On Saturday, August 26th, a gunman targeted and killed three people specifically because they were African American. This is another one of the countless shootings which occurred this year already, but tragically comes on a time of remembrance for civil rights history.
This attack came juxtaposed on a historically symbolic day for civil rights, where JACL joined hundreds of thousands of advocates in honor of the 1963 March on Washington which featured Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. This year’s theme, “A Continuation not a Commemoration” is a renewed commitment to build a nation that lives up to its ideals – one that protects and values Black lives. Following this act of racialized violence, this theme could not hold more truth toward the need to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy in all forms.
Just as a quarter million Americans led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first marched against segregation 60 years ago, this year’s march both memorialized and advocated for the continuance of the honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work against anti-Blackness, segregation, and white supremacy.
In the 60 years since the March’s beginning, our country’s legacy of racism continues to harm, disenfranchise, and claim the lives of Black individuals at the hands of hate-fueled violence. In addition to revealing our country’s longstanding history of anti-Blackness, the shooting also underscored the critical need to ban assault weapons.
The intersection of racism and gun violence is resulting in dire consequences. This is particularly true in a state such as Florida which has passed laws to enable and embolden gun owners to brazenly turn to gun violence as their first option. This mixed with a series of policy changes targeting multicultural and particularly African American communities, incidents such as this are frighteningly more likely to happen. We must do better as a nation if we are to make true on the hopes and dreams of the past.
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
The Japanese American Citizens League is dismayed by the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the use of race as a general consideration in the holistic admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. These programs had been constructed in accordance with previous Supreme Court decisions, yet the court once again shows blatant disregard for its own precedent, creating new law.
Today, the majority rejected the precedent that race might be considered generally amongst other characteristics. The Grutter case further affirmed the court’s previous support for diversity as a compelling state interest. The opinion by Justice O’Connor in the Grutter case suggested a time limit of 25 years before affirmative action might not be necessary. Unfortunately, disparities in opportunity due to race remain persistent and pervasive, particularly in the education system and college admissions process. For the court to at once ignore a time frame for affirmative action to be legitimized through court precedent, and shorten it when the disparity clearly remains, is concerning and inexplicable.
Furthermore, the court asserts, “Many universities have for too long wrongly concluded that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned, but the color of their skin.” The court has wrongly concluded that these touchstones of identity are NOT also inextricably linked to one’s racial identity. For Asian Americans, while we may all have unique experiences individually, as the past two years have shown us with the increases in anti-Asian hate, discrimination persists against us because of our race, not because of who we are as individuals. This experience is not unlike that of other students of color.
Also in its arguments, the court uses the Hirabayashi case to establish our nation’s distaste for discriminating based on race. We remind the court that the Hirabayashi case, despite this inspirational quote, did actually affirm that discrimination against a minority was legal. It is that backdrop of historic state-sponsored racism that has necessitated programs such as affirmative action, to redress persistent racism, where this country and its institutions have continued to discriminate systematically against minorities making college less attainable, or even a seat on the Supreme Court that has remained elusive to an Asian American.
It is well known that an overwhelming majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action initiatives. We reject the perpetration of the model minority myth, suggesting that Asian Americans are disadvantaged relative to others presumably, by the plaintiffs and the court majority, less deserving minorities in the admissions process. While these decisions are limited to higher education for now, they may also set a precedent around similar race-conscious initiatives in hiring and other programs, such as workplace DEI initiatives.
JACL remains committed to ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to achieve the heights of educational opportunity. We also recognize the scarcity of opportunity at highly selective colleges and universities which means the majority of students applying to these schools will not be accepted, despite being highly qualified themselves. We do believe that colleges are capable of selecting individuals for admission who are qualified, and also support the need for diversity and representation. We reaffirm the court’s past precedent affirming the need to create diversity at schools and reject the court’s rewriting of law in today’s decision.
June 29, 2023
For Immediate Release
Seia Watanabe, VP Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator, email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator
What should have been a joyous weekend as the Monterey Park community celebrated the New Year, instead turned into an unbelievable tragedy as 10 people were killed and 10 more sent to hospital emergency rooms from another incidence of gun violence.
The Monterey Park community is widely known as the first suburban Chinatown and is over 65% Asian American. The Asian American community has experienced a heightened level of fear over the past three years, in addition to the history of racism and xenophobia directed toward our communities. However, we are not the only communities living in fear of violence, a fear that is only heightened because of the ease with which someone might, in anger, choose to release those feelings in a barrage of gunfire with deadly consequences.
Although the killer’s motivations are still unknown, we do know that a semi-automatic weapon, with a potentially illegal high-capacity magazine, was used to carry out the mass murder. In the time since the Monterey Park shooting, there have already been two mass shooting incidents in Louisiana and numerous individual victims across the country.
The demographics of all those who were victims of gun violence this weekend are as diverse as the nation we live in. The only commonality was that they were killed or injured by gunfire. We must recognize this commonality and act as a nation to reduce the risk of harm from guns in this country. When will our lawmakers listen to the majority of Americans who agree that enough is enough and we need sensible gun safety laws?
The JACL joins the Monterey Park community and the broader AANHPI community in mourning those lost in this senseless act of violence. Our hearts are with the families and loved ones of the victims, and with those currently recovering from their injuries.
JACL is deeply saddened by the shooting that took place at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of the only LGBTQIA+ nightclubs in the city, late Saturday night. This shooting is one of over 600 that have taken place this year alone and also occurred on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance. This shooting and others that have taken place this year, including some of the deadliest in our nation’s history, remind us now more than ever that steps need to be taken to ensure the safety of all communities from hatred, bigotry, and gun violence.?
Transgender people of color experience some of the highest levels of discrimination in this country. According to a 2021 study conducted by Lavender Phoenix, a community-based research project highlighting the experiences of Transgender and Gender Non-conforming APIs in the Bay Area, 68% of transgender and nonconforming APIs reported experiencing verbal harassment, 40% reported experiencing bathroom-based harassment, and 17% reported being physically attacked.
This harassment is fueled in large part by the vitriol and disinformation about the LGBTQIA+ community as put forth by too many of today?s political and public leaders. These supposed leaders who spew vitriol against the LGBTQIA+ community must be held accountable for their part in dehumanizing, silencing, and encouraging hate toward the trans and queer community. Their actions have and continue to influence hate and hate based crime at the expense of those most marginalized. Hate speech that results in direct violent action is not part of our first amendment rights. There must be consequences and accountability.
The JACL vehemently denounces violence based on hate and extremism and remains committed to working with its LGBTQIA+ partners in developing and prescribing community-based solutions that are considerate of the different needs and backgrounds of its community members. The JACL recognizes the direct correlation between the hateful and false words of politicians and pundits that lead to targeted attacks and pledges itself to do more to condemn such acts of violence and bigotry and advocate for more legislation that protects LGBTQIA+ individuals and families.
For Immediate Release Seia Watanabe, VP Public Affairs Matthew Weisbly, Education & Communications Coordinator
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.
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
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.