People line up to speak during a reparations task force meeting at Third Baptist Church in San Francisco on April 13. (AP Photo/Janie Har, File)

The Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) announced its endorsement of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, and the Task Force’s Interim Report.

JABA is the first bar association in California to endorse the study, which documents harms from 250 years of enslavement, 90 years of Jim Crow, and the decades following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, as well as the lingering effects of such harms, systemic racism, and other racial injustices inflicted on Black Americans.

The groundbreaking interim report, released on June 1, consists of 13 chapters tracing a through-line from the institution of slavery, and the permutations of racial oppression and exclusion thereafter, to today’s inequities in housing, education, employment, the criminal justice system, health care, income, and wealth.

The task force recommended a long list of actions the state can take to address the racial wealth gap, including housing reforms, reducing mass incarceration, creating a state-subsidized mortgage program for qualifying African American applicants and by offering free tuition to California colleges and universities and expanding scholarship opportunities.

JABA President Staci Tomita remarked, “The Task Force’s Interim Report is almost 500 pages of horrific truth-telling necessary for the country to confront the systemic injustice that Black Americans continue to face today. We, as Japanese Americans, know that when America acknowledges its wrongs, repairs them, and becomes more inclusive, the nation is made stronger.”

JABA was founded in 1977 in Los Angeles by attorneys who themselves, or whose parents and extended families, were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry incarcerated in ten concentration camps from California to Arkansas without charges, evidence, or trial. Most of JABA’s current members have family who were rounded up and herded into these camps.

Following an 18-year movement led by Japanese American leaders, including members of JABA, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 to provide redress for Japanese Americans. The act declared that a grave injustice motivated by racial prejudice had been done and that Japanese Americans suffered enormous damages warranting compensation and a congressional apology. It is one of the few American examples of reparations for racial injustice.

JABA is uniquely positioned to speak out on reparations for Black Americans. It took 40 years to reconcile four years of Japanese American incarceration. Now, over 150 years since the “official end” of slavery, the country is long overdue to recognize and redress the system of inequity and racial bias that Black Americans continue to face. JABA applauds the Task Force for its critical work.

Over the years, JABA has provided a special forum for members of the legal profession with interests and ties to the Japanese American community to discuss issues, network, and serve the community.

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