As we approach convention, this is my last column before convention convenes on Aug. 3 with the National Board Meeting and Welcome Reception, followed by National Council Sessions on the 4th. I am supposed to be writing about all the great things you will experience at convention. Unfortunately, I feel that I have to make a bit of a detour.
The rallying cry of “Our Bodies, Our Choice” is a longstanding one of the pro-choice movement, a movement that took a tremendous blow with the Supreme Court’s decision last month. What has been especially distressing about this shift in the affirmation of women’s rights was the earlier co-opting of this phrase by anti-vaxxers intent upon circumventing whatever Covid prevention measures were attempted by public health departments, businesses and other individuals.
Covid-19 is not gone — my son is currently at a three-week music camp where they were struck by four cases of Covid in the first week. Camp administrators took immediate action, reinforcing indoor masking mandates and moving the older students outside for dining, allowing the younger students to space out more in the dining hall. They have not had another positive case since.
And yet, there are many other ways in which we see this argument play out in today’s discourse. The rise in attention to gun violence raises questions about whether the right to own guns supersedes school children’s rights to live, or at least live without fear of being shot at school. Do those bodies not also have any rights?
We continue to see the devaluation of Black bodies with excessive violence from police. Jayland Walker was fleeing from the police, but did he deserve a hail of gunfire resulting in a reported 60-plus gunshot wounds?
Juxtapose this with the arrest of Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III, the admitted shooter in the July 4 Highland Park, Ill., shooting. He was taken into custody without a single shot fired by law enforcement.
This was the case with Kyle Rittenhouse, Robert Aaron Long, Dylann Roof and any number of high-profile white men who have been known murderers on the run and considered dangerous by the police, yet seem to receive a certain deference from their arresting officers. Who would ever expect to be treated to a meal at Burger King after being arrested for mass murder?
What is clear is that while there are always bodies, and the autonomy of those bodies at play in many of these deep, divisive issues, the question is whose choice is it whether said bodies have the right to choice or even to live.
Women are now told they do not have autonomy over their own bodies. In some states, they can be forced to carry a baby to term or to their death as abortions are made illegal in all circumstances.
Contrary to centuries of public health common sense, individuals believe their individual rights override the right of the public to live safely from threat of communicable disease. And gun culture combined with intentional misreading of the Constitution affords individuals a greater right to gun ownership than the public’s right to live without fear of gun violence.
It is the police who decide who lives and dies, unfortunately too often with a racial bias to that preference. Whether it is our own community’s legacy of unjust incarceration or the more recent decisions of the Supreme Court, these are issues of who controls our bodies and whether we can make our own decisions for our own safety and well-being.
If these decisions are important to you, I implore you to come to convention this year. Our convention theme is “Strengthening Our Community Through Action,” and in preparation for the upcoming elections, there is nothing more important or needed than taking action and ensuring that our community’s voice is heard at the ballot box and beyond.
I do want to take a moment to thank our sponsors, especially State Farm Insurance, our Diamond Level sponsor, and AT&T as our Platinum Level sponsor. In addition to their generous support of convention, their engagement reaches far beyond in their support for one of our flagship activities, the JACL-OCA Leadership Summit held in Washington, D.C.
The Leadership Summit is one more example of the close collaboration with OCA that you will be able to see at this convention through our many joint sessions. Partnerships both with OCA and our corporate partners enable us to have far greater impact than if we were to operate in isolation.
We look forward to seeing you at the 2022 JACL Convention in Las Vegas from Aug. 3-7.
To register for convention, please be sure to visit https://jacl.org/2022-convention-registration, and we will see you in Las Vegas. Registration closes on July 27, and we will not have on-site registration available.
Finally, I would be incredibly grateful if all of you reading this take a brief, important membership survey at jacl.org/survey. By sharing your personal JACL experience, we will be able to improve our membership program for years to come.
David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.