JACL: Don’t Compare WWII Incarceration to Sexual Misconduct Allegation

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Ryan Pacyga

WASHINGTON — The JACL issued the following statement on Jan. 12:

“The Japanese American Citizens League was shocked to learn of Minnesota attorney Ryan Pacyga’s reference to the Japanese American incarceration experience in reference to his client, University of Minnesota basketball player Reggie Lynch.

“Mr. Pacyga, in attempting to make the case that his client is being punished without due process, used the Japanese American incarceration experience as a historic example of the ‘hysteria’ that led to the imprisonment of innocent people at a massive scale.

“We would like to remind Mr. Pacyga that his client has gone through the school’s disciplinary process and was determined to be in violation of school standards. Japanese Americans did not have any such consideration.

“This false analogy notwithstanding, it is patently offensive that anyone might try to draw a comparison between the mass incarceration of 120,000 people for their ethnicity, the vast majority of whom were American citizens, and his individual client’s personal situation.

“JACL also takes this opportunity to condemn Mr. Pacyga’s invocation of Title IX enforcement as an injustice to his client and affirm our support for the 45 years of progress Title IX has brought for women in education. The use of the word ‘hysteria’ in itself further tinges his comments as being predisposed against women’s rights to equal education opportunity, unfettered by the threat of sexual assault.

“It is particularly worth noting that the greatest champion for passage of Title IX in Congress was Rep. Patsy Mink, a Japanese American who lived through World War II. Living in Hawaii, she was not subject to incarceration, though faced the sting of suspicion and continuing discrimination because of her ethnicity during and after the war. Title IX was named the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002, 30 years after its initial passage.”

During a press conference on Jan. 10, Pacyga defended Lynch, who has been accused by two women of sexual assault, by blaming the “Me Too” movement: “It’s a little bit like where there was all of this hysteria when World War II started, and we had the Japanese internment camps, and everybody rushed out of fear to do something like that. And we look back now and we think, ‘Oh my God, what were we doing?’ How wrong was that?

“To assume all of them guilty and a threat and everything else and lock them up, and that’s what we’re going to do. And it’s a little bit like that right now. Yes, is it as alarming? No, so it’s not a perfect analogy, like I said. But is the concern there that we’re in this hysteria right now, and we’re like ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ and we’ll just deal with it? And so what if the Japanese American really wasn’t a threat? Oh, at least we felt better, we felt safer.”

Speaking in support of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ efforts to roll back Obama-era Title IX policies,” Pacyga said, “Title IX right now isn’t fair” to students falsely accused of sexual assault. He made similar comments last year while defending a University of Minnesota football player Antoine Winfield Jr., who was accused and later cleared of sexual misconduct.

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