Reprinted From JACL's Press Release of June 1, 2020 entitled "Our Outrage for George Floyd's Murder is not Enough"
It has been one week since George Floyd was lynched by four Minneapolis police officers. The death of George Floyd was preventable, as were the deaths of Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, Charleena Lyles, and countless other Black lives who have been lost to systemic racism in the United States.
Officer Derek Chauvin, now being charged with murder and manslaughter, was not alone in George Floyd’s murder. Also complicit were officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and most visibly, Tou Thao, an Asian American officer who, instead of using his authority to stop Chauvin, chose to enable and protect his partner. The JACL denounces the actions of Officer Thao and stands with the Black community in demanding justice for George Floyd and all Black lives.
We must recognize that as violence has erupted from the roots of peaceful protest, it reflects the violence we as a nation have inflicted upon the Black community in our 400-year history as a colonized nation. The genocide began with the colonization of Native American land, to the capture, indentured servitude, and enslavement of African peoples, to Jim Crow, and beyond. We continue to see the legacy of our traumatic history today in the inequities of COVID-19 as Black lives are disproportionately impacted by our failed healthcare system.
During World War II, our community found itself fractured in the midst of the incarceration experience; families, friends, and neighbors torn apart by the decisions they were forced to make. We remained divided in the post-war years, as we sought a path forward trying to find our place in the changing narrative of American society. In the fight for civil rights, there were those who joined Black leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., to ensure civil rights were not solely for the API community, but all communities of color. And yet, we also played into the model minority myth, a divisive narrative that has simultaneously served to both benefit and victimize. The privileges we have gained from this dangerous trope have only further driven a wedge between API’s and other communities of color. We cannot continue on this path: we must stand together if we want to create lasting change. Japanese Americans sought and achieved redress for our unconstitutional incarceration during WWII. It is time that we as a nation come to a reckoning with our history of oppression, and seek reparations for the legacy of slavery. To begin taking the necessary steps to right a grave wrong.
It is painful to acknowledge that in many ways, Mr. Thao does represent our community and our own complicity and failure to act for racial justice for Black lives. As API’s, we sit at the intersections of privilege and oppression. While our experiences with privilege and oppression as individual communities are highly varied and nuanced (for example, the frequent exclusion of Pacific Islander and South and Southeast Asian communities in discussions around race and social issues, or the privilege those of us with lighter skin experience), it cannot be said that we do not benefit from the same systems that serve to hold us down. Our privilege comes at a price, one that has historically served as a way to further oppress Black lives. If we cannot come to terms with and address the privileges we hold and why then we are part of the problem. Our inaction is causing harm, despite most of our best intentions to do good. We can have the intention to do anti-racist work while still committing racist acts.
It is easy and justified to be outraged by the scenes of the police taking the life of an unarmed, handcuffed man. We must also be enraged by the systems that have led to the deaths of so many Black men and women. We have a broken economic system that underpays people for honest work. Hiring decisions continue to be clouded by prejudice. Housing discrimination persists because of unequal access to capital and the legacy of redlining. If we do not feel the same outrage for the daily discrimination that continues to exist, outrage over George Floyd’s murder is hollow and meaningless.
There can be no peace so long as our society and our government remain violent, both in physical action and policy, towards our own citizens. Our time to stand together is now. Black Lives Matter.
For a complete list of Day of Remembrance Activities around the country, please see the web page from the JACL National. The Los Angeles Day of Remembrance will be held Saturday, February 16, 2-4PM at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA.
Don't forget to support the Ventura County JACL chapter with every purchase you make on amazon.com. Simply go to smile.amazon.com and search for Japanese American Citizens League, make sure you choose the chapter based in Westlake Village. Your donations support our scholarship program, cemetery restoration, and regular programming.
High school seniors who live in Ventura County can now apply to our scholarship program. For the application and instructions, please see our scholarship page. Applications are due March 15, 2019. Please note that students who are current JACL members can also apply to scholarships from JACL National, those applications are separate and are due March 1, 2019.
Here's the link to a recent story from the VC Star's Never 30 soundcloud.
On a tiny plot of land where Etting Road meets Pleasant Valley Road in Oxnard, grave markers stick up from behind a protective wrought iron fence. Some look like traditional gravestones, but most are obelisks. This is the historic Japanese cemetery of Oxnard, where the first burial took place in 1908, the last in 1960. It may be a graveyard, but its story has little to do with death and everything to do with life.
Anne Chilcott is the immediate past president of the Ventura County JACL Chapter and the coordinator for the VCJACL's cemetery restoration efforts
The LA Times recently gave an update to their story on Meg Shimatsu. If you remember, last year Steve Lopez shared the story of Meg, who was living in her Toyota Corolla and on the waitlist for a kidney transplant. I’m relieved and happy for Meg Shimatsu. In my opinion, that because of Steve Lopez’s story in the Los Angeles Times, many people reached out to her. She did start a gofundme to raise money for medical expenses related to a kidney transplant. Her goal was $10,000 and she raised more than that. I noticed that many donors had Japanese last names. there was a $1000 donation from Sunrise Japanese Foursquare Church. SFV JACL donated $200. Members of the SFV JACL also donated. There were many anonymous donations also. Phil Shigekuni from the SFV JACL spoke to her several times and invited her to some of their events. Because of the newspaper publicity, she connected with a former member of our chapter, Luke Shimatsu. Turns out they are related. I’m am moved by the generosity of the JA community. I wish her the best in her new home.
Anne Chilcott, Immediate Past President of Ventura County JACL Chapter