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From the Executive Director: Join Us in Community at the 2021 JACL Virtual Convention

By June 4, 2021June 10th, 2021No Comments

David Inoue

June is the month for weddings. June is also LGBT Pride month, when we celebrate the achievements and contributions of LGBT individuals to our country, but also stand in solidarity with an LGBT community just as JACL did 27 years ago when it became one of the first national civil rights organizations to endorse gay marriage.

Double those years to 54, and that is how long ago the Loving v. Virginia case was decided, with the Supreme Court unanimously striking down anti-miscegenation laws. At that trial, JACL was represented by Bill Marutani, the only outside party permitted to speak at the hearing in favor of the Richard and Mildred Loving.

JACL has had a strong history of partnering with other communities in the face of discrimination. We ourselves have faced similar fire and understand the importance of solidarity. It is in this spirit that we have selected the theme of “Communities Forged Under Fire” for this year’s convention.

It is unfortunate that a part of our history is the duress under which we often find ourselves, whether it was the xenophobia of the late 1800s that drove laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act or naturalization laws that targeted Asians, or the same xenophobia that exists today against our same Asian communities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The very reason we celebrate LGBT Pride month in June is that we are remembering the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, in which members of the gay community resisted their arrest for being who they were. The transgender community is under fire today with attacks on children participating in sports or even using the restrooms at school.

This past year, we have experienced the renewed sting of anti-Asian hate ranging from the petty catcalls of derogatory slurs to the deadly violence of the Atlanta and Indianapolis shootings.

This happens against the backdrop of a long history of police brutality against African Americans. While slavery ended over 150 years ago, Jim Crow laws over 50 years ago, Black men, women and children still remain “under fire” by education, finance and justice systems that systematically disadvantage them because of the color of their skin.

The Covid pandemic has further highlighted many of the inequities that exist in society, placing our communities further under fire. Hate crimes are not specific to one group. Unfortunately, those who act out in hate against one group often do the same to others.

It is why when passage of the COVID Hate Crimes Act was achieved, it brought passage of the broader and more inclusive Jabara Heyer NO HATE Act.

It was a win for our collective community, one of solidarity for us to say that not only was the recent increase in hate against Asians unacceptable, but so, too, was any hate crime.

We may have diverse and different communities with which we engage on a daily basis, but it is that diversity that enriches our country. This year’s convention will be an opportunity to recognize the shared experiences of our separate yet overlapping communities of how each has been forged through the experiences of hundreds of years of history, or the recent experiences of this past year.

I started this column mentioning the topic of marriage, and I can’t resist bringing in a reference to “The Princess Bride.” In that movie, the priest proclaims, “Mawage (marriage) is wot bwings us togedder,” and though marriage rights are so fundamental to what JACL has believed in protecting, it is that solidarity in supporting the institution of marriage, and the communities that it can create, that we will come together in July.

Please join us at the 2021 Virtual JACL National Convention as we recognize this rich though sometimes difficult history — a part of our American history that has made us who we are as a nation.

Although we may belong to different community groups, many of them overlap and interact. But most of all, we work together in solidarity and for a greater American experience for all.

David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.