meetings at college, I met Kochiyama maybe a half dozen times. She did work with Malcolm X — he died in her arms — and well into her old age she continued to fight for people of color. She held closely to the causes Malcolm X fought for later in his life, a focus on human rights, not just black rights. She lived in a Japanese internment camp during WWII so she knew something about that.

Kochiyama was a voice for people who looked like me, which is still unusual, and that's what makes Google's choice notable, not that she was a radical, whatever that word means. If you want to know a bit more about her, this 2008 interview is helpful.

This article originally appeared on

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