On the day we remember Executive Order 9066, the act of governance by President Franklin Roosevelt that rounded up and incarcerated innocent Asians, we must acknowledge we live in times when Asian Americans are simply randomly beaten up and killed in public.
And now, just this week, the xenophobes are attacking statues too.
The ear of the Ox symbolizing the Lunar New Year, and all Asian people, was ripped from the head of a statue vandalized in San Francisco’s Union Square.
At least no one was hurt. In San Francisco alone, more than 30 violent acts against Asian Americans have been reported this year. As I’ve mentioned in this column, since the pandemic began a year ago, anti-Asian violence has steadily risen throughout the country. But that’s when the ex-president was looking for a scapegoat and not a cure for COVID.
It’s gotten to the point where now nearly 3,000 acts of violence toward Asians have been reported, according to StopAAPIHate.
And this current rash of violence doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the virus, just an overall resentment of Asian Americans, especially seniors who are vulnerable.
You may have seen the video of the 91-year old Oakland man pushed to the ground, or the 84-year old San Francisco man who was shoved, hit his head on the pavement ,and died. The suspects in both incidents have been arrested, but the news has caused Asians around the Bay Area to come forward with indignance. Rallies were held on both sides of the Bay. A Filipina friend of mine just posted online about how her parents in their 80’s were recently accosted. Every day, a new incident is reported. The other day, a Filipino man was slashed in the New York City subway. The perp has been arrested.
Many of the perps have been African American, perhaps reflecting frustration with the economic realities of the pandemic. Lack of jobs, lack of opportunities. The need for more than a stimulus. The country needs a great deal more relief than it’s getting.
But when little trickles down to those of us who need it, people can turn on each other.
AALDEF has joined in with other community groups in an appeal for a grand response from the political arena to the grassroots, to repair and heal the cracks in our multiracial society.
Rhetoric is good. But history is better.
That’s why I’ve written this Black History Month about the common ground found in the David Fagen story. When a Black infantryman was sent to fight an imperial war waged by the U.S. in the Philippines in 1899, Fagen deserted.
The African American soldier knew it was wrong to shoot an Asian person struggling to be free.
Fagen joined the Filipino “Insurrectos.” But in these modern times, he has become a symbol for us all to come to our senses and work together.
We bring up history because hopefully, we can learn from it.
Executive Order 9066 was signed into law on February 19, 1942, by FDR. Despite two intelligence reports indicating the Japanese Americans on the west coast represented no threat, more than 120,000 were forcibly rounded up and incarcerated in camps.
Seventy percent were American citizens. You thought that mattered? Not when your blood was Asian. Maybe that’s why in the new Biden immigration package, besides an 8-year path to citizenship for 11 million people, relief for DACA recipients, more work visas, and increased family reunification efforts, there’s also a move to strike the word “alien” and replace it with “non-citizen.” Let’s not forget, the guiding phrase of America has always been “we the people,” not “we the citizens.”
Phil Tajitsu Nash was the very first guest on my inaugural “Emil Amok’s Takeout” podcast in 2017, and E.O. 9066 was the topic. Listen to Nash, a University of Maryland professor in Asian American Studies, a lawyer, and an AALDEF board member, talk about E.O. 9066 here.
Later today, I’ll add a brand new podcast link that updates 9066 in 2021.*
Phil talks about the new push to help Japanese Latin Americans who were also incarcerated during WWII, but never got the redress they deserve. A small number and their heirs are still alive.
With history as its guide, the fight continues.
For more updates, see my vlog at www.amok.com. Subscribe for free at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will let you know when there’s a new post.
On my vlog/blog, I will also post updates about Texas, where I used to live and work in the ’70s and ’80s, when Houston’s Chinatown was actually two blocks long. Now it’s practically an entire suburb. In the Lone Star state, people aren’t heading for Cancun like Sen. Ted Cruz. Asian Americans are hurting from the effects of the cold and the lack of running water.
It’s extremes of Mother Nature and the failure of our public infrastructure. Yet another reminder, as the late great John Lewis said, “We’re all in the same boat.”
NEW PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH PHIL TAJITSU NASH
In this new “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” I talk to Phil Tajitsu Nash, professor, lawyer, and activist, more about E.O. 9066, the geo-political currents that were present when FDR signed it, and why Americans weren’t alarmed that Japanese American citizens were incarcerated.
And Phil talks about the continuing fight of Japanese Latin Americans who were caught in the E.O. 9066 roundup. Phil addresses why they were left out and why they have a stronger case now.
The podcast begins talking about the violence of our current day that reminds us that xenophobia never goes away.