On October 21, AABANY Executive Director Yang Chen and Board Director Chris Kwok visited the High School of American Studies on the campus of Lehman College of the City University of New York, in the Bronx. The trip was arranged through Jonathan Halabi, a teacher at the school, and was done as part of the New York State Bar Association’s request to bar leaders to visit local high schools to speak about the Constitution and Citizenship as part of this year’s Constitution Day, which was marked on September 17.
Mr. Halabi gave Chris and Yang a tour of the school, which has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the number 6 high school in New York. He also introduced Chris and Yang to a number of the school’s faculty. Chris and Yang spoke to two classes of seniors about Korematsu v. United States to teach about the Constitution and Citizenship. Both classes had heard the name Korematsu and knew the basic facts and context of the case. Chris and Yang provided additional details about how Fred Korematsu fought for justice and ultimately had his wrongful conviction overturned. The students engaged Chris and Yang in thoughtful and well-informed discussion about Korematsu’s case and how it relates to the Constitution, citizenship and current issues facing immigrants and the nation.
The visit concluded with Chris and Yang being called into the principal’s office to meet with the school’s principal, Alessandro Weiss. Principal Weiss thanked Chris and Yang for coming in and speaking with the students. They talked about the possibility of returning to the High School of American Studies for future visits on other topics of interest to the students. AABANY looks forward to meeting again with teachers and students at the High School of Asian Studies, and we thank the school for its warm hospitality on the occasion of this first visit. (Thanks to Mr. Halabi for the photos.)
WASHINGTON — Yesterday, on the anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark case, Korematsu v. United States (1944), Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Representative Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced the Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2017. The legislation would make it clear that the discriminatory detentions endorsed in Korematsu are prohibited.
“The specter of the Korematsu decision haunts us to this day,” said National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) President Pankit J. Doshi. “With this bill, Congress has the chance to repudiate the Supreme Court’s ruling and prevent the country from repeating a dark chapter of our nation’s history. We thank Senators Duckworth and Hirono, and Representative Takano, for their leadership in trying to overturn this widely condemned decision. As leaders in the legal profession and in recognition of our history as Asian Pacific Americans, NAPABA fully supports the introduction and passage of this legislation.”
“We, as a nation, must never forget or repeat the horrors thousands of Japanese Americans experienced as prisoners within our own borders. We must also continue to do everything we can to ensure such a national travesty never happens again. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Senator Hirono in remembrance of my dear friend and former colleague Mark Takai to reinstate our commitment to protecting civil liberties and strengthen our resolve to ensure we never again repeat such shameful acts,”said Senator Duckworth.
“The internment of Japanese Americans was deeply wrong and set a precedent — that it should never happen again. However, the President and his administration continue to advance divisive policies and rhetoric that demonize the Muslim community and other minority communities. By repudiating this legal precedent that could allow a travesty like the internment to happen again, we are standing up for the civil rights of all communities, a worthy cause that I’m sure our friend Mark Takai would have joined us on,”said Senator Hirono.
“This legislation is an important acknowledgement of the injustice suffered by my grandparents, parents, and more than 115,000 others who were relocated and imprisoned based on nothing more than their heritage,” said Representative Mark Takano. “This stain on our history must serve as a warning of what happens when we allow fear and hate to overwhelm our basic respect for one another. I am proud to introduce this legislation in the House, and I could not think of a more appropriate way to honor the memory of Congressman Mark Takai, who was a good friend, a great public servant, and an even better person.”
The bill, named in honor of Fred Korematsu and Rep. Mark Takai, would amend the Non-Detention Act of 1971 to bar detentions or imprisonment based on protected characteristics, including race or religion. The Non-Detention Act sought to repeal the Emergency Detention Act of 1950, a law that continued the legacy of Executive Order 9066, which led to the incarceration of 120,000 individuals on the basis of their Japanese ancestry under the guise of “military necessity” and national security. The Supreme Court found the orders constitutional following challenges by Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru Yasui.
NAPABA worked with the offices of Sens. Duckworth, Hirono, and Rep. Takano, the Korematsu family and coram nobis legal teams, and civil rights groups to draft the bill that honors the legacy of Fred Korematsu, recognizes the history of Japanese American incarceration, and seeks to overturn the impact of the Supreme Court’s holding in Korematsu v. United States.
NAPABA is proud to join leading groups in the Asian Pacific American community — the Korematsu Institute, Stop Repeating History, the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, the Japanese American Citizens League, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC — as original endorsers of the bill.
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of almost 50,000 attorneys and over 80 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members include solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal services and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government.
NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.
Asian American Bar Association of New York Applauds New York’s Highest Court for Decision Prohibiting Skin-Color Discrimination in Jury Selection
NEW YORK – On December 22, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals held in People v. Bridgeforth that skin color-based discrimination in jury selection is prohibited under Batson v. Kentucky, the New York State Equal Protection Clause, and the New York State Civil Rights Law. While Batson has long been understood to prohibit racial discrimination, the Court concluded that its holding “extend[s] the application of Batson to challenges based on color to ensure that the jury is not used as a tool to accomplish such discrimination.” As one of many community organizations that co-signed the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality (“Korematsu Center”) and Akin Gump’s amicus brief in support of this decision, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) applauds this decision.
Key to the Court of Appeals’ decision was its recognition that “[d]iscrimination on the basis of one’s skin color – or colorism – has been well researched and analyzed, demonstrating that ‘not all colors (or tones) are equal.’” In so holding, the Court expressly relied on several sources set forth in the amicus brief filed by the Korematsu Center and over 50 bar associations, non-profit organizations, and law school professors in this case. Professor Robert S. Chang, executive director of the Korematsu Center, commented, “We are pleased the Court found the scholarship on the history and effects of color discrimination that were cited in our amicus brief helpful and informative in finding that Batson does apply to color-based challenges under New York law.”
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) observed, “The Court of Appeals has taken a significant step towards reducing the impact of color-based discrimination in our justice system. We hope New York’s leadership in this area will encourage other jurisdictions across the country to protect the role of the jury as an instrument of public justice that is truly representative of the community.”
Professor Vinay Harpalani from Savannah Law School, who served as of counsel for amici, applauded the Court of Appeals for “recognizing that Indian Americans, like African-Americans, can face discrimination based on their skin color.” The Bridgeforth case involved a dark-skinned Indian American woman who was excluded from the jury along with several other dark-skinned women.
Attorneys from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP served as pro bono counsel on the brief. “Akin Gump is proud to represent this national coalition and be part of this resounding victory for justice,” said Alice Hsu, a partner in Akin Gump’s New York office representing the amici.
The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) is proud to be among the organizations to sign on to the amicus brief. “As the leading bar association for Asian Americans in New York, we supported theamicus brief and we are pleased with the court’s decision,” stated Susan L. Shin, President of AABANY. “Discrimination on the basis of skin color, just as discrimination on the basis of race, should have no place in jury selection and the proper administration of justice.”
In total, 32 law professors and 20 organizations joined the amicus brief, including: the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Asian Law Caucus, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Atlanta, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Inc., the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA), the National Asian Pacific Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the National Bar Association, the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), the Society of American Law Teachers, Inc. (SALT), the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), and the South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA North America).
The Court’s decision can be found here. The amicus brief is available here.
The Asian American Bar Association of New York is a professional membership organization of attorneys concerned with issues affecting the Asian Pacific American community. Incorporated in 1989, AABANY seeks not only to encourage the professional growth of its members but also to advocate for the Asian Pacific American community as a whole. AABANY is the New York regional affiliate of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA).
At the 14th Annual Korematsu Lecture Series, presented by the NYU Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law Kenji Yoshino spoke about the phenomenon of ‘covering,’ discussed at length in his first book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. The Korematsu Lecture Series, since 2000, has recognized Asian Americans whose work challenges legal boundaries and serves as an inspiration to all people of color.
Professor Kenji Yoshino touched upon his extensive research regarding the frequency of incidence and perceived impact of covering. As opposed to “passing,” the practice of concealing a part of one’s identity in order to present as a member of the dominant major, “covering” differs in that a person who covers is unable to completely conceal that part of his or her identity so must instead downplay qualities associated with it. In Prof. Yoshino’s words, “covering” is a tax that minorities have to pay in response to a much less visible second-wave discrimination. Examining both the demand and the performance of covering, the research explores whether certain professional organizations live up to their stated values of inclusion. Asking the question of whether certain groups feel as though they must cover in order to be successful and have their successes attributed to their personal qualities rather than their race, Prof. Yoshino identified four kinds of covering: (1) appearance-based covering (e.g. a black woman straightens her hair to downplay her race), (2) affiliation-based covering that avoids behaviors associated with identity (e.g. a mother avoids talking about her children because she does not want her co-workers to believe she is less committed to work), (3) advocacy-based covering that determines how much a person ‘sticks up’ for their group (e.g. a veteran lets a military joke slide lest he or she be seen as strident), and (4) association-based covering (e.g. a gay man does not bring his partner to work functions so as not to be seen as ‘too gay’).
In many ways, Prof. Yoshino’s research brings together many groups who feel the need to cover their identity, including the often elevated or demonized straight white males who feel they have to cover other factors, such as their socioeconomic background or their veteran status. At the same time, his findings also reveal the differences in impact respectively felt by members of different groups. Whereas most people feel the impact of covering, racial groups feel the impact to a greater degree, with no one impacted more than women of color who must simultaneously play down both their gender and race.
Here are some of the ways you could say I am “white”: I listen to National Public Radio. I have few close friends “of color." I furnish my condo a la Crate & Barrel. I vacation in charming bed-and-breakfasts. I have never once been the victim of blatant discrimination. I am a member of several exclusive institutions. I have been in the inner sanctums of political power. I have been there as something other than an attendant. I have the ambition to return. I am a producer of the culture. I expect my voice to be heard. I speak flawless, unaccented English. I subscribe to Foreign Affairs. I do not mind when editorialists write in the first person plural. I do not mind how white television casts are. I am not too ethnic. I am wary of minority militants. I consider myself neither in exile nor in opposition. I am considered “a credit to my race.”
– Eric Liu, The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker
"The loudest duck gets shot,” laughed Prof. Yoshino. Underscoring a dark history of discrimination, Prof. Yoshino explained how Asian Americans occupy a liminal space in which they are seen both as “honorary whites” and perpetual foreigners. Asian Americans cover or reverse-cover in numerous ways, either feeling pressure to live up to the model minority myth or feeling pressure to perform and act in certain ways to emphasize their Asian American identity. Professional Asian women are the least likely to have children. Asian Americans cover on the issue of age, often engaging in behaviors like wearing glasses or dressing conservatively in order to appear older and more authoritative.
(Above: Prof. Kenji Yoshino and former student and AABANY member George Hang.)
“Covering” gives a name to the phenomenon, which gives a person the tools to self-diagnose and consciously uncover. What is called for now by Prof. Yoshino’s research is self-reflection within organizations and communities. Having leaders who do not have to downplay their identities works to dismantle the harmful associations which might lead a person of color, mother, or other marginalized person to cover.
Prof. Yoshino closed with his own uncovering story: his own title, previously the “Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law” at NYU, had been a delicate issue in accepting his position. A Japanese American, Kenji Yoshino had been wary of taking on the title of the man who as Attorney General commissioned the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. After much deliberation, the offer was again extended to Prof. Yoshino, appending the words “Chief Justice” – after the initial confusion, Prof. Yoshino learned that later in life as Chief Justice, Earl Warren had recanted and expressed his deep regret that he had ever done such a dishonorable action. In the spirit of the Chief Justice, Prof. Yoshino accepted the position – his research works to change perceptions and increase cultural awareness for the better, and that deeply matters, even over the course of one lifetime.
Special thanks to Prof. Kenji Yoshino, the NYU Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, and Hanah Kim and Ted Kim of the Korematsu Committee for continuing the tradition of education and inspiration!