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‘Time to Declare War Against Racism’

‘Time to Declare War Against Racism’

This piece from Bill Ong Hing was originally published on the ImmigrationProf Blog. Photo CC BY 2.0 Daniel Arauz.

Friends–Minneapolis is a wake up call.

The tragic police murder of George Floyd highlights the sad truth that racial profiling of African Americans and the country’s racial divide continue. The juxtaposition of this incident and the fits and starts the nation is going through in its battle against the coronavirus provides us with an opportunity to declare another war — a war on racism in America. With race on the front pages, the opportunity is ripe for national, state, and local leaders to declare war on bigotry and hate.

More than 150 years after the Civil War and 55 years since the Civil Rights Act and the end of the national origins immigration system, racism continues in the United States. From hate speech and hate crimes to employment discrimination and forms of social preference, subtle actions and institutionalized racism continue to challenge our nation. Almost 20 years ago when Trent Lott was sharply criticized for racist sentiment at Strom Thurmond’s retirement party, we saw Democrats and Republicans alike agree that racism is wholly and completely unacceptable. But after Lott stepped aside, addressing racism was pushed to the back burner again, allowed to eat away at our nation’s character. We now see Donald Trump getting away with calling neo-Nazis and white supremacists at Charlottesville “very fine people” while labeling Minneapolis protesters as “thugs.”

A dozen years ago, presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a stirring speech on our nation’s racial divide. Then a few years later he sat down to discuss profiling with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his arresting Boston police officer. But after that, we heard little further discussion nor witnessed much direct public action. Any talk of improving race relations remains hushed and polite when it occurs at all. Hushed until there’s another black victim of police brutality: Amadou Diallo. Sandra Bland. Manuel Loggins Jr. Ronald Madison. Kendra James. Sean Bell. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Mario Woods. Philando Castile. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Sam DuBose. Tamir Rice. Eric Harris. Akai Gurley. Terence Crutcher. William Chapman. Jeremy McDole. Alton Sterling. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Sadly, George Floyd was not the first black murder victim of Minneapolis police—just Google the name Jamar Clark.

The problem with polite talk on these issues is that it lets the vast majority of the nation off the hook. The nation ends up treating overt incidents as the exception, regarding those instances as rare—as they move on to the next day’s headline. What will it take to realize that we should be taking aim at what should be our prime target—the foundation of institutionalized racism that has created an environment that enables subtle and unconscious racism, emboldens perpetrators of racist speech, and licenses acts of hate.

We need more than polite talk. We need a sense of outrage and indignation. We need massive mobilization over the issue. We need a declaration of war. The declaration of war on the evils of hate and racism must be loud and constant. Just as we have poured millions of dollars into campaigns against COVID-19, against drugs and smoking, and into efforts to address recycling and other environmental concerns, we need attention-grabbing strategies to begin now, in the midst of current recognition that improving race relations matters.

We need a clear vision statement on these issues to serve as the basis for this moral declaration. We must be driven, not politely, because we are beyond politeness on the evils of hate and prejudice that our sensible leaders acknowledge are not American values. Let’s put our heads together on this national priority. Be creative and imaginative in approaches. Set an example. Call for new laws, enforcement of existing regulations, smart coalition-building, civility, respect and approaches to addressing private attitudes and actions. Make that call loud and clear and remind us over and over. Make it part of the national psyche, not just part of the national agenda. That call and that declaration of war against racism is happening right now on the streets of Minneapolis.

The public face of American pluralism — dominated by politicians, professionals and community leaders — has its positive moments in spite of Donald Trump. The problem is with the private off-camera face of America that fails to teach our children and challenge our neighbors to be respectful of others. We all share to varying degrees the blame for a culture that gives rise to hate speech and ethnic animosity. Every time we engage in even subtle racism or the fostering of stereotypes, we perpetuate that culture. As much as each of us shares the blame, each of us can be part of the solution. Every time we reach out to others whom we have been conditioned to distrust, fear, or subordinate because of culture, race or class, we begin to chip away at the wicked culture that gives rise to irrational hatred, animosity, and violence.

In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush spoke out against hate crimes directed at Americans of South Asian, Pakistani, Arab, and Muslim descent. He urged “Americans not to use this as an opportunity to pick on somebody that doesn’t look like you, or doesn’t share your religion.” But then, he and other leaders did little to demonstrate an informed understanding about the racialized structures of our society that continue to subordinate blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and many Asian Americans. President Obama called on Americans to do better, but his efforts have been derailed by the MAGA-wearing president. So we must take it upon ourselves to support and get on the war path against racism. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get serious about racism as a nation and as individuals.

Bill Hing

Ted Lieu: Trump is stoking xenophobic panic in a time of crisis

Ted Lieu: Trump is stoking xenophobic panic in a time of crisis

Congressman Ted Lieu of California’s 33rd Congressional District authored an op-ed published by The Washington Post on March 18, 2020.

Related: The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON) and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) have launched the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center in response to spreading xenophobia as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have experienced harassment and/or discrimination, visit a3pcon.org/stopaapihate to file a confidential report.

I genuinely want President Trump to succeed in stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus, and will do everything I can to help him in this effort. At stake are the lives of my elderly parents, my family, my constituents and many Americans. But Trump’s repeated insistence on calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus” is more than just xenophobic; it causes harm both to Asian Americans and to the White House’s response to this life-threatening pandemic. I served on active duty in the U.S. military to defend the right of any American to make politically incorrect statements, but as a public figure, I cannot stand idly by while the president uses his pulpit to exacerbate xenophobia in a time of crisis.

Trump claims that in using the phrase “Chinese virus,” he’s just trying to be “accurate” in describing where it’s from. But there is a difference between saying the virus is from China and saying it is a Chinese virus. In a time of unease and uncertainty, such language stokes xenophobic panic and doesn’t get us closer to eradicating this virus. Asian Americans have been assaulted or otherwise discriminated against because of such rhetoric. In New York, a man assaulted an Asian woman wearing a face mask and called her a “diseased b—h.” Also in New York, a man on the subway sprayed an Asian passenger with Febreze and verbally abused him. On the subway in Los Angeles, a man ranted at an Asian American woman, claiming Chinese people are putrid and responsible for all diseases. (The woman happened to be Thai American.)

Trump’s rhetoric adds fuel to the growing fire of hatred being misdirected at Asian Americans. The fact that he is the president of the United States, who is responsible for the well-being of all Americans, only makes his rhetoric even more disturbing. The leaders of both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have warned that we should not use terms such as “Chinese virus.” The novel coronavirus already has an official name, SARS-CoV-2, and an unofficial name, covid-19. Injecting an ethnic qualifier to the virus is unnecessary and can stigmatize Asian Americans.

Against the backdrop of Trump’s unnecessary language lies the history of discrimination against Asian Americans in our country. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the internment camps of World War II to the murder of Vincent Chin, Asian Americans are particularly susceptible to being discriminated against by the mistaken belief that we somehow are foreigners or have foreign ties.

Read the full op-ed by Rep. Lieu.

Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation Awarded to Donald K. Tamaki

Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation Awarded to Donald K. Tamaki

The Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has awarded Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Donald K. Tamaki with a Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation for 2019.

The Commendations are awarded to individuals and groups with outstanding achievements in international fields, in order to acknowledge their contributions to the promotion of friendship between Japan and other countries and areas.

The Commendations also aim to promote the understanding and support of the Japanese public for the activities of the recipients.

In announcing the Commendation to Don, the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Don “has been dedicated to preserving and promoting Japanese culture in San Francisco” and “also made a tremendous contribution to improving the status of Japanese Americans in the United States of America as a member of the pro bono team that reopened and overturned Fred Korematsu’s criminal conviction in the landmark Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States.”

Don will receive the Commendation in late November at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco.

Don Tamaki Leads Tour of ‘Then They Came for Us’ Exhibit

Don Tamaki Leads Tour of ‘Then They Came for Us’ Exhibit

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Don Tamaki led a special guided tour (photos) on May 25, 2019, of the “Then they Came For Me” exhibit at The Presidio in San Francisco, organized by the Civil Rights Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA). Don is one of the leaders of the Stop Repeating History campaign.

Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties” examines the terrifying period in U.S. history when the government scapegoated and imprisoned thousands of people of Japanese ancestry.

This multimedia exhibition draws parallels to tactics chillingly resurgent today featuring imagery by noted American photographers Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, alongside works by incarcerated Japanese American artists Toyo Miyatake and Miné Okubo.

Presented by the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation in partnership with the National Japanese American Historical Society and J-Sei, the exhibition tells the story of the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese American citizens and legal residents from their homes on the West Coast during World War II without due process or other constitutional protections to which they were entitled.

Visit https://thentheycame.org to learn more about the exhibit, which runs through September 1, 2019.

Thank you to Lisa P. Mak for sharing this information.

Let’s Break Down the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype

Let’s Break Down the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype

This post by Partner Olivia Serene Lee was originally published on thinkimmigration.org, a website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as part of the site’s Diversity and Inclusion Blog Post Series.

May marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. You are forgiven if you’re not quite sure whose month exactly this is! Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) is a rather broad term and encompasses more than 50 ethnic groups from Asia and the Pacific Islands who live in the United States.

While the AAPI communities have roots that span the globe, our success stories are uniquely American.  May is a significant month in Asian American history, as it includes the first entry of an immigrant from Japan to the U.S. (May 7, 1843), the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad (May 10, 1869) in which the majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants, as well as a dark time in our nation’s history with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act (May 6, 1882).

In fact, Asian American history dates back to the 16th century with the first recorded presence of Filipinos in what is now the U.S. to October 1587 around Morro Bay, California, with the first permanent settlement in Saint Malo, Louisiana, in 1763.  Less than fifteen years later, in 1778, Chinese immigrants settled in Hawaii.  From ancient, to more recent, the impact of Asian Americans on U.S. history is undeniable.

But, despite our long history in the U.S., there is still a stereotype that we are the “perpetual foreigner”, with many of us being asked the dreaded question “Where are you from?”, which is then normally followed by the question “No, where are you really from?”, or the variant “Where are your parents from?”

“Where are you really from?” is a tough question to answer, even for me. Until only a few years ago, I thought my family had just immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s.  However, through interviews with people from the Chinese American community, including AILA member Helen Hui, I learned that my family had a much more significant and lengthier history in the U.S.

In fact, I have a paternal great-great-grandfather who lived and settled in Chicago.  His son, my great-grandfather, lived in Chicago for some time before moving to San Francisco.  On my maternal side, my great-grandmother came to the U.S. as an aide to her daughters, who were acclaimed Cantonese opera singers and recruited to perform in San Francisco Chinatown theaters.  One of these singers had a life partner who was the first Chinese woman attorney in California – Emma Lum.  Her father, Walter U. Lum, was a renowned civil rights advocate and has a street named after him in San Francisco Chinatown.

Walter U. Lum was one of the founders of the Native Sons of the Golden State (renamed the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in 1915) which advocated for Chinese American rights and opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was finally overturned in 1943 with the Magnuson Act.  However, while the Magnuson Act overturned the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1924 only allowed a national quota of 105 Chinese immigrants per year. This extremely small quota impacted families, as it was difficult for American citizen men to bring their Chinese citizen wives and children to the U.S. This was, in fact, the case with my family, where several generations of husbands and sons were separated from their wives and children.

Walter U. Lum and the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) continued advocating to change the U.S. quota system so that Chinese families could be together.  In fact, many of our clients today benefit from the legacy of Walter U. Lum’s work, especially with our current definition of immediate relatives.

In 1936, the CACA successfully campaigned for a partial alleviation of the inhumane separation of American citizens from their wives. Through continued advocacy work, including repeatedly appearing before Congressional immigration committees, CACA succeeded in getting Congress to pass a law granting non-quota status to Chinese wives of American citizens on August 9, 1946.

The pen which President Harry S. Truman used to sign this law is housed at the CACA lodge in San Francisco, and this pen has been shown at events with the local AILA Northern California Chapter at the CACA lodge.  The passage of the 1946 act served as a basis for the definition of immediate relatives, and the CACA members on October 15, 1952 appeared before President Harry Truman’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization to continue advocating.  Finally, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 gave us our current definition of “immediate relatives” and also abolished the national-origins quota, which limited Chinese immigration to only 105 per year.

When I look back at my Chinese American heritage, I am grateful to the Chinese American community members (including above-mentioned AILA member Helen Hui) for giving me more context to the history of my family in the U.S., for continually advocating for immigrant rights, and for teaching me our significant and long history in the U.S.  I am also grateful and proud that my own family played a part in  overturning the Chinese Exclusion Act and contributing to the concept of immediate relatives.

While the Chinese Exclusion Act no longer keeps families apart, as we know, these days there are other policies in place that do. The Muslim ban, the Remain in Mexico policy, even delays in processing at USCIS are keeping families apart and benefit no one; there have also been legislative changes proposed that would prevent families from reunifying. We’ve been down that road before and it harmed generations of children, in my case resulting in ignorance about my family’s history until very recently.  We must use the lessons of the past to halt current policies that exclude and separate immigrant families.

With confidence, I can say that my family has been here at least five generations, but due to the racist and anti-Chinese sentiments which gave rise to the Chinese Exclusion Act and national origins quota, my family was separated for generations between two continents. I don’t feel like a perpetual foreigner anymore. Now, if only people would stop asking me that question…

Don Tamaki, Dale Minami at ‘Alternative Facts’ Documentary Screening at CAAMFest 2019

Don Tamaki, Dale Minami at ‘Alternative Facts’ Documentary Screening at CAAMFest 2019

Partner Don Tamaki and Senior Counsel Dale Minami in their roles as leaders of the Stop Repeating History campaign were featured speakers in a discussion following the screening of Jon Osaki’s “Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066” at CAAMFest on May 18 at the Roxie Theater.

Sierra Lee of CAAM writes: “Osaki traces the fraught racist history of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans and untangles the intergenerational trauma of the decades-long redress movement.

“(The film) offers damning proof that the signing of Executive Order 9066 was the result of political pressure and fabricated evidence of espionage by Japanese Americans. Interviews with the family members of prominent political officials and unsung heroes of redress like Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga illuminate the racism, xenophobia and backhanded political maneuvering led to the forcible internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans.”

Read more: “Documentary Exposes Fear and Lies Behind Japanese American Incarceration, Draws Parallels to Current Anti-Muslim Rhetoric” by Akemi Tamanaha on AsAmNews.

Visit the film’s website: alternativefacts9066.com.

Alternative Facts The Lies of Executive Order 9066 collage

Video: Remarks by Dale Minami at 50th Manzanar Pilgrimage

Video: Remarks by Dale Minami at 50th Manzanar Pilgrimage

Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami was one of the featured speakers at the 50th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, which was held the weekend of April 27, 2019, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, approximately 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Manzanar was the first of the American concentration camps in which more than 120,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. Each year, more than 1,000 people attend the Manzanar Pilgrimage, including students, teachers, community members, clergy and former incarcerees.

The program was emceed by former California State Assemblymember Warren Furutani, one of the founders of the Manzanar Pilgrimage and the Manzanar Committee, and also featured Karen Korematsu and writer/artist traci-kato kiriyama.

From the Manzanar Committee’s Feb. 2019 announcement of the speakers: “We’re so pleased Dale Minami and Karen Korematsu will be speaking this year,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “Dale and Karen have played key roles in the long struggle for redress and reparations, as well as the current efforts to challenge the Trump Administration’s Muslim ban and xenophobic anti-immigration policies. Their experience, their message, is what our country needs to hear right now.”

“Let’s remember that 2019 is the 75th anniversary of Korematsu v. United States,” added Embrey. “Let’s remember that not that long ago, our government, the government of the United States, prosecuted and convicted a young man by withholding, altering and falsifying key evidence and then incarcerated him for no other reason than his ancestry. Fred took a stand against the unconstitutional and illegal incarceration of his family, of his community. But even though the law was on his side, a racist and undemocratic ruling prevailed. Let us not forget what can happen when hysterical, unfounded appeals to national security gain sway in our body politic.”

“What we want to project at this year’s Pilgrimage is that our history, our experience, is a cautionary story that our country must take to heart. We cannot stand by and allow this administration’s undemocratic, racist immigration policies to go unchallenged and that is exactly what Karen and Dale have been doing by fighting in the courts and in the realm of public opinion. They are two of the most effective leaders linking our community’s experience with the struggles against the anti-immigrant hysteria and Islamophobia of the Trump Administration, so really, we couldn’t ask for better speakers.”

Photos and video by Manzanar Committee (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Video filmed by Cory Shiozaki.

Minami Tamaki Participates in National Conference Advancing the Hmong American Community

Minami Tamaki Participates in National Conference Advancing the Hmong American Community

Top Photo: Kaa Bao Yang (left) and Donald K. Tamaki (middle) of Minami Tamaki LLP with Bao Vang, President/CEO of Hmong American Partnership.

Minami Tamaki LLP participated in the 19th Hmong National Development Conference, held April 19-21, 2019, in San Jose. Associate Kaa Bao Yang in our Personal Injury practice served on the conference planning committee and Partner Don Tamaki was the conference keynote on April 20.

The conference is a biennial gathering organized by Hmong National Development, Inc., a national nonprofit founded in 1993 as a national policy advocacy organization for the Hmong American community. For the past 20 years, the organization has provided Hmong nonprofits capacity building and technical assistance tools, advocated in Washington D.C. for legislation which impacts the Hmong community, and cultivated leadership in youth through internship programs and youth empowerment programming models.

Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys Kaa Bao Yang (left) and Seema Bhatt staffing our booth.

“As a member of the Impact Award and Entertainment Subcommittees, I had the pleasure of introducing two of the Impact Award Winners during the conference banquet on Saturday evening,” said Kaa Bao, “Leesai Yang, Deputy Sheriff with the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department and Director of East Bay Asian Youth Center, and Neng Thao, a graduate of Harvard and world traveler, videographer, and blogger in English, Hmong and Spanish with about 45,000 Facebook followers.”

In his keynote, Don spoke about the #StopRepeatingHistory campaign and efforts to educate the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power, drawing parallels between the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the current administration’s policies targeting minority groups based on race or religion.

“Don delivered a powerful keynote speech,” said Kaa Bao. “Everyone loved it and Don was quite a celebrity. There was a very long line after his speech to shake his hand and take pictures with him. Our Minami Tamaki tote bags became quite popular afterwards!”

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Donald K. Tamaki delivering the keynote on April 20.

Kaa Bao also had the opportunity to meet a number of inspiring women, including Elizabeth Yang, the founder of Hmong Women Take on the World, and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Kashoua Kristy Yang, the first Hmong American judge elected without appointment and the first Hmong American female judge in the nation.

Kaa Bao Yang (left) of Minami Tamaki LLP and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Kristy Yang.

Kaa Bao Yang is Minami Tamaki’s first Hmong American attorney. As one of the few bilingual Hmong attorneys in California, she aspires to provide the best support and legal services to the Hmong community and to all of our firm’s clients.

She was born in a refugee camp in northern Thailand and immigrated to the United States, where her family resettled in St. Paul, Minnesota. The fifth of eleven children and the first in her family to graduate from college and graduate school, she earned her B.A. in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance with honors, as well as a minor in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Kaa Bao graduated with honors from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco.

Video: Dale Minami Impact Award, Presented by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area

Video: Dale Minami Impact Award, Presented by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area presented the first ever Dale Minami Impact Award at its annual gala on March 6, 2019, in San Francisco.

AABA created this award in Dale’s name to honor his legacy by celebrating those who have made a positive impact on the Asian Pacific American community.

The inaugural recipient of the Dale Minami Impact Award was Stewart Kwoh, the founder of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

In this short video, Karen Korematsu, Don Tamaki, Michael GW Lee, and Minette Kwok discuss Dale Minami’s impact on the Asian-American community, civil rights, and the face of the legal profession.