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Newsletter

“What Can I Do?”

During my time on Portland JACL’s board I have always thought a lot about the question, “what can I do?” I originally joined our board so I could give back to the community. I’d like to say it was a well thought out and deliberate effort, but honestly it was on a bit of a whim. Growing up in Portland, there were tons of events in the Japanese American community that I attended and enjoyed. Events like Day of Remembrance, Obon, the community picnic, Mochitsuki, bazaars at Epworth, and I’m sure many more. As a multiracial Asian American, having events like these gave me a sense of worth and belonging. I could walk around white Portland and every once in a while, take a break to let my guard down, be at ease, and just exist. So for me, joining our board was a first answer to the question, “what can I do?”

Although I knew about JACL’s mission and advocacy, the importance didn’t truly hit until I saw all of the work that our board does. There were lots of people answering this question in their own way and working together to do it. I think what amazed me the most was that more than just our board, there is a whole network of people, organizations and committees all answering this question. Just within JACL, there is our national organization, plus the regional districts and chapters throughout the country that are doing things for their members. Locally, our board has many ties within the Japanese and Japanese American communities as well as with other communities and organizations. It seems like we’ve needed them more than ever these past few years.

Lately, one way Portland JACL has been active is working in response to the July 2nd attack on Dr. Abe and his family at the Eastbank Esplanade. Originally the emphasis was just to get coverage of this event before shifting to prevent or better handle this type of violence in the future. Thanks to a small group that includes John Kodachi, Chisao Hata, Peggy Nagae, Erica Naito Campbell, Duncan Hwang, and our own Jeff Matsumoto and Amanda Shannahan, we have continued to act and object to hate. We have come together and responded.

On August 12th, Portland JACL in solidarity with 15 other Asian American organizations, submitted a letter to the Oregon Chief Justice’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee urging them to begin discussions on the inclusion of bias crimes in the hold until arraignment category. This has resulted in a new recommendation that Bias Crime in the first degree will be moved into the “hold until arraignment” category and there will be further discussion by the committee on moving bias crime in the second degree to that category as well.

While this may not be large sweeping reform of our country’s justice system, it is a small step in the right direction. As I’ve learned during my time on our board, these small steps are what civil rights and social justice work looks like. As we continue to see an increase in hate crimes and bias incidents in Oregon and Nationwide, I’ll admit that it is easy to feel helpless and lose hope. However, I want to remind you that there are lots of people that continue to answer the question with advocacy for Asian Americans and our communities. We deserve to feel safe.

In addition to the fun things that Portland JACL does, like award scholarships, show film screenings, hold community events like the picnic, there is other work that makes a difference too. Recently that has included helping with the Oregon Nisei Veterans World War II Memorial Highway, supporting Minidoka to preserve the site from a wind farm project, working with Metro and the Expo center to provide input on developing what was once referred to as the Portland Assembly Center. We’ve responded to racist license plates and held a few clean ups too. Not everything we do makes it into the newsletter or gets much coverage, but is equally important and helps our board answer the question, “what can we do?”

Let’s continue to take up space and support community events and organizations. Attending the Tiger Tiger event in July was a great reminder for me of how important it is to get out, connect, and find places to be yourself. Looking ahead to the fall, there will be opportunities to engage and be active related to the mid-term and local elections. Particularly a ballot measure that would make changes to Portland’s form of city government. This could have a big impact on how our city is run. Of course, our newsletter and social are great ways to find events that are happening. I’ll simply close by asking you to join me in taking a moment to reflect and think about “what can I do?”

–Chris Lee


Resources/Links:
If you’re the victim of a hate or bias crime please report it to the Oregon DOJ’s Bias Hotline by calling 1-844-924-2427. It is important to record incidents so that it can be counted and justify more resources.

Contribute to the GoFundMe and support Dr. Abe’s family.

Categories
Newsletter

Board Member Message on Anti-Asian Bias Crime

By the time you read this article you may not remember that a terrible act of hate was perpetrated against a young Japanese family visiting Portland. Either because you did not hear about it as it was nearly a week before there was any substantive information in the major media outlets or the from the numbness from being inundated by the tumultuous onslaught of violent events that seem to happen daily.

On Saturday, July 2, 2022, a man, Dylan Kesterson, started verbally attacking by yelling racial slurs and then punching in the head (50 times by the victim’s account) a father, Dr. Riyuichi Abe and also hitting in the head his 5-year-old daughter as they were on a tandem bike ride on the East bank Esplanade. Luckily, because they were wearing bicycle helmets neither was severely injured and good people were able to intervene and get help. The man was arrested at the scene but was released later that same day. He did not appear for his court date three days later but was found that day rearrested and jailed and is currently charged with 19 counts of bias crime as it was found that he also committed as hate crime in April 2022.

As horrified and angry as I am that such a racial motivated hate crime happened in my town, I know it is not an isolated incident and that it happens here regularly, and most incidents go unreported and/or unacted on. But this crime is the act that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Not only was this family viciously assaulted, but the criminal justice system failed in that it allowed this man to walk free without consequence that same day. And it has been learned that this same man attacked others for racial reason a few months earlier and was not arrested. It
would appear that racism is not just relegated to deranged individuals but is also present in our justice system where the system underplays bias/ hate crimes.

I am grateful and proud of our community members, Chisao Hata, Mike Irinaga, Rich and Yoko Iwasaki, John Kodachi, Weston Koyama, Joni Kimoto, Jeff Matsumoto, Anne and Erica Naito-Campbell, and Amanda Shanahan who immediately spearheaded actions that have brought attention to and hopefully a way to stop racial hate and violence in our city. This is not over at the time of this writing our leadership is waiting to meet with the district attorney’s office, police bureau and court officials and there is the pending trial of Dylan Kesterson.

And beyond the scope of social justice, we need to extend empathy to the Abe family. As Portlanders it is incumbent on us to help the family heal the emotional and psychological scars they have incurred. Their words haunt me; “I want to get out of the city as soon as possible, I want to leave the United States. I never want to see this city again.” Let us find a way to help them.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the family get the support services they need.

–Connie Masuoka

Categories
Newsletter

Healing From Community Trauma

Our community is strong, with deep roots in Japan and America. We have contributed positively to the present and future of this country, despite difficult circumstances. And last month, it was disappointing to hear that racist violence not only continues nationwide, but impacted a Japanese family as they were enjoying the Eastbank Esplanade. This is our community, these are our neighborhoods, these are the streets we walk.

Our minds and bodies remember the pain of the past,
and hearing about this unsettling event in the present can trigger a kind of emotional flinching reaction in which we are flooded with memories of similar events we have experienced. While many of us may have not experienced incarceration in World War II, it is natural to have a resurgence of memories from times when we have been bullied, isolated, or otherwise singled out based on our race. A common response is increased fear, isolation, and avoidance of things that remind us of the past.

An excellent solution for this community trauma is community care, where support is mutual and shared among members of a community. This type of support, in conjunction with policy change efforts, is vital to our healing and the prevention of similar attacks. So what can we do to respond to what happened at the Esplanade?

  • Recognize that it could be beneficial to talk about how you’ve been impacted by news of the attack.
  • Consider checking in with your Japanese American elders, family, and friends. How are they doing? How are you doing?
  • What are the places or events where you might feel some support and shelter in community? You might consider coming to Obonfest at OBT on Sat 8/6, or the Annual JACL Picnic at Oaks Park on Sun 8/21. Community spaces can be powerful reminders of our shared resilience and joy.
  • Mental health therapy might also be beneficial. For more information about how to seek therapy, please see my brief tips below or email me at Spencer@pdxjacl.org.

The recent attack is a frightening reminder of violence, but we are not strangers to coping with trauma. Repeated reminders to “gaman” may have carried our community through the past, but we have the chance to make a new way forward.

May we lean into community in times of pain and fear, both giving and receiving care.

How to start therapy:

  • Helpful NPR article: Things to consider when looking for a therapist, where to start looking. https://bit.ly/NPRstarttherapy
  • Open Path Collective: Listing for therapists who offer lower cost, out-of-pocket options. Can filter based on a number of criteria. https://openpathcollective.org/find-a-clinician
  • Psychology Today: Online therapist listings, searchable based on insurance, therapist identity, therapy approach. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us
  • There may be other opportunities for mental health supports through an employer’s Employee Assistance Program, or other local low-cost options.
  • Other questions? Feel free to contact Spencer@pdxjacl.org.

Reporting incidents of bias and hate: https://bit.ly/ORBiasHotline.

Survivors or witnesses of hate crimes can use the hotline to talk to trained staff, receive a referral to law enforcement, or be put in touch with a social service agency. Interpreters available in 240 languages. Can report online or over the phone (1-844-924-2427).

–Spencer Uemura

Categories
National JACL Statement

JACL Saddened by Recent Attack on Family in Portland

Sarah Baker, VP Public Affairs

Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator

On Saturday, July 2, a family was assaulted in Portland, Oregon while bicycling in a well-traveled and public space. The assailant verbally and physically attacked the family because they were Japanese; the man has been arrested and faces two counts of bias crimes in the first and second degrees. He was apprehended due to the intervention and assistance of numerous bystanders. The family members who were attacked, the father and his 5-year-old daughter, escaped serious injury, despite reports of the assailant striking the girl multiple times in the head.

This attack is especially distressing coming a few weeks after the commemoration of the murder of Vincent Chin 40 years ago. Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, was murdered because his killers mistakenly believed he was Japanese and blamed him for the ongoing trade wars and difficulties in the American auto industry which led to their unemployment. As we have seen all too often in the past two years with the rising reports of anti-Asian hate incidents, the underlying racism that led to the murder of Vincent Chin continues to persist to this day.

One aspect of this incident that does distinguish itself is the intervention from the bystanders. JACL applauds the individuals who stepped forward to stop the violence and ensure the perpetrator was apprehended by the police. These people are the heroes who made sure that the violence did not escalate

“We are grateful for the swift intervention of the people in the vicinity of the attack who represent the true hearts of Portland residents,” stated Portland JACL chapter president, Jeff Matsumoto. “Like the vast majority of Portland residents, we are appalled at the racist attack that occurred as yet another example of anti-Asian bias and hatred which we call upon all our fellow citizens to condemn and intervene when they see it happening.”

Oregon Rises Above Hate Response to July 2 Anti-Asian Attack

Oregon Rises Above Hate Response to July 2 Anti-Asian Attack

Our Asian American Native Hawai’ian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community, in solidarity with other communities of color, is horrified and angered by the racially-motivated violent attack against a Japanese family, including a 5 year old child, while they were enjoying Portland. Without the intervention of bystanders, there could have been a more horrifying outcome. This unprovoked attack continues a pattern of rising hostility and overt acts of violence against AANHPI, and it must be stopped.

Categories
Statement

Statement on the Overturning of Roe v. Wade

The U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade should not come as a surprise. While we here in Oregon have protected a person’s right to choose, at least 22 states and likely more to follow, have left millions of people without crucial reproductive care. The Portland JACL is committed to finding ways to support communities of color, the working poor, and immigrants who will disproportionately be affected by the court’s reversal to protect a person’s reproductive freedoms. 

The decision hamstrings substantive due process as a theory to advance civil rights by claiming that such substantive due process rights must have a basis in long standing tradition. And, though conservative Justice Kavanaugh states how our rights protected under the fourteenth amendment are not in jeopardy, these words fall short of believable as he also stated that Roe v. Wade was settled law during his confirmation hearing.

Furthermore, despite reassurances from Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Alito that overturning Roe v. Wade as a Fourteenth Amendment right implicates only abortion, their reassurances appear disingenuous at best, if not outright duplicitous. Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion, explicitly urged that other Fourteenth Amendment rights cases be reconsidered. Those other cases include: Griswold v. Connecticut, which allows access to contraception; Lawrence v. Texas, which protects the right of consenting adults to engage in sexual activity without fear of criminal reprisal; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognizes marriage as a civil right to which same-sex couples are also entitled to. Losing the federal right to abortion is heartbreaking but may foreshadow the loss of other important civil rights.

Whether it is restricting a person’s ability to travel freely, increased monitoring and surveillance or criminalizing who you love, Portland JACL will remain vigilant for the repercussions of the Supreme Court’s ruling to vacate fifty years of standing precedent. 

Categories
Blog Newsletter

Reflections on what it means to be an American

By Amanda Shannahan

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be an American. In the more recent years, I’ve felt conflicted about celebrating the 4th and I know I’m not alone. For many, the Fourth of July symbolizes some of the very ugly truths about the foundation of our country and the ongoing legacy of white supremacy in the United States.

Many Black people were still enslaved when the Declaration of Independence was signed. How can we celebrate our freedom as a nation on a day when we were not all truly free?

Who Gets to Be an American Like many other practices and policies in the United States, the Fourth of July reinforces who gets to be an ‘American’. It suggests to us who is worthy of and who is excluded from the freedoms and justices that are, supposedly, a birthright in this country. It is part of the marginalization that takes place on a daily basis in the United States that tells us who fits in and who is an ‘Other’.

I remember being a participant in an equity training several years back. The facilitator asked us to close our eyes and imagine an ‘American’. When we opened our eyes, many of us described a similar person: a white, cisgender, straight and able-bodied man. The facilitator encouraged us to explore the messages we’d received- through movies and television, representation in leadership, whose stories were told in classrooms, etc.- that had shaped how we viewed ourselves and others. The same messages that had constructed my idea of who is an ‘American’, also painted Asian Americans as ‘perpetual foreigners’, suggested the inferiority of Black and Brown people, and made invisible Native Americans.

These messages can impact our sense of self, how we relate with other people, and further cause harm by normalizing the inequities that are produced by racist and oppressive policies.

How We Resist
Messages that other and dehumanize are all around us, but we also get a say in our own narratives. We get to choose what and how we celebrate. While long overdue, Juneteenth is now a recognized federal holiday thanks to decades of organizing and advocacy by Black leaders and activists in the Juneteenth movement. Even before it was established as a federal holiday, though, people honored the day through local celebrations.

This summer, there will be more opportunities to celebrate our community and culture, like Obon and the annual Nikkei community picnic. When we build community and honor our traditions, we are claiming our space and our right to exist and to thrive. It is through these small acts of resistance that we can help create a United States in which we are all included and belong. And that, to me, is something worth celebrating.

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Blog Statement

Using Korematsu to Reverse Roe v. Wade is Intellectually Dishonest:

A Statement from Legal Teams Challenging World War II Japanese American Incarceration Cases

As members of the legal teams that challenged the World War II U.S. Supreme Court cases upholding the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, we are compelled to speak out about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization leaked opinion and the use of Korematsu v. United States to justify overruling a major civil rights case, Roe v. Wade. Below is our statement.

Korematsu cannot be used to jusity reversing Roe

ENOUGH. We will NOT be used.

Justice Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization seeks to justify overturning Roe v. Wade on grounds that “Roe was egregiously wrong (emphasis added) from the start” in the same vein as two other notorious Supreme Court decisions upholding blatant racial discrimination, Korematsu v. United States and Plessy v. Ferguson. The leaked draft references a past concurring opinion by Justice Kavanaugh in which he stated that the Korematsu v. United States decision (1944) was discredited because it was egregiously wrong when decided. However, citing to cases discredited for their blatant racially discriminatory underpinnings to justify reversing Roe v. Wade is intellectually dishonest and a mischaracterization of the essence of both cases.

Read the full statement

Categories
National JACL Statement

JACL Statement in Wake of Tragedy in Buffalo

JACL Calls For National Action to Combat White Supremacy in the Wake of Recent Tragedy in Buffalo

Sarah Baker, VP Public Affairs, sbaker@jacl.org

Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator, mweisbly@jacl.org

On May 14 in Buffalo, New York, 10 people were murdered in a supermarket in an attack perpetrated by a self-identified white supremacist. This is sadly yet another attack that has affected communities of color in the last several years; a grim reflection of the history of our nation, in which white supremacy has been an ever-present and violent institution. 

In a manifesto that the attacker posted online prior to the shooting were references to the “Great Replacement,” a conspiracy theory built upon an anti-Semitic lie that states that Jews are intentionally replacing white Americans with minority populations. This dangerous ideology has been cited by other mass shooters in the past and was one of the major factors behind the anti-Semitic massacre in Pittsburgh in 2018, and the attack on an immigrant community in El Paso in 2019. The “Great Replacement” was also responsible for many of the racist views that led to the scapegoating of Japanese Americans in the lead-up to their incarceration during WWII. 

Also incredibly troubling is the role that the internet played in radicalizing the murderer, providing the propaganda of misinformation and hatred as well as the forum to broadcast his despicable acts in real-time. Virtual content platforms must be more proactive to stop the spread of hate and extremism. The shooter did not act independently, but with the support of a broad network of encouragement, that has been allowed to flourish online. 

White supremacy continues to be a dangerous terrorist movement that threatens our country and our safety. It must be addressed at all levels from individuals to institutions, to politicians, in order to continue to protect the communities which are the most impacted by these atrocities. Attacks like these are sudden, violent, and intended to evoke fear and helplessness within us, but we refuse to be intimidated. 

Prosecution alone will not stop this hatred, it must be at all levels within our county, both public and private. Efforts must be directed towards prevention of the spread of misinformation, education on racial issues, and proper training for response and reporting groups, and should include language access to ensure minority communities are able to effectively provide crucial information to the institutions that are sworn to protect them. We will continue to fight against these threats and demand swift and responsible action from our elected officials, law enforcement professionals, and corporate leaders to hold those who spread this rhetoric accountable and to eventually stop hate crimes.

Categories
Statement

Portland JACL Statement

Justice Alito’s Majority Draft Concerning Roe V. Wade

In response to Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked initial majority draft for the Supreme Court, the Portland Japanese American Citizens League would like to voice our support for reproductive freedom for all. We at the JACL believe that abortion is a deeply personal decision that a person makes after serious contemplation with regards to their own health, values, and personal sense of ethics. While not official, Justice Alito’s draft could be a harbinger of what is to come- the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Up until now, Roe v. Wade has protected the right to abortion in all fifty states up until fetal viability (about twenty-four weeks). While overturning Roe v. Wade does not prohibit abortion on a federal level, states will be able to individually make the decision to outlaw the medical procedure.

In summation, people with uteruses in pro-choice states will have access to abortion. Socioeconomically well-off people with uteruses in pro-life states will have access to abortion as they can travel to pro-choice States, like Oregon, that will continue to give access to abortion. However, people in pro-life states who are socioeconomically disadvantaged will not have access to abortion. In many pro-life states this population is overwhelmingly People of Color. Limiting rights that disproportionately affects communities of color and poor communities only reinforces the racism and classicism in our country.

Furthermore, contrary to what Justice Alito claimed in the majority draft, the right to an abortion does not exist in a vacuum outside of other civil rights. Roe v. Wade, a ruling based on the Fourteenth Amendment (“No State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”), is one of several unenumerated rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Other unenumerated rights include the right for people to marry a different race, the right to marry a person regardless of their gender, and the right to vote. Justice Alito’s reasoning for the dissolution of Roe v. Wade does not just undermine reproductive freedom, it also undermines all unenumerated rights as well.

Per Executive Director of the JACL, David Inoue, “We cannot be a United States of America if not everyone in our nation holds the same rights.”

How You Can Help

Join us in protest on Saturday, May 14 th from 2:00- 5:00 PM: Protest Information
Keep Our Clinics
National Network of Abortion Funds
Pro-Choice Oregon

Categories
Newsletter

A Perspective on Resilience

By Spencer Uemura

Hello and Happy May!

The month of May has quickly become one of my favorite times of the year. It’s around now that the weather has usually started to get warmer, especially after the surprise snow that we got in mid-April.

But aside from the climate, each May brings two important celebrations: Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month and Mental Health
Awareness Month. Through Asian American and mental health related events, it is a time when Asian Americans of various backgrounds and experiences can be seen, uplifted, and celebrated.

Since January, you may have noticed a request for feedback in our newsletters, with a link to a survey about your experiences with wellness and mental health as members of the Japanese American community. Your responses have been invaluable and I extend my continued gratitude to those who have replied. One theme that arose is the strength of our ancestors that brought them through immigration, incarceration, and/or other pressures, but also the continued need for healing spaces in our community in the present. If you’d still like to share your experiences in the survey, I would love to hear from you! Please fill out the survey linked later in this newsletter, or reach out to me to arrange a time to talk.

As a Japanese American mental health therapist, I know that there are significant barriers for us to receive care, whether from the Western mental health system or different approaches. There can be an intense feeling of stigma against seeking help or acknowledging where we feel hurt or vulnerable.

These feelings can run deep, passed down generationally from those who did what they needed to do to get by. Inspired by those who have shared their stories about mental health, struggle, and resilience in the survey, I thought it was appropriate for me to share my own. I was a young boy when I started to have nightmares about what would happen to me after I passed away. Oddly enough, what kept coming to mind was a scene in Star Wars: A New Hope in which the protagonists get caught in a trash compactor and the walls begin to close in, threatening to crush them. In my mind’s eye, the walls would close until they finally met in the middle, and all that was left was darkness.

This sense of doom led to more feelings of depression and anxiety, and I didn’t know how to talk about what I was feeling, or who I could talk to. My parents were as supportive and loving as they knew how to be – I was fortunate to have their support to access mental health therapy – but they hadn’t learned how to talk about big emotions from their parents and their surrounding community. My parents did the best they could, and because this kind of intergenerational healing is incremental, they put me in a position where I can continue this work for myself.

The isolation I felt in those days led me to the field of mental health therapy. I wanted the tools to understand myself, the ability to support others who might be feeling as alone as I did, and I wanted to be able to help my people heal. I am still prone to depression and anxiety. Even as a therapist myself, it often takes me an embarrassingly long time to acknowledge I need extra support when life gets more challenging. Our feelings of stigma are deeply ingrained. But ultimately, there are many more ways to engage and invest in our own growth than just working with a therapist. Among many things, healing could mean attending cultural events, eating Japanese foods, speaking or learning the language, or spending time with friends and family.

May we continue the healing that our ancestors began for us.


Some things for your consideration during this APIDA Heritage and Mental Health Awareness Month:

  • We carry the pain of our ancestors, as well as the resilience that brought them through incredible difficulty.
  • Who are the people, past or present, who taught you strength and resilience?
  • What is something that you can do to foster that strength and resilience in yourself?
  • Our areas of vulnerability create opportunities for supportive connection.
  • Who are the people, past or present, who taught you the value of softness and openness?
  • What is something that you can do to foster that softness and openness in yourself?

Help guide our work!

Your very own PDX JACL Advocacy Committee has a goal to address Asian American Safety and Visibility as one of its priorities for the new year. Under this topic are the important mental health needs of the Japanese American community. We know that we cannot do this work for our community without receiving feedback from the community, so we would love to hear from you!

Sample questions:

  • How have your JA family/friends engaged with topics like wellbeing and mental health?
  • What are some phrases you have heard in the JA community response to hardship? (i.e. “Shikata ga nai”, “It can’t be helped”, “It’ll be fine”)
  • What has your overall wellness and mental health been like during the COVID pandemic?
  • What are the needs that you see around you, related to mental health?

You may complete this anonymous Google Form or contact Spencer@pdxjacl.org to arrange a one-to-one conversation. Thank you in advance for your collaboration!