This July 4, the United States enters its 245th year of independence in a state of tumult. The country has been consumed by protests since late May when George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police. The deaths of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and Elijah McClain — Black women and men who were killed after altercations with police in Kentucky, Georgia and Colorado — have fueled subsequent rage.

Independence Day is typically a day of celebration for Americans, but this year’s holiday has been preceded by weeks of charged discourse about police violence, and racism in American systems of media, public health and corporate hiring. Painful questions have been raised about deep-rooted cracks in the foundation of the "American idea," which asserts that all people are created equal and possess unalienable rights. For Americans living in Japan, those questions have felt equally all-consuming. Despite a handful of recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations in this country, there remains, for some, a disconnect to the tumult across the Pacific.

In a series of conversations, The Japan Times spoke with a diverse group living in Tokyo who identify as American and were willing to share their own experiences with racism, how racism in America connects to inequality in Japan and the ways in which they engage with the current Black Lives Matter movement. Those profiled expressed empathy and optimism about all that has surfaced and all that comes next.