WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement on Feb. 28.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we have seen a rise in anti-Asian hate and violence, directed especially toward Chinese and Chinese American communities. Much of this rise was fueled by rhetoric by media outlets and politicians who stoked fear and xenophobia leading to sometimes deadly consequences.
However, recent events have led to a further resurgence of anti-Chinese rhetoric to a point that is becoming all too familiar to the Japanese American community specifically, as echoes of World War II incarceration begin to resurface.
Earlier this month, six members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray calling for an investigation into the loyalty of Dominic Ng, president and CEO of East West Bank, nominated to serve as chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and insinuating that Rep. Judy Chu might also have inappropriate ties to the Chinese government.
In response to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus’ statement denouncing the questioning of Mr. Ng’s loyalty, Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) directly questioned Rep. Chu’s loyalty to the United States in an interview on Fox News. He has since doubled down on his remarks, claiming that questioning her intentions is not “xenophobic.”
The Japanese American community knows just how dangerous these xenophobic and racist claims can be. These unsubstantiated charges of dual loyalty and disloyalty are the same ones that politicians, the media, and the army made, leading to the mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II.
The JACL condemns these accusations against both Dominic Ng and Rep. Chu and joins CAPAC, elected officials, and other community members in calling for an immediate apology from Rep. Gooden and others who have questioned the loyalty of Chinese Americans.
In addition to charges of disloyalty, we are seeing proposals for legislation targeting Chinese immigrants similar to laws passed 100 years ago that targeted Japanese immigrants. Texas legislators have proposed a law that would bar any “foreign national” from China, Russia, North Korea, or Iran from owning any land throughout the state. The so-called Alien Land Laws of the early 20th century barred first-generation Japanese Americans, Issei, from owning land, first in California and then in 12 other states.
This proposed Texas law and similar ones being discussed in Virginia, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota are unequivocably xenophobic and racist. These laws were deemed unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment in 1952, and yet 70 years later we see the same laws and rhetoric being brought up again.
To quote from the JACL Creed, “I believe in America, and I trust she believes in me.” This must be the standard to which we aspire as a country and for our people and it is a standard to which we failed the Japanese American community during World War II.
The JACL calls for an end to the baseless demagoguery of anyone with Chinese heritage. The presumption of disloyalty because of one’s country of origin or ancestry is unfortunately a well-worn tradition, but one that we must not revive.
A great statement. Thank you.
S. B. Woo
President, 80-20 Initiative
Lietnant Governor of Delaware (1984-89)