Executive Director’s Message


June 2, 2020

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Mass protests met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons, the pain in our communities visible for the whole world to see. As I listen to the whir of helicopters and news alerts of a county-wide curfew ping my phone, I am reminded that after the migration of Black Americans in the 1950s to my hometown, Oakland recruited white police officers from the Deep South to police Black communities. In fact, some of the first police institutions in the U.S. were slave patrols formed as early as the 1700s to prevent slave revolts and to chase runaways. Once slavery was abolished,  police forces then turned to enforcing the separation of races through Jim Crow laws that were designed to criminalize Black and other non-white people who tried to vote, own land, and attend school. This is the legacy of our modern-day system of policing, prosecution, and incarceration.

In the past, civil rights leaders called for the integration of law enforcement, the prevailing wisdom being that hiring more people of color and women would change the relationship between local communities of color and the police. Yet, today we find ourselves mourning with the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, thinking of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and recalling many other times in our recent history when we have witnessed the senseless killing of a black person at the hands of police, followed by further violence against those who protest the killings. And we know there are many others whose deaths were not captured on camera.

When will we admit that the system is rotten at its core? The American justice system is built around  pain and punishment, not healing or redemption. At Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, we are following the lead of black advocates, and calling for investment in black communities rather than increased criminalization. In California, we have worked for years in partnership with other communities of color on systemic changes to our criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems, which are connected and serve to perpetuate violence, incarceration, and detention of black and brown people. As an organization, we will continue to embrace a bold vision for the future, and as individuals, all of us can do more.

As Asian Americans we have to acknowledge the anti-Blackness in our communities and work to eradicate it. As Asian American leader Yuri Kochiyama emphasized in a speech in 1993 in San Francisco on the subject of Malcolm X and the history of Black and Asian solidarity in the Americas:

What should Asian Americans be doing today? They should be doing what all people should be doing – fighting against racism, injustices, inequities at their workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, social and political gatherings, in their families, in the media, in film, in sports, in the courtroom…

The United States is a nation where people are not united because of three glaring frailties: racism, injustice and inequity which were defects at the birth of this nation that went unrecognized and undiagnosed, even with slavery rampant. It is up to all of us to fight this mental and emotional pollution wherever and whenever it is detected…

I am inspired, as I hope you are, by Yuri’s words and her recognition that we all have a duty to fight anti-Blackness. At Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, we commit to organizing our communities to work towards the end of systemic racism and to standing in solidarity with Black Americans. It is our shared responsibility to act resolutely and consistently in weeks, months, and years to come. We only need to look out our windows at the circling helicopters to know that our collective future depends upon it.

One way we can all show our commitment immediately is help those on the frontlines of this work. Please consider donating to a collective fund that will be split across 40 different community bail funds across the country to help protestors. We also want to highlight this list of local Minnesota organizations that we hope speaks to you as well.

In solidarity,

Aarti Kohli

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