Japanese American Citizens League Honolulu Chapter Statement on Black Lives Matter Protests

We, the Honolulu Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, are both heartbroken and infuriated at the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Responding to these heinous murders calls to mind the too-many-other times Black men and women have been killed. This is a critical time for all of us. The diverse groups of people who comprise this country and our State must take notice and actively strive to end the ongoing racism and injustices that our Black and Brown brothers and sisters face daily. Fear has been the root of many heinous acts throughout our history. For Japanese Americans, the fear of the enemy alien resulted in Presidential Executive Order 9066, which stripped over 120,000 Japanese American citizens of their physical freedom and of their homes and businesses. It is this fear that can be combatted by the embrace and action of community. 

These emotions of anger and sadness run deep and grow daily. With all the advances in civil rights that we have accomplished as a country, it remains perplexing that we are continually having to say that the thoughtless disregard for the life of a fellow human being is wrong. Nevertheless, as long as this needs to be said, we will continue to say it. It is our beloved right and an exercise of our liberty. As a community of Japanese Americans and other supporters of civil rights in Hawai‘i, we hold tremendous privilege. Our privilege requires us to acknowledge the egregiousness of the senseless violence suffered by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others. We must continue the work necessary to ensure that this cannot happen ever again, and we ask all in our communities to do the same.

We are saddened that Black men and women still live in fear and cannot fully enjoy the basic freedoms of feeling safe while doing simple daily activities like jogging, being at home, and going for a drive. We are outraged not only that Mr. Floyd’s murderer already had a long history of complaints against him as a police officer but also that his fellow officers, including an Asian American officer, stood by silently allowing Mr. Floyd to be killed.

As we watch a law enforcement official brutally and heartlessly kill a Black man on the street, we do so through our television set, computers, and smartphones. Many experience racism and its harms daily first-hand, some as witnesses and survivors, some as subjects and victims. We vow that we will not be complicit in the killings of Black men and women.  

In Hawai‘i, we are blessed in many ways. One example stands out when our nation is in turmoil once again: our interdependence and grounding in the value of aloha is set by the indigenous people of Hawai‘i. This connectedness is needed more than ever in this resurgence of national fear and resulting hate and violence. Even social distancing mandates which aim to separate us physically cannot separate our hearts from each other.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. has said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It is important to note as President Barack Obama has often stated that the arc does not bend itself towards justice. Rather it takes each of us to grab hold of our hearts and move ourselves in the direction of justice. The Honolulu Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League stands in support with all those peaceful protestors and demonstrators standing up for their rights and the rights of all. We urge our membership and the communities of our State to recognize the rampant injustices and to take action to effectuate positive change as we fight for equal opportunity and justice for all.