A force of 76 Japanese American and Asian American organizations has demanded President Joe Biden to create a reparations commission for African Americans before 2023.
In a letter sent to the White House on Wednesday, the groups — led by the National Nikkei Reparations Coalition (NNRC) — called for an executive order to establish the commission, which would study “the legacy of enslavement and racist government policies with the intent to develop and implement practical solutions for reparations.”
The push comes as H.R. 40, which proposed the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, is slated to expire at the end of the year.
H.R. 40 was first introduced in 1989, a year after the Civil Liberties Act was passed to create a commission that provided reparations for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II.
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“Just as the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) studied the impacts of forced incarceration of Japanese Americans in US concentration camps, we call upon you to courageously establish a commission that will bring forward the stories needed to fully understand our nation’s failure to address the devastating and continuing impacts of enslavement as the foundation for ongoing disparities faced by Black Americans, especially in the areas of health, education, employment, housing, and environmental outcomes,” the NNRC wrote to Biden.
On Feb. 19, Japanese Americans marked the 80th year since the passage of Executive Order 9066, the law that forced tens of thousands of their people into incarceration camps. The date is known as the Day of Remembrance.
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the country’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization, joined the undersigned groups in their plea to Biden.
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“The travesty of slavery and its aftermath must be addressed if we are to truly become the great nation that we profess to be,” JACL National President Larry Oda said in a statement. “The 400 years of racism and denied opportunity have taken their toll on the community. The establishment of a Presidential Commission to study the legacy of enslavement would educate and inform the public and Congress of the harm that is perpetuated on the community.”
“Time is of the essence, there is an urgency of instituting such a study before another year passes. This legislation was first introduced over 30 years ago and its time has come,” Oda said.
Read the full letter here.