WASHINGTON — JACL submitted written testimony Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights at a hearing on hate crimes and the threat of domestic extremism.
The hearing was spurred, in part, by the recent tragedy in Oak Creek, Wis., where a gunman with ties to a white supremacist organization killed six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. The hearing, chaired by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), examined the impact of a recent spate of hate crimes and the implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
JACL’s testimony covered a range of issues related to hate crimes and manner in which domestic extremism has affected the Asian American community. The testimony chronicled historic examples such as the Chinese massacre of 1871 in Los Angeles, where a mob stormed Chinatown, shooting and lynching innocent Chinese residents.
The testimony also described a 1999 shooting spree where Benjamin Smith, a member of the known hate group World Church of the Creator, killed Won-Joon Yoon, a Korean graduate student, after first killing an African American and firing at Orthodox Jews as they were returning from Sabbath services on Chicago’s northside.
“This hearing is important,” said Priscilla Ouchida, JACL executive director, “because it addresses the persistent problem of hate crimes that continue to plague Asian American and other identifiable and vulnerable communities.”
Ouchida further stated that JACL will continue to monitor and respond to hate violence because it is an important component of the organization’s mission.
In its testimony, JACL offered wide-ranging recommendations that addressed underreporting of hate crimes, the need to improve police training to include cultural competence, and the need for colleges and universities to adopt clear procedures for responding to hate crimes and hate incidents.
Finally, in its recommendations, the JACL said, “Elected public officials and political leaders should refrain from activities and comments that cause or promote racial, religious or ethnic bias. Anti-Islamic comments and China-bashing are especially volatile areas for demagoguery in the current political climate. Elected public officials have an obligation to renounce the use of scapegoating of all vulnerable communities.”