Jewish and Japanese American groups among growing multiracial efforts calling for reparations for black Americans

Maya Brown, CNN

As a third-generation Japanese-American, Kathy Nishimoto Masaoka remembers the struggle for repairs during the Japanese repair movement in the 1970s.

Black leaders of the civil rights movement were among the biggest supporters of the effort, she says. Masaoka said the winning reparations gave the Japanese-American community strength, a chance to stand up and a sense of responsibility. Now she wants the black community to have the same.

“I think we’ve always felt very connected to other communities of color and have seen similarities in our own situations,” Masaoka, Nikkei’s co-chair for civil rights and redress, told CNN. “We can fight for this and if we unite and build solidarity we can change this country and we can all heal,” she said.

Masaoka’s organization is part of a growing diverse group of Americans demanding reparations for black Americans. groups like the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Japanese American Citizens League and Nikkei for Civil Rights and Reparation have become allies in the search for corrective solutions to the systemic disparities that affect some black Americans. This alliance comes at a time when legislation like HR 40 – which proposes the creation of a federal commission to study reparations and recommend remedies for the damage caused by slavery and the discriminatory policies that followed abolition – takes gaining momentum in Washington, his Democratic Rep sponsor said Sheila Jackson Lee.

Restorative efforts are also seen in states, cities, municipalities, and historic institutions, as they have begun to explore new ways to address past transgressions.

Last week, a student organization at the University of Chicago called on its university to pay more than $1 billion in repairs to the city’s South Side over the next 20 years. UChicago Against Displacement said in a editorial that their university has been an “active participant in segregation and redlining” and that the money will provide “real affordable long-term housing”.

Earlier this month, a Boston city councilman propose a new commission to study reparations and other forms of compensation for the city’s role in slavery and inequality. Over two years, the commission would investigate the disparities and “historical harms” suffered by black Bostonians, drawing on historical documents, archival research and reaching out to the community.

Last year, California became the first state establish a reparations task force to study the role of the state in perpetuating the legacy of slavery and to propose recommendations. Under AB3121, the task force is expected to recommend legislation this year.

These ongoing conversations at various levels have been led by black people supporting the quest for reparations, but other communities are now joining in their support.

These diverse groups are part of more than 350 organizations in support of HR 40. The commission would also consider how the United States would formally apologize for “the commission of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity against enslaved Africans and their descendants.”

Rep. Lee, who reintroduced HR 40 last year, told CNN that the fact that other communities have received reparations at the federal level shows Congress can do the same for black people.

HR 40 was first introduced to Congress by Michigan Democrat John Conyers in 1989. Former Rep. Conyers, who served until 2017, had constantly pushed for reparations legislation several times during several sessions of Congress. After he left, Representative Lee became the bill’s chief advocate.

Early last year, the bill was introduced by the House Judiciary Committee in a 25-17 vote and now faces a full House vote. Rep. Lee is hopeful and says more than 200 of her colleagues are ready to vote to pass the bill. But she is also aware that the bill is being defeated in the Senate vote and urges her colleagues to understand that enslaved black people created the economic engine from which the nation was built.

Support for reparations from people outside the black community is a sign that the American Jewish and Japanese communities are on the side of justice, says Kamm Howard.

Howard, who is the national male co-chair of the National Black Coalition for Reparations in America, says that if the federal government is trying to address the harm inflicted on other communities, it’s only fair that lawmakers find a way to grant reparations to black Americans.

“There has been no attempt by the US government to specifically address the harm and the continuing harm being done to us,” Howard told CNN.

A Jewish Moral Appeal

Some members of the American Jewish community have long won support for the reparations. In 2019, the Union for Reform Judaism passed a pro-reparations resolution calling for a federal commission to “study and develop reparations proposals to address the historic and continuing effects of slavery” and “systemic” racism against black Americans.

Yolanda Savage-Narva is the Director of Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, the part of the Union for Reform Judaism that focuses on advocacy and advocacy work. social justice.

“Our organization really understood that the call to study reparations was a Jewish moral call,” she told CNN. “It is imperative to ensure that every part of our humanity is seen as fair human beings and the call for reparations was a move for Reform Jewry to really put a stake in the ground.

Holocaust victims within the Jewish community have has received reparations and continue to receive annual pensions from the German and French governments.

Savage-Narva said she thinks it adds support and shows the United States that acknowledging and paying reparations is an important step in the healing process.

“The German government has really done the right thing with truth and reconciliation, and is committed to making, as far as possible, an effort to undo the harm that has been done,” he said. she declared. “Because the Jewish community has had their own historical trauma, they can make that connection and understand how important the process of reparation is.”

Why Japanese Americans Received Reparations

The Japanese-American community was one of the first communities to receive reparations from the US government and has supported the reparations movement for decades.

Japanese Americans who were interned in concentration camps in the United States during World War II from around 1942 to 1946 received reparations under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. More than four decades later their imprisonment, the law awarded each surviving former internee $20,000.

Traci Kato-Kiriyama is the lead organizer of the Joint Reparations Committee of the Nikkei progressivesa multi-generational community group advocating for immigrant rights and issues for Japanese Americans, Muslims, and little Tokyo.

“One of the reasons we understand the importance of reparations is to look at remedies and reparations for Japanese Americans,” Kato-Kiriyama told CNN. “It took the support of all kinds of people to come together, and we couldn’t have done it alone.”

David Inoue, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League, said supporting the movement to pass HR 40 is the right thing to do and will lead to a better understanding and response to “current injustices rooted in the system”.

Inoue told CNN he thinks Congress is in a much different situation since Japanese Americans received reparations.

“The more of us who talk, the harder it will be to ignore us and our country’s responsibility to address and respond to this historic injustice,” Inoue said.

“We need federal reparations”

The idea of repairs has been an ongoing debate since the end of the Civil War in 1865, when freed slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule. The founding meeting of the National Coalition of Black for Reparations in America in 1987 came together with the goal of broadening the base of support for the long-standing reparations movement.

The HR 40 bill was then introduced in 1989. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates renewed the conversation about reparations in his 2014 article in The Atlantic, “The Case of Reparations.” Since its reintroduction into mainstream media, efforts have been made at the community, state, and national levels to compensate black people for slavery and systemic racism issues.

“All of these efforts, no matter where they take place, are important and good to keep moving forward,” Kato-Kiriyama told CNN. “It also reminds us that we don’t have to wait for a huge federal bill, although we do need federal reparations.”

At the national level, the movement for reparations is expected to take time.

Experts say that if the bill makes it through the House, it faces opposition from some Democrats and most Republicans – and is unlikely to have enough votes for a majority in the test. filibuster in the Senate.

Dr. Ron Daniels, Head of National African American Reparations Commissiontold CNN he finds remarkable how far the idea of ​​reparations has come since it was introduced as an education bill in 1989.

“We’re knocking on the door for HR 40 to be enacted by statute or more likely by executive order,” he said. “This is a major moment in American history.”

There are five main wounds of slavery that still affect the black community today, including people status and nation status; education; health; penalty sanction; and wealth and poverty, according to the NCOBRA.

Howard said the bill would look at those ongoing injuries, among other things, to define the degree of harm the black community has suffered and continues to suffer.

“There is a rise in racism against African Americans today and the push has to be: why have Americans not been able to find a way to ease racial tensions?” Rep. Lee told CNN. “Every time we move on, something brings us back to race issues. This bill offers an opportunity to bring people together through understanding.

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