NCRR Statement of Solidarity at the Stop all Violence Press Conference
by Tony Osumi 9/19/01
My name is Tony Osumi. I am a Hapa Yonsei, 4th generation Japanese American and a 6th generation Jewish American. Im representing NCRR-Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress today. Id like to offer my condolences to all those affected by last weeks tragic events.
NCRR led the grassroots struggle for redress and reparations for Japanese Americans sent to concentration camps during World War II. NCRR continues to fight for redress for Japanese Latin Americans, others who were denied redress, as well as supporting other struggles for social justice.
America knows about Pearl Harbor, but less know about its affects on Japanese Americans. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, racism, economic greed, misplaced fear and anger led to the imprisonment of 110,000 Japanese Americans. My grandparents Yoshio and Chie Osumi, a gardener, housewife and their one-year-old baby were among those imprisoned. Forced from their home in Los Angeles, they were sent to Poston, Arizona to live behind barbed wire, watch towers and armed guards.
Starting with Presidential Executive Order 9066 that sent us off to camp, few Americans spoke up in support of Japanese Americans. The newspapers, radio and newsreels of the times demonized us and made no attempt to separate the nation of Japan from Japanese Americans. Today, we see similar stereotyping and scapegoating. It was wrong then, and its wrong now.
The Japanese American concentration experience has clear lessons for us today. If we believe in justice, then we must defend the rights of all Americans. We must speak out against the violence towards Islamic community centers and mosques. We must denounce the phone threats; the rocks thrown and we must mourn the murder of any more Americans of Middle Eastern descent.
Last weeks tragedy has nothing to with Arab and Muslim Americans, but instead has its roots in decades of U.S. foreign policy which is well known around the world, but often kept secret from the American people. The challenge facing us today is rejecting the Bush Administrations call to war. More violence will not make us safer. More deaths will not bring back loved ones or bring us comfort. We have an opportunity to demand not revenge, but peaceful justice. Although seemingly difficult, we must raise our level of tolerance and humanity beyond missile attacks and military spending. We should expect better from our government. Building a world where all life is sacred begins today.
On behalf of NCRR, we express our solidarity with Arab and Muslim Americans because injustice to one community is an injustice to all our communities.