On April 19, 2021, San Jose Inside published an op-ed titled “Santa Clara County Deserves a New District Attorney” by Daniel M. Chung, formerly with the Bronx DA’s office and was an AABANY member. Daniel currently works as a Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney and in the op-ed, he voices the need for a new District Attorney in Santa Clara County who will celebrate the diversity of the community and speak out against injustice.
As an Asian-American prosecutor in Santa Clara County, Daniel felt that he needed to speak out against anti-Asian violence at a time when many local community leaders stayed silent. He published an op-ed in the Mercury News on February 14, 2021, about the recent surge of anti-Asian violence and the need for balanced criminal justice reforms to protect victims and communities. In response to the publication, Daniel’s boss, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, had Daniel appear at a hearing to answer allegations that he had used his official title without authorization, and reassigned him twice in two days with no customary notice or explanation. Daniel attributes DA Rosen’s actions to his boss’ political aspirations and explains that rather than demonstrating commitment to racial justice and the Asian community in Santa Clara County, DA Rosen chose to stay silent. Daniel stresses the importance of a new District Attorney in Santa Clara County:
“Santa Clara County deserves a DA who will be a leader—not a bandwagoner—in speaking out against injustice to Asian Americans and others. A DA who will demand unwavering loyalty to the law and justice and not to himself. A DA who will prioritize public safety and not promote a culture of fear and retaliation. A DA who will respect free speech, say what he means, and mean what he says. Santa Clara County deserves a DA who will celebrate the rich diversity of our community and protect us—not for personal or political gain, but because it is the right thing to do.“
On June 19, 2020, USA Today published an Op-Ed written by Ryan D. Budhu, a member of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) and past president of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY).
In the article, Budhu recounts his personal experience with police brutality, when his brother died in the custody of the NYPD. He also reflects on this tragedy in relation to the death of George Floyd, and the need for allyship between South Asian and Black communities. He writes: “I have a duty to listen to and help address inequities, especially those that affect Black lives within the circles that I occupy.”
On March 26, 2020, the New York Daily News published an op-ed co-authored by Chris Kwok. The piece is entitled “Weaponized coronavirus language is endangering Asian-American lives.” (Chris, who sits on the AABANY Board and chairs the Issues Committee, co-wrote the op-ed in his capacity as a Board member of the Asian American Federation).
The article discusses how anti-Asian rhetoric and labeling the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” is endangering the lives of Asian Americans across the United States. It also provides historical examples of what happens when you link a disease to a particular group of people. It can easily lead to stigma and violence against that group. For example, in the 14th century, Jews were accused of spreading the Bubonic Plague in Europe and massacred. Similarly, in the 1980s to 1990s gay people were blamed for spreading AIDS and suffered violence as a result.
Furthermore, the article notes that this is not the first time Asian Americans have faced something like this in the United States. In the 1850s to 1890s, the Chinese were accused of being carriers of venereal disease and leprosy. As a result of the openly anti-Chinese rhetoric during that period, Chinese people were “…rounded up into thousands of railroad cars, steamers, or logging rafts, marched out of town, or killed.”
Now, history seems to be repeating itself as the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is falsely being attributed to Asian Americans. In recent weeks we have seen a spike in xenophobic incidents targeting Asian Americans throughout the nation. Such incidents include “…Asian Americans being beaten, slashed, kicked, spat at, sprayed with things, yelled at or ostracized in public.” To make matters worse, President Trump’s deliberate campaign to label the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” has put Asian Americans at an even higher risk.
On August 11, the day after AABANY’s reenactment of the Heart Mountain draft resisters trial at Fordham Law School as part of the ABA’s CLE in the City Series, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by Tom Brokaw about the friendship struck between Alan Simpson and Norman Mineta. Simpson was a U.S. Senator representing Wyoming and Mineta served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush. They first met when Mineta and his family were interned at Heart Mountain.
Marking the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which led to the mass internment of Japanese American citizens without due process, Brokaw reminds us:
The senator likes to recall the words of Justice Frank Murphy, one of only three dissenting votes when President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 1944. Justice Murphy wrote that “the broad provisions of the Bill of Rights” are not “suspended by the mere existence of a state of war. Distinctions based on color and ancestry are utterly inconsistent with our traditions and ideals.”
Let us continue to learn the lessons of the Japanese American internment experience during this 75th year anniversary of Executive Order 9066 so that we as a society can prevent future violations of constitutional and civil rights.
Bill Simonitsch’s Op-Ed, “Guise of Religion to Promote Discrimination,” is featured in The Hill. Bill does a great job in using his personal story and his role at NAPABA to address the recent discriminatory Arizona legislation.
Follow the link in the title to read the full text.
Thirty years after Mr. Chin’s death, hate crimes seem to be a remote threat for Asian-Americans. But it is premature, if tempting, to celebrate progress.
Frank H. Wu, chancellor and dean of the Hastings College of the Law, University of California, is the author of “Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.” He is writing a book on the Vincent Chin case.