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Applications are open for JACL Leadership Summit

March 9-12, 2025 in Washington, DC

Established by JACL in 1984, the four-day annual leadership summit program introduces community leaders from across the nation to the national policy-making arena. Co-convened with OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates since 1994, the JACL/OCA Washington, D.C. Leadership Conference is structured to provide a broad overview of the decision-making process at the federal level, including meetings and briefings by public officials, key policymakers who serve in Congress, the White House, federal agencies, advocacy organizations, and the media. Participants also will be briefed on legislative issues affecting AAPI communities and will examine the role Asian Pacific American civil rights organizations, such as JACL and OCA, play in affecting public policy and pursuing civil rights legislation in the nation’s capital!

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JACL Comndems Vandalism at Wing Luke Museum

Last Thursday evening, a man destroyed several windows of the Wing Luke Museum in the historic Chinatown International District (CID) of Seattle, Washington. At the time of the attack, several members of the Japanese American community, including Seattle JACL chapter co-president Stan Shikuma were attending a meeting at the museum for our partner organization Tsuru for Solidarity. Attendees rushed outside to find the perpetrator outside sledgehammer still in hand spewing anti-Chinese and anti-Asian rhetoric. 

This attack is deeply saddening and symptomatic of the anti-Asian hate that is still ongoing nationwide. More troubling was the inadequate response from the Seattle Police Department. Stan Shikuma was quoted by the Seattle Times on the attack and in the Seattle JACL chapter’s statement on the incident that the police refused to respond initially despite calls from multiple witnesses. It took nearly an hour for police to arrive, and the responses some callers received from emergency dispatchers seemed to imply indifference or annoyance. 

This also comes on the heels of further criticism surrounding the Seattle Police Department. Earlier this year, an Indian student was struck and killed by a police vehicle while crossing the street. One of the responding officers to the accident is overheard on bodycam footage stating the student, Jaahnavi Kandula, had little value. Our community is hearing that message loud and clear, that we are of little value.

We expect the attack on the Wing Luke Museum to be given the priority that a high profile crime such as this deserves and is prosecuted for the clear intent that it had to intimidate and directly attack the Asian American community. We also call upon the Seattle Police and 911 response to recognize the impact their disregard for our community has not only in eroding our faith in the ability and willingness of law enforcement to adequately serve and protect us, but the role it may play in perpetuating the devaluation of our community that can lead to further prejudice and anti-Asian hate incidents.

The safest communities are those that have the most resources, not the most police presence. The Wing Luke Museum is one such community resource that is vital to providing education and community engagement to combat anti-Asian hate. We look forward to the restoration of the museum so that it might continue its mission of serving the Seattle community in teaching about Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander experiences to advance racial and social equity.

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JACL celebrates 60 years since the March on Washington, DC

Monday, August 28, 2023, will mark the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin and featured Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On Saturday, August 26, JACL will join the National Action Network who will be leading the anniversary march, with the theme titled, “Not a Commemoration, A Continuation”. This theme is an acknowledgment that the fight for civil rights today, as it was 60 years ago, is unabating, tenacious, and uninterrupted. From the Supreme Court’s dismantling of Affirmative Action to the book and curriculum erasure happening around the country, it is clear that there is still work to be done and the forces of White Supremacy continue to flourish and exert their hatred and bigotry. 

In 1963, JACL leaders and members marched in solidarity, in recognition that the racism they faced was no different from that which formed the basis of segregation laws targeting African Americans. They wanted to ensure that the injustices that led to the mass incarceration of 125,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States never befell any other marginalized community. They also wanted to demonstrate that the Japanese American community also had a place in the growing civil rights movement. Engagement in the 1963 march would pave the way for JACL to take a leading role in issues such as the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case, and ultimately, empowering our community to achieve redress for WWII incarceration 35 years ago.

In this year’s coming march, we are honored to take part again and to share our voice and our community’s voice. While JACL was the only Asian American organization to formally join the 1963 march, this year we look forward to being joined by hundreds more of our partner Asian American organizations. JACL Executive Director, David Inoue will be one of several other Asian American voices speaking out on Saturday morning where he will highlight the unfinished work to achieve social and economic justice for all in this country.

We acknowledge, just as we did then, that there is much to be done. This Saturday is just one further step we take to ensure the dreams of 60 years ago become a reality.

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National JACL Statement

JACL Denounces June 30th Supreme Court Decisions

Following the disappointing decision yesterday by the Supreme Court on affirmative action, the Court has followed up with two more abysmal rulings, again highlighting the radical ideological turn that the Roberts court has taken wielding its 6-3 supermajority.

Despite clear authorization from Congress to act, and in line with relief provisions granted to many wealthy business owners and corporations, the Court demonstrated its contempt for the average American, striking down the President’s student loan forgiveness plan. Combined with the affirmative action decision, the Court affirms its perspective that education should be reserved for an aristocratic minority.

In its other decision today, the Court voted to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ individuals on the basis of religious beliefs. Ironically, the court ruled against affirmative action on the basis of the equal protection clause but does not see our LGBTQIA+ friends and family worthy of the same protection from radical religious zealotry that holds dehumanization and hate as part of its theology.

Combined with yesterday’s decision on affirmative action, these three decisions by the Court are a serious blow to millions of Americans, many of whom are marginalized individuals who now face an uncertain future in varying aspects of their lives. 

In the wake of these decisions, the JACL stands clear in its support of educational access and equity for all students, but especially those most disadvantaged by the extreme financial burden of higher education and the barriers to admission for minority students. We also reaffirm our support yet again for our LGBTQIA+ members, friends, supporters, and the entire LGBTQIA+ community. It has been a year of continued rulings that have taken the liberties of millions of Americans and it is a sad reminder that we must continue to stand against discriminatory laws and legal decisions. 

It is clear from these decisions that the Supreme Court does not stand for justice, nor the American people.


June 30, 2023

For Immediate Release

Seia Watanabe, VP Public Affairs

Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator

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National JACL Statement

JACL opposes xenophobic laws

On Monday, May 8th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed three new laws with the intent to target the Chinese government in the name of national security. The new laws will restrict the Chinese government and many non-resident Chinese citizens from the purchase of farmland, or property near military bases and critical infrastructure, prohibit Florida’s state colleges and universities from partnering with foreign counterparts without approval from the state and will implement a list of banned applications such as Tik Tok that might be utilized by the Chinese or other governments for possible espionage against the United States. 

While the three newly introduced laws in Florida use the broad language “foreign country of concern”, and efforts were made by the legislature to carve out exceptions to the law, the legislation and Governor DeSantis’ own words are often very specific in targeting China. No amount of effort to soften the laws can hide the racist and xenophobic intent and effect. These laws rely upon two age-old hysterias of our country: Anti-Communism, and the perpetual foreigner perception of Asian Americans and that of dual or continued loyalty to the ancestral country. 

This current wave of nativist legislation in Florida parallels efforts elsewhere in the country and is nothing new. During World War II, the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans proved that prejudice can be legitimized through public policy in the name of national security. In 2017, the Muslim Travel Ban subjected nationals of several majority-Muslim countries to various travel restrictions from entering our country. The just-expired Title 42 restrictions blocked immigrants from entering through our southern border under the facade of a public health emergency. 

Beyond the direct impact of these laws, the more likely result will be when a homeowner is considering two offers to purchase their home, and chooses not to sell to the Asian couple because they are perceived to be foreign, and refusing the sale would be an act of patriotism. These new laws give the green light to anti-Asian discrimination, even as our nation continues to experience unprecedented increases in anti-Asian hate. According to The Uniform Crime Reporting Program at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, from 2020 to 2021, reported hate crimes rose by more than 11%. Incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders increased 267% from 279 incidents in 2021 to 746 incidents in 2022. 

Bias-motivated attacks and racial scapegoating are nothing new to this country; however, for the State of Florida to actively perpetuate national origin discrimination by issuing laws that broadly attack individuals and families from targeted countries such as China is not only harmful but also highly irresponsible. The correlation between hate-fueled rhetoric, discriminatory laws such as those passed in the state of Florida, and the rise in hate crimes amongst targeted communities cannot be ignored. 

It has been only five years since Florida became the last state to repeal its existing Alien Land Law. It has now become the first to reinstate such a law and we call upon them to repeal this and urge other states to not follow their bad example.

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National JACL Statement

Day of Remembrance 2023

Seia Watanabe, VP Public Affairs, swatanabe@jacl.org

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

This Sunday, February 19, 2023, marks the 81st anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, resulting in the mass incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans. Similarly, thousands of Japanese Latin Americans and Japanese Canadians were incarcerated en masse in their own countries or, in some cases, were kidnapped to the United States against their will to serve as “prisoners of war.” As we look back and mourn one of the darkest moments of our community’s and nation’s history, we also celebrate the many triumphs as well.

This past year for example, we saw the passage of legislation to study the creation of a National Museum of Asian-Pacific American History and Culture, where the stories of all AANHPI communities will be celebrated and remembered. Towards the end of 2022, we saw the passage of two major bills, namely, the Norman Y. Mineta Japanese American Confinement Education (JACE) Act, and the World War II Japanese American History Network Act. Both bills will support organizations that work to educate the public about the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II.

This year also marks the 35th anniversary of one of the greatest triumphs of our community in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 as a response to our history of incarceration. It was the culmination of nearly two decades of multigenerational work by former incarcerees, their children and grandchildren, members of Congress, community leaders, supporters, and thousands of allies across multiple communities. While no amount of money could heal the traumas of everything our community lost, it was our government’s acknowledgment of its wrongdoing that allowed our community to begin the healing process. The Civil Liberties Act showed the power of community organizing in how it forced our government to acknowledge and apologize for the suffering it caused to its people. In the 35 years since the passing of this bill, our journey toward achieving true reparatory justice continues. 

HR 40, or the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, has been introduced in some form in every Congressional session since 1989, the year after the passage of Japanese American redress. It was first introduced by Representative John Conyers, and more recently by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. Much of the framework of HR 40 is based on the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) which helped pave the way for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The African American community was one of the first to support the Japanese American community in its path toward redress, and now it is time that Japanese Americans do the same. Late last year, the JACL, the National Nikkei Reparations Coalition, and over 70 other Asian American organizations joined together to send a letter to President Biden calling for the creation of a commission to begin the process for the African American community toward reparations and healing. 

As we continue into 2023 and beyond, we look back on our triumphs and hardships, as well as our solidarity in the hopes that we can make a change for a better future for all people in this nation. When our country seems more divided than ever, let us stand together and show that the unimaginable tragedies our ancestors suffered are not forgotten and are worthy of our government’s recognition and repair. 

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National JACL Statement

We need change

On January 7, 2023, five police officers from the Memphis Police Department severely beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition and died there three days later. He was laid to rest earlier today in Memphis surrounded by family, friends, community members, and civil rights advocates. 

Tyre Nichols is only the latest victim of brutality and violence at the hands of the police. In 2022 alone, the number of people who have died at the hands of the police hit a 10-year high, with African Americans accounting for over a quarter of deaths. In the nearly three years since George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, little has changed. Congress has failed to pass meaningful reform at the federal level.   

At our 51st National Convention, JACL’s National Council passed a resolution in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement and specifically committed to advocating for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and The Breathe Act, which would make significant strides toward reforming police policies. Again, Congress has failed to take action on either of these bills.

We must also focus on the local level. Policing systems are fundamentally broken and not just the result of a few bad apples. Tyre Nichols’ death shows this to be true. Resources must be directed to community-based solutions to uplift communities, not subject them to oppression from over-policing. They also define the ways community care and safety are practiced in our country for future generations. The JACL strongly reiterates the need for major reform in law enforcement, which includes independent community oversight, de-escalation of force, and just and equitable police policies and practices.

It is past time we must make fundamental changes to our law enforcement agencies to ensure Black and Brown individuals are safe from oppressive and abusive police practices. Law enforcement officers must be held accountable for these heinous acts of violence. If we are to ensure justice for those affected by the trauma of these actions, we must reform the systems that have enabled these acts of violence from the state upon the people. We can do better. We must do better. 

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Apply for a JACL Scholarship

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) announced that the 2023 National Scholarship and Awards Program is now underway. The JACL annually offers approximately 30 college scholarships for students who are incoming college freshmen, undergraduates and graduates, and those specializing in law and the creative/performing arts. There are also financial aid scholarships for those demonstrating a need for financial assistance.  

Scholarship Program guidelines, instructions, and applications have been posted on the JACL website, www.jacl.org, and can be accessed by clicking the “Youth” tab on the menu bar. You may also click the button below “To Learn More or Apply Click Here.”

Following previous years, the application forms for the scholarship program will be completely online. Freshman applications must be submitted directly by the applicant to National JACL through the online form no later than March 6, 2023, 11:59 p.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (HST).  

These freshman applications will then be disseminated to their respective chapters for review. Chapters will have one month to evaluate their applications and forward the names of the most outstanding applicants to National JACL. It is these applications that shall be forwarded to the National Freshman Scholarship Committee for final selection.

Applications for the non-freshman scholarship categories (undergraduate, graduate, law, creative/performing arts, and financial aid) are also to be sent directly by the applicant to National JACL through the online form no later than April 3, 2023, 11:59 p.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (HST).  

All those applying to the National JACL Scholarship Program must be a youth/student or individual member of the JACL; a couple/family membership held by a parent does NOT meet this requirement. Applicants must be enrolled in school in Fall 2023 in order to be eligible for a scholarship. If a student has received two National scholarship awards previously, they are no longer eligible to apply as the limit is two national awards per person.

For more information on the National JACL Scholarship Program, contact Scholarship Program Manager, Matthew Weisbly at scholarships@jacl.org

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JACL Supports Affirmative Action

On October 31st, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two current affirmative action cases: Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and SFFA v. Harvard University. JACL has joined 36 other AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) civil rights organizations and advocates in signing onto Asian American Advancing Justice (AAJC)’s amicus brief in support of race-conscious admissions. The amicus brief details the harms and addresses misconceptions of race-neutral admission practices. As we get closer to a decision by the courts in these cases, we must stay committed to preventing any potential action that can impede our ability to express our identities and lived experiences.

SFFA?s representation of the Asian American community as victims of Affirmative Action is a subtle example of how Asian Americans historically have been and continue to be leveraged toward dividing communities of color. As noted in the amicus brief, there is no evidence of the exclusion of Asian Americans by race-conscious admissions in higher education. Furthermore, Harvard, and UNC, among many other institutions that have implemented a race-conscious admissions system have only granted more opportunities for AANHPI identifying students to pursue higher education. It is our responsibility, as a community, to challenge these false notions perpetuated by the SFFA and the Project on Fair Representation, and unify our voice in cohesion with the 69% of Asian American voters that support Affirmative Action, and the millions that benefit from it nationwide.

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Blog Statement

Asian American Community Responds to Hate Crime in Portland

As a coalition of Asian American organizations, we are horrified and angered by the racially-motivated violent attack against a California family visiting Portland, Oregon. The family was attacked simply because they were Japanese.  

On Saturday, July 2, Dylan Kesterson, 34, brutally attacked a 36-year-old father and his five-year-old daughter in front of the father?s wife while they were all bicycling on the Eastbank Esplanade around 3:45 pm. Without any provocation, Kesterson, who is 5?11? and 200 pounds, approached the vacationing family and verbally assaulted them using anti-Japanese slurs. Kesterson then pummeled the father over 50 times in the head before punching the five-year-old daughter several times in the head.  Fortunately, both father and daughter were wearing their helmets before right-minded bystanders intervened to chase off Kesterson. 

We are further outraged that Kesterson was released from jail on the very same day he brazenly attacked the family. It is disgusting and incredulous that despite being arrested and charged with violent hate crime (Bias crime in the first degree, a Class C felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment), he was allowed to walk free even without any bail required by a Multnomah County judge. While recently adopted pretrial release guidelines issued by the Oregon Supreme Court may have contributed to Kesterson?s initial release, District Attorney Mike Schmidt subsequently charged Kesterson with additional ?assault? crimes after he simply walked out of jail.  These additional assault crimes, which include the intent to cause serious physical injury, stemmed from the original attack, then allowed the court to hold Kesterson in custody without bail once he was re-arrested.

Despite clear evidence from the outset of his racial animus and use of physical violence on complete strangers, nothing prevented Kesterson that day from inflicting further attacks on other Asian community members after he was released. As the father later said of the traumatizing attack: ?We felt we may be killed.?  The actions of both Kesterson, who attacked a young family because of their race, and Oregon?s criminal justice system, which allowed the immediate release of a violent hate crime perpetrator, are completely unjust and unacceptable. 

Our hearts go out to the family members directly impacted by this terrible assault.  Because this is yet another horrendous act of anti-Asian hate, we know that members of our community are experiencing anxiety about their personal safety and the safety of loved ones. We need to know that Oregon?s criminal justice system works to protect our communities, too.

Also troubling and disturbing is the recent report that this is not Kesterson?s first racial assault.  According to news reports, Kesterson now faces 19 counts for two separate hate crimes, including a prior attack for which, for some unknown reason, he was not arrested or charged at the time.   In addition to the vicious attack on the young Japanese family riding their bicycles along the Willamette River on July 2nd, he is now accused of racially intimidating, assaulting, and harassing three Asians on April 17th.  

According to news reports, on April 17th, Kesterson attacked an Asian woman coming out of a coffee shop after he had just yelled racial slurs and chased a teenage boy.  After the Asian woman and friends came out of the coffee shop, Kesterson is reported to have slapped a full carrier of coffee out of her hand while later screaming ?Are you Filipino??  Kesterson then grabbed the back of the Asian woman?s head extremely hard, ripping strands of her hair, and threw her on the back of her car where she eventually fell to the ground.  The police never arrested Kesterson despite pleas from the victim.

These unprovoked racial attacks continue a despicable pattern of hostility and horrific hate crimes perpetrated against Asians throughout this country. We demand greater acknowledgement that people of Asian descent are being hurt by hate and racism, and we call on all state and City of Portland elected officials to immediately correct the extreme failure of the system, including adding bias crime in the first degree to the category of non-releaseable offenses under the new pretrial release guidelines, to prevent a violent hate crime attacker being released back into the public while awaiting trial.  Additionally, we demand to know why the Portland Police Bureau failed to arrest Kesterson for the racial attacks involving three Asian people on April 17th.

No progress around social justice can be made if violent perpetrators of hate crimes remain unchecked. Racism and racial prejudice cannot be solved with tools of an oppressive system. The criminal justice system should work to keep all communities safe and encourage public support instead of alienating those who are marginalized or merely given lip service. Hate crimes are traumatizing not only to the victims but to the entire related community members as well.

In Solidarity,

Portland JACL

Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon

Chinese American Citizens Alliance

Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans, San Francisco

Epworth United Methodist Church

Gresham-Troutdale JACL

Hiroshima Club

Henjyoji Shingon Temple

Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland

Japan-America Society of Oregon

Japanese American Business Association (Shokookai)

Japanese American Museum of Oregon

Minoru Yasui Legacy Project

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

Nichiren Buddhist Temple

Oregon Nisei Veterans

Portland Taiko

Unit Souzou

Veleda Club

Community leaders held a press conference addressing the recent bias crime against Dr. Abe and his daughter. Dr. Abe’s lawyer, Bonnie Richardson, read a statement on his behalf