J-TOWN DOR SOLIDARITY STATEMENT
The Meaning of Memory
On February 19th, Japanese Amerikans will observe Day of Remembrance, memorializing the 80th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the forcible removal and incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry. Within five months of the signing, the entire Japanese Amerikan community along the west coast had been displaced and criminalized by EO 9066. Our people were held for years in concentration camps, captive to the violent truths that define the United States of Amerika.
From its very inception, Amerika was built to meet the emerging needs of capitalism. It’s unity was forged in the genocide of Native nations and the enslavement of Africans. When we speak of remembrance, Japanese Amerikans must not overlook our culpability in settler colonialism, or refuse to acknowledge how we benefit from U.S. and Japanese Imperialism. The Japanese State policy that sent many of our ancestors to create colonies in Brazil, Hawai‘i, and California were the same state strategies used to colonize the lands of Ainu and Shimanchu people of the Ryukyu islands as well as Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan.
Though incarceration is typically framed as a uniquely Japanese Amerikan story, we were not the only people imprisoned—the same violence was enacted on Shimanchu people in the U.S. and South Amerika, who endured a double colonialism at the hands of Amerikan and Japanese nationalism. It was also enforced on the Unangan people of the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands, the Tlingit people, indigenous to the Pacific Northwest Coast, as well as Japanese Latin Amerikans, whose governments executed mass arrests and turned them over to U.S. detention.
Japanese Amerikans were the only ones to receive an apology from the U.S. government. In 1988, we were deemed the exception that proves the rule, Amerika apologized for putting the wrong people in concentration camps in order to maintain that it is right to imprison others, we received Amerikan justice for “just us”. The narrative of a model minority had some of our own people’s desire for freedom distorted by Amerikan ideology. We wasted decades trying to prove that Japanese people could assimilate into Amerika while our history was being co-opted by U.S. militarism. Many of our so-called leaders made their choice long ago, taking their place alongside our common oppressor while the rest of us spiral in Amerika’s ongoing apocalypse. Today, in Los Angeles LAMC 41.18 is displacing, banishing, and criminalizing the Unhoused for merely existing. Some of us who grieve EO 9066 are calling for the same forced removal we suffered 80 years ago.
The Japanese Amerikan experience continues to be a story of displacement. We see it play out in Japantowns across the country: our seniors have been sold off and killed, our community safety is shattered by developers and gentrification, the increased policing created by white supremacy has never made us safe. The working class community has been driven out by capitalists, leaving our neighborhoods vulnerable and our identities reduced to Orientalist fantasy. It’s the anti-Asian hate we have known ever since our people were first imported to meet the labor needs of Amerika’s capitalists.
In the second half of the 20th century, Japanese Amerikans formed and/or joined dozens of revolutionary organizations—such as East Wind, the J-Town Collective, the League of Revolutionary Struggle, and the Communist Workers’ Party. No matter how much our petty bourgeoisie sells from our community, our revolutionary past remains our legacy.
Determining Our Destiny
Our community is caught between two clashing memories – one is the full understanding that the incarceration of our people was not an accident. It was not a miscarriage of Amerikan justice, but Amerikan justice functioning as intended. The other is the sanitized assimilation story of economic advancement and the celebration of imperialism. Through this whitewashed memory, we perpetuate the same state violence that is meant to be challenged through the DOR call for Never Again.
We who love ourselves and our community cannot accept this any longer. If we are to exist as dignified people, free from oppression and exploitation we need to abolish systems that bring death and build new systems that give life. Our survival requires us to choose a different, more just path, to democratize our community as part of building a revolutionary movement for socialism. We must start with promoting the autonomous and democratic organization of the working class. We need full transparency in all matters concerning the future and leadership of our community. We need accountable community organizing that represents itself with integrity.
What does this look like in practice? It looks like a community where all people are cared for and thriving, not simply surviving with the constant threat of eviction or houselessness. Ultimately, it looks like a community and future that we can take pride in. A community that honors our history of survival in Amerika and fights unconditionally to create a better world, united with all other oppressed people across the globe. We cannot decide how we will exist if we do not know where we exist—whether we live in “America” or Amerika.
Oppressed people everywhere are fighting for their own future; even the planet itself can wait for us no longer.
This is our Day of Remembrance, and we make this statement to all who are ready to determine our destiny.
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!