[Editor’s note: The following was issued by JACL Public Affairs VP Seia Watanabe and JACL Education & Communications Coordinator Matthew Weisbly and was lightly edited only to adhere to AP Style.]
The National JACL on Dec. 21 joined the National Nikkei Reparations Coalition (NNRC) in sending a letter to the Biden administration calling for an executive order to create a commission to study reparations. This letter, co-signed by 76 Japanese American and Asian American organizations, is a strong testament to the commitment of our communities toward the promise of racial reparations and the healing of our nation.
JACL National President Larry Oda, highlighted the need to establish a commission without further delay, stating, “The Japanese American Citizens League is the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization and is committed to protecting the human and civil rights of all Americans. The travesty of slavery and its aftermath must be addressed if we are to truly become the great nation that we profess to be. The 400 years of racism and denied opportunity have taken their toll on the community. The establishment of a presidential commission to study the legacy of enslavement would educate and inform the public and Congress of the harm that is perpetuated on the community. Time is of the essence, there is an urgency of instituting such a study before another year passes. This legislation was first introduced over 30 years ago and its time has come.
“As we evolve as a nation, we must look back at our history, for better and for worse, and take responsibility for our flawed actions. We did this when redress for Japanese Americans was studied and recommended by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in its report released nearly 40 years ago. We would like to think that we are looked upon as one of the great nations of the world. In order to live up to that image, we should admit our faults and acknowledge that we are not perfect. The United States abolished slavery over 150 years ago but for a number of reasons, the stigma remains on the Black community because of racial prejudice and simple ignorance.”
We hope President Biden will honor the request of not only the 76 Asian and Pacific Islander organizations signing on to this letter but the over 350 organizations that have advocated for the establishment of a study commission this past year. A Presidential Commission to study the need for Black reparations might help our Nation heal from the wounds of the past and present and continue to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.