What is HR 40?
House Resolution 40, or Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, is federal legislation currently in the House of Representatives. This piece of legislation is a study commission, like the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. If passed, the legislation would form a commission to study slavery and discrimination against African Americans from 1619 (when 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia) until today. The commission would also recommend appropriate remedies for the federal government to take. The commission would be tasked to:
Look at the role that federal and state government played in supporting slavery
Look at discrimination against slaves and their descendants
Look at the ongoing negative effects of slavery on African Americans and society today
You can click here to read the full text of the legislation.
The ACLU has put together more information on HR 40, you can click here to learn more.
Why are we collecting testimony from Japanese Americans?
In mid-February, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is going to have a hearing about HR 40. Congressional members and supporting organizations, led by the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have asked for Japanese Americans — especially survivors of incarceration and those who were involved in the Redress Movement — to write testimony in support of HR40 to 1) inform representatives as they prepare for this hearing and 2) to enter into the official Congressional record, which will be reprinted and preserved for historical purposes.
“What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates
You can click here to read “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Japanese American community is a diverse and multiracial community. There are many Black-Nikkei individuals and families who are descendants of enslaved people and who have experienced the ongoing negative effects of U.S. slavery and its aftermath embedded in the racism, anti-Blackness, and structural inequities of U.S. society.
You can click here to read a Washington Post story about a Black-Nikkei family’s thoughts on this topic here.
As the only ethnic group to have received an apology and reparations from the federal government for wrongs committed against us, Japanese Americans have a moral imperative to support the Black people seeking a similar path for a structural remedy. We also have moral authority to stand in solidarity with other communities: especially a community targeted by historic racism seeking accountability and a process for redress and reparations. The violence of slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing anti-Blackness is so central to the history of the United States that we must all participate in the process of repair.
There are lots of questions that are still unanswered about reparations for the African American community, just as there were lots of questions that faced the Japanese American community during redress. HR 40 deserves our support because it creates a legislative process — one much like the one our community successfully pushed for — that will consider many voices and clarify a path forward for repair and the healing that needs to take place.
What should you include in your testimony?
Your written testimony is a statement that will be entered into the U.S. Congressional record as part of the mid-February hearing on HR 40.
It can be of any length, but we recommend keeping it to three pages or less. We hope that it will express your strong belief in support of the creation of a Commission to explore redress and reparations for Black Americans and that you will draw upon your personal and family history as moral authority to make your statement.
Please include the following:
Your city and zip code
An explicit statement that you support HR 40. (This can be as simple as saying, “I support HR 40.”)
An explanation of why you, as a Japanese American, support HR 40. We suggest you include responses to the following questions:
Tell the congressional committee about yourself! Were you incarcerated in one of the World War II WRA/DOJ camps? Were other members of your family? Which camp(s)? Where do you live now?
What were the short and long term consequences of incarceration for you and your family?
Tell the congressional committee about your connection to the Redress Movement!
Did you or your family participate in a CWRIC hearing? What was the impact of hearing those testimonies?
Why was redress important to you and your family? This can include the apology, the individual payments, or other federal funding like the JACS grant program.
How did the Redress Movement impact the healing of you, your family, the Japanese American community, or the country as a whole?
Why do you support HR 40?
For example, you may want to explain how slavery, Jim Crow, and anti-Blackness have inflicted intergenerational harms on African Americans. You may want to connect reparations for African Americans to your own history as a Japanese American. Or you may want to explain this in terms of our duty to speak out as Japanese Americans. It’s up to you!
Include your signature.
Please email your testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, February 12th at 12pm PST. In your email, please include your name, address, and other contact information so it can be shared with congressional staff if needed.
For more information, please go to www.tsuruforsolidarity.org/HR40
What is HR 40?