What would reparations look like for different communities?
On this edition of Your Call, hear our conversation about redress, reparations, and restorative justice.
Japanese Americans won redress and an apology for the forced exclusion and imprisonment of thousands of people during World War II. As part of our series HEAR: Histories of Exclusion and Resistance, activist Susan Hayase, restorative justice leader Fania Davis, and changemaker Patricia St. Onge discuss what reparations would look like for people whose rights have been violated by the US government.
Susan Hayase, former local leader of the San Jose area movement to win redress for the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans
Fania Davis, social justice activist, Civil Rights trial attorney, restorative justice practitioner, writer, and scholar
Patricia St. Onge, activist and change-maker supporting progressive social justice movements, and adjunct faculty member at Mills College
The Washington Post: Why Native Americans Don’t Want Reparations
The Atlantic: The Case for Reparations
Indian Law Resource Center: A sorry saga: Obama signs Native American apology resolution; fails to draw attention to it
Rose Aguilar: Welcome, I'm RoseAguilar. And this is a special live taping of Your Call at Mills College in Oakland. Today's show is part of a series of events our team is producing called HEAR: Histories of Exclusion and Resistance. In this series were exploring the connections between the forced removal and imprisonment of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II and other U.S. policies that violate civil rights and liberties.
Toward the beginning of 1942, the U.S. government began restricting the freedom of people of Japanese descent living along the Pacific coast. Curfews were established of Japanese Americans followed by the issuance of Executive Order 9066 which paved the way for the forced removal and restoration of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans in prison camps. The United States Army enforced the so-called evacuations in some cases leaving families with just days to pack what they could carry and leave their homes behind.
Years later, Japanese-Americans organized for redress, despite internal divisions and external attacks, they won. In 1988, Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which granted redress of $20,000 and a formal presidential apology to those incarcerated during World War II. But this is just one instance in a long history of oppressive, exclusionary and racist violations of civil rights perpetrated by the U.S. government. The impacts of native genocide, land theft, slavery, segregation, and forced assimilation remain tangible today. For decades, social justice leaders have worked to ensure that these violations and the suppression be acknowledged and addressed.
So today we're going to talk about how different communities are organizing for justice from the U.S. government and what has changed in the conversation about reparations, which it's kind of amazing that we're actually talking about reparations in this country at the national level.
Today, we are joined by three guests. Patricia St. Onge is an activist and changemaker supporting progressive social justice movements. Patricia has worked as executive and interim director of more than a dozen nonprofits and she's adjunct faculty member here at Mills College. Hi Patricia, thank you for joining us.
Patricia St. Onge: [Greeting in Mohawk]
RA: Fania Davis is a long time social justice activist, civil rights trial attorney, restorative justice practitioner, writer and scholar with a PhD in indigenous knowledge. Hi Fania, thank you for joining us.
Fania Davis: Thank you so much for inviting me.
RA: Susan Hayase is a longtime activist in the San Jose Japanese American Community. She was a local leader of the San Jose area movement to win redress for the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. Susan's grandparents were forced out of their homes and into concentration camps in Amache, Colorado and Gila River, Arizona. Susan, thank you for joining us.
Susan Hayase: Thank you for having me.
The Personal Histories Driving Their Work
RA: Before we dive in and talk about reparations, I want to ask you all to just take a little bit of time. Talk about the work you do and where the passion comes from for your work. Susan, why don't we start off with you?
SH: I'm a third-generation Japanese American. I've been involved in the Redress Movement through the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations (NCRR). As you mentioned, my parents and grandparents were incarcerated. My parents were high school students when they were forced out of their homes. As for many Japanese Americans of my generation, it was hard to find out what happened to my parents. A lot of Nisei, second generation, did not talk about the experience. And I think this was part of the political repression of Japanese Americans that came out of the camps. I didn't realize it until many years later, but one of the conditions of getting released from camp was you had to promise to not congregate in groups of more than three Japanese Americans, not speak your language and to keep your head down.
I struggled to understand the racism that my parents faced. I remember not getting served in a restaurant when we were on vacation, and I remember my mother having a hard time getting served in stores, and people in school incredulous that I was an American. So when the Redress Movement started, when I left college in 1979, I was really ready to get involved. It was something that was really important to me and it's still important to me. I'm 62 now, and I was 23 then.
I didn't think that I'd still be doing this. I think a lot of us didn't think we'd still be doing this. We thought it would be over. Unfortunately it's not.
RA: What about you Fania? Can you tell us about your work and the passion that you bring to it and where that comes from?
FD: For many years I was a civil rights trial lawyer. I did that for about 30 years and then I started working in restorative justice for youth in the school system, in the juvenile justice system and communities. That work arose from my birth, my origin story, having been born in Birmingham, Alabama, which we called “bombingham,” Alabama, during the height of segregation and the height of the movement resisting it.
I was born on Dynamite Hill. That was my neighborhood. Homes were bombed in our neighborhood because black families moved in pushing the color line. Homes were bombed of lawyers and activists and ministers like Reverend Shuttlesworth and like Attorney Arthur D. Shores. Their homes were bombed because of their activism and the Civil Rights Movement and everyone knows about the September 15, 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, which was the headquarters in many ways of the Civil Rights Movement, where the four little girls were killed when they were in Sunday school – actually their lesson that day was about unconditional love. Those were a few of the many many bombings. And that latter bombing. I lost two very close friends, one of whom lived two houses down from me and the other was a close family friend. That's Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson.
So that experience growing up in apartheid and you know going to stores where we couldn't be served, and being called derogatory names, and being insulted every day, and being exposed every day to the pervasive social messaging that black people were subhuman, in addition to the racial terror is what set me on this path of being many ways a warrior for social justice and in later life. After so much fighting and anger, both as a trial lawyer and as a street activist, I had some experiences which made clear to me that I needed to bring healing energies into my life. And that was my attraction to restorative justice, which is based on indigenous healing and peacemaking.
RA: What about you, Patricia?
PS: [Speaking in Mohawk] And so hello everybody, my name is Patricia St. Onge. [Speaking in Mohawk] And I just offered love and gratitude for all of the people here, and for the Ohlone on whose territory we are settlers and guests.
FD: Thank you.
RA: Thank you.
PS: I am 65 and have been learning my ancestral language for the last five years, because when you colonize a people, you take their land, their language, and their legacy. And their legacy is often their children, as well as their worldview. And so we're told by the elders that we should introduce ourselves whenever we can in our language. It's a gift to the ancestors from whom it was taken.
So I have been in Oakland for about 35 years. So I grew up in a community where there was no native community. It was a French-Canadian enclave in New Hampshire where no one spoke English, but we all spoke French, Canadian French. And it really wasn't until I moved to Oakland that I found an indigenous community. And so there's a way in which you can be kind of ancestrally or genetically native. But not really culturally-native, because the culture is a collective one. And so it was really when I moved here that I became part of the Native community in Oakland, in that process, learned in a much more profound way what it means to be indigenous.
Started with my family a consulting practice called Seven Generations Consulting because I'm Mohawk — which is one of the Haudenosaunee nations — and one of our guiding principles is the Great Law of Peace. And the Great Law of Peace says that— among many things—that all of our deliberations must be made with the 7th generation in mind. And so trying to live into what it means to live your life on a daily basis, thinking about the generations to come, and the impact that what we're doing now will have on them. And so that's kind of led me in two big directions. One is to be a part of Idle No More SFBay and a signatory on the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty, and the other is to be part of a small community in East Oakland where we're living into our traditional values in a 21st century context, and it's called Nafsi ya Jamii and it means the soul community in Swahili. And so we are working together to live as part of the ecosystem, which is really what the original instructions that we all got when we were first…[laughs.]
The Japanese American Redress Movement
RA: Thank you. Let's dive in and talk about first the Japanese American Redress Movement and then we'll talk about what reparations means for African Americans, for Native Americans, because it's really amazing to see a conversation around reparations for African Americans being discussed at the highest levels of society within the presidential conversation among the Democrats. So we’ll also talk about that.
Susan, why don't you talk a little bit about the Japanese American Redress Movement? It was successful in securing an apology and $20,000. This was in 1988. As some forms of making amends for the exclusion and imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans, but the road toward that victory was not straightforward. There were divisions in the community over the question of redress. There were a lot of attacks on the outside. Can you talk about how the vision for redress emerged and what brought everyone together who advocated for it?
SH: So in 1970 a Japanese American man named Edison Uno proposed that the Japanese American Citizens League, which is a large civil rights organization. He proposed that they pursue redress and this was in 1970. But they didn't do anything for a number of years. Meanwhile, the third generation Japanese Americans who were the children of people who had been in camp were achieving adulthood in the ‘60s and ‘70s and this was also a period of a lot of social ferment, right? The anti-Jim Crow Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, moving into the ‘70s the Black Power Movement, the Asian American Movement, the American Indian Movement, the movements to put ethnic studies in the universities – and a lot of this was we have to reclaim our history. We have to understand our history because I think a lot of young people felt that we were totally left out of the history books. So there are a lot of things kind of coming together.
And one of the things that Japanese Americans young people started doing was going on pilgrimages to the sites of the concentration camps. The first one was to Manzanar which is in California. And another one was, Tule Lake, which is also in California on the Oregon border. And these kinds of experiences were really mind-boggling for Japanese Americans. And so that was kind of the beginning, but it wasn't an easy task because the aftermath of the camps involved a lot of political repression and in the camps, there was a lot of division like the U.S. government had chosen some Japanese Americans to speak for all Japanese Americans and there was a lot of division that came out of that.
There was the model minority, which was I think designed out of the camps, right? To say don't object to being a second-class citizen, right? And then there's this threat behind it because you're just coming out of a concentration camp. And people were financially devastated and had to recover from that, right? And then people also were emotionally traumatized. So at the beginning of the Redress Movement, on the 1979 Tule Lake pilgrimage, which is the first thing that I ever did, I was 23 years old. And I was astounded...I had never heard of redress before the concept and it was like, “Oh my God, I have to be involved in this,” and I wanted to do it for my parents and my grandparents, while my grandparents were gone by this time.
And the whole concept of redress is to win justice and to win equality, right? It's a move for equality. You know, the First Amendment of the Constitution includes the right to petition for a redress of grievances, and I think if we are equal, then we are equally able to access the rights that the Bill of Rights layout. But it was very daunting. I mean in 1980 [Ronald] Reagan was elected, right? People said, “There's no chance, you know, this is ridiculous.” People were very cynical. There were a lot of people that said, you know, “Keep quiet. That's going to rain down, you know retribution on us.” And people felt very insecure about that and there was a big intergenerational trauma. There was a lot of people of my generation were very angry at their parents for not telling them what happened to them and for not standing up in a certain way, because we didn't really understand what the trauma was.
Plus there was this incredible propaganda machine saying that Japanese Americans had gone wholeheartedly into camp. So there was a national organization called the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and some of us who had been doing organizing in the Japanese American community got together and formed another organization called the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations (NCRR). And there was another national organization called the National Council for Japanese American Redress (NCJAR). So all of these organizations were trying to come up with solutions and NCJAR had a class action suit strategy. The Japanese American Citizens League and the NCRR had more of a legislative strategy. And there was also a group of people who are trying to reopen the Supreme Court cases — the Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui cases. So there were on a number of fronts different people doing things.
RA: How did activists respond to the attacks? And the activists who maybe came out it from different perspectives, how did they ultimately come together?
SH: President Jimmy Carter, before he left office, he signed a bill and he created a commission. It was called the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians or CWRIC and it was to study the camps and come up with recommendations. So we started organizing a grassroots movement to find people to testify at this commission, because we felt like one of the big things for Japanese Americans is that Japanese Americans never got their day in court. No charges, so you can't defend yourself if there's no charges. You're just put in camp, right? And so so that was a big job was finding people who are willing to testify and it was really hard because of the repression.
There were also some people who felt like...like for the JACL initially felt like they weren't ready to go for individual monetary compensation and they were talking something about a trust fund. And for the NCRR we felt that it was really important to have individual monetary compensation, and we felt it was really important to have restitution to the community because there was injury to individuals but there was also injury to our entire community, like community institutions were torn apart, businesses were destroyed.
What Reparations Could Look Like for Past Injustices
RA: Fania and Patricia, what do you both think about something as simple as an apology and we have had a few in the past. Again in 88 Ronald Reagan signed a formal presidential apology to those incarcerated during World War II. And then you have in 2008, the House of Representatives issued a symbolic apology for slavery and Jim Crow. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed off on a Native American apology resolution. But this was actually in a military spending bill, which a lot of people criticized. [Laughs.] Patricia, what are your thoughts on this? Did you think that that apology was meaningful?
PS: Well, it was better than anything we'd ever had. And also I would say that until the creation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, all through the 19th century and the early 20th century, Native relationships were in the Department of War. So that was where it was rooted from the very beginning. There was a kind of irony and also kind of a nod on President Obama's part that in a military spending bill to apologize to Native Americans made sense in a very strange way. And often people think, “Well, you have the reservations, that's reparations. We didn't take all the land.” And so there's a fragmented sense of what reparations really means.
When I say I'm adopted Cheyenne River Lakota Ladonna Thunderhawk and Mabelanne Eaglehunter are my sisters. And Ladonna was telling us — it's in a film actually about her called, Warrior Women — and she says, “They decided to put dams along the Missouri River when she was a teenager.” They lost a hundred million acres in the blink of an eye and that was not ceded territory. So when you look at all of the land around Standing Rock, where the pipelines are going, none of that land was ever officially ceded to the United States. And so there has been no reparations. And the idea of reparations isn't even a frame for most people. Most people think we're all dead. So the need for reparations is just generally not on the table.
RA: Right. What are your thoughts, Fania? What did you think about the house in 2008 offering a symbolic apology for slavery and Jim Crow?
FD: First I just want to say this is 2019. It's exactly 400 years since the first African captives were brought — kidnapped and brought to this land— and I just want to speak that and name that, 400 years. And the Reparations Movement quiet as it's kept, has been going on for about that long and finally gaining a little traction after 400 – after all those years. So the apology in 2008 – important. However in the Restorative Justice Movement, we say, “It's not just about saying sorry. It's about doing sorry.”
Remember one of the elevator women during the [Brett] Kavanaugh hearings said that she had serious concerns about Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice because for her justice was recognizing that harm that pain had been caused, taking responsibility for the pain that was caused and number three working to repair the harm, the pain that was caused. So we barely recognized it with that 2008 apology. That most people don't even know about this country.
RA: This is Your Call. This is a special live taping of the show at Mills College in Oakland. Today's show is part of a series of events our team is producing called HEAR: Histories of Exclusion and Resistance. And today we are joined by Patricia St. Onge, an activist and changemaker supporting progressive social justice movements. Fania Davis, long time social justice activist and restorative justice practitioner. Susan Hayase is a longtime activist in the San Jose Japanese American Community.
Fania, you said what about doing something? And since we are having a conversation about reparations for African Americans. It's becoming an issue in the presidential debate. What does it mean for you to do something? How do you see this playing out?
FD: Well, a lot is playing out right now that is historic. H.R.40was a bill that was patterned actually after the bill that started the whole quest for Japanese redress and reparations. And John Conyers introduced that bill in 1989. H.R.40 [is] based on the 40 acres and a mule. And it was a call to establish a commission that would study whether reparations for slavery should be made. John Conyers, introduced that bill every year since 1989 and it never has gotten out of committee. It's been introduced again I think by Sheila Jackson Lee and a number of the candidates running for president or saying that they would support it.
The first actual reparation effort that's recorded was by an African American woman who was freed after her slave master left the country. He was Isaac Royall and in fact, he was one of the main founders or patrons of Harvard University. He was a royalist. Isaac Royall was a royalist. So when the war was lost and the Americans won and the British lost, he fled and to the Caribbean. And one of his slaves, Belinda, proffered a petition claiming that she was entitled to reparation for the many many years of labor and she won. And then after that there were Quakers who insisted that Quakers could not own slaves and they needed to free them if they did own them and give them reparations. And then you had General Sherman after 1865 —after Emancipation Proclamation there was a field order number 15 that said that the government would give African Americans of a newly freed slaves 40 acres, and then later a mule. Some African Americans did actually receive that, but very very short lived. As soon as Andrew Johnson came who succeeded President Lincoln the special order was repealed.
And in the early 1900's there were efforts for reparations and a lot of similarities in our community, especially in the ‘50s and ‘60s, there was a lot of division. In the 1960s, just to mention black reparations, it was taboo. It was completely marginalized. It was even demonized, even organizations as in the Japanese community within the black community did not support reparations. NAACP just did a few years ago, but most of the mainstream civil rights organizations did not. So it's particularly noteworthy and significant and historic and just extraordinary to see all of the work that's being done right now around reparations and to see the truth-telling that's going on about buried histories, about silenced histories, about slavery and the after lives of slavery —like convict leasing, and debt peonage, and chain gang, and and lynching — and the work that's being done in Montgomery by Bryan Stevenson with the memorialization efforts, the coming down of over a hundred Confederate memorials, and 50 or so universities studying slavery consortium — who have told the truth for the first time about their complicity with slavery and the slave trade — and white people who are uncovering buried truths — finding that their ancestors were complicit with lynchings. It's extraordinary. It's extraordinary to see the way white people are beginning to really examine meaningfully and significantly and deeply the ways in which they as individuals are perpetuating structural racism and institutional racism. Organizations, like SURJ, Showing Up for Racial Justice, just exploded after the 2016 election, and organizations like Coming to the Table Project, you know Harvard having symposium on reparations. That article by Ta-Nehisi Coates on reparations which kind of shifted things, but I think it was really in many ways Black Lives Matter, that that that that was a real turning point for us.
RA: Patricia, I feel like the same thing is happening for Natives. Thanks to Standing Rock.
RA: When you said we're not dead. Well, Standing Rock showed were not dead. And there's...I can't keep up with all of the books that are coming out by Native and non-Native authors about, for example, the genocide in California. So incredibly horrific. Two new books came out about this just in the last few years.
RA: Can you talk about that?
PS: Yes. There's a significant commitment on the part of indigenous people and our relatives to tell the story...the stories that haven't been told for a long time. And some specific things about reparations, we don't anticipate that it will come from the government, because the cost of really recognizing what happened, reparations would technically be giving all the land back, and so we don't anticipate that the government will do much of anything until the people rise up and make it impossible not to.
And some of the ways that that's happening is there was a movement at Onondaga Lake. So some major corporations had completely polluted the water so that there were no fish even that could live there anymore. It was just completely devastated and the Onondaga Nation organized and organized with neighbors and initially all the neighbors were afraid because they thought: They're going to make us get out. There was a lot of anxiety about what reparations might look like. And one of the core indigenous values is this notion of we're all related. And so the approach was to bring the neighbors together and for them to petition for support to clean the lake and it never came, and so the people did it, and they're working on it still.
And right here, the Sogorea Te Land Trust, which is an Ohlone project. Again, because we're settlers here, we get a lot of benefit from living here, and our worldview says that reciprocity is about giving in relationship to being given to. So a more Western frame is give and take as reciprocity, but if you think about giving in response to being given to, then it feels like both partners are agents in that exchange, and so the shuumi means gift in Ohlone. And then if you go to the Sogorea Te Land Trust website, they have a little formulas — depending on the number of bedrooms or the square footage or however you figure it out — you can give a gift back to the land trust. And with that Corrina Gould and Johnella LaRose — who are the original people of Oakland, and you know surrounding areas — just received a tiny parcel of land. It's the first time they've held custody or responsibility for land in over a century. And so they've put up an arbor and they're having ceremony there.
So it looks different in different places, but the thread that runs through it all is that we're all here now. So how do we do reparations in a way that brings healing to everybody? Because if we are in fact related then my healing is tied up with your healing and your healing and your healing – that's the only way it can happen. And so those are two of the strategies that people are taking right now for reparations.
RA: Fania, did you want to jump in?
FD: I was sort of listing all of the recent developments and one I forgot that just occurred, Georgetown [University] students voted that they would pay reparations to the 272 descendants of the slaves who were sold to keep Georgetown from going bankrupt. There was a commission that was formed to study Georgetown's complicity with slavery and that was a couple of years ago. They identified as a result of this research, 272 descendants, and now they're in the process of talking to these descendants to discuss what reparations might look like. And they've already started to offer legacy admissions to descendants of the 272. I think some descendants want a truth and reconciliation fund and that they have not agreed to that as yet. But the students, you know, this is historic, what they've done.
And you know, there's the Chicago Torture Reparations Fund, where the government — I don't know exactly how much, but more than five million dollars, I think considerably more, I'm not sure — to survivors of black families who were tortured, and brutalized, and terrorized by police and that reparations fund involves creating a trauma center and offering trauma services, job training, income supports, housing.
And then in Charlottesville, there is also a reparations fund. It's about $4 million, I believe. But even though it's small, it offers some glimpse into what a macro scale reparations might look like. There are income supports or checks, you know, like Jews get checks, but it goes beyond checks and individual compensation is important. But supports for housing, and education, and parks, and scholarships, and supports for youth are part of that Charlottesville reparations fund.
And then there's a sterilization fund somewhere in the south to compensate victims — black women — who were sterilized.
Germany, as I said, started with checks. Now Germany has done incredible work, especially in the education area. They have completely transformed the curricula to require that the Holocaust be taught not just in history or just in sociology classes, but in music classes, in art classes, in every single course every child in a public school in Germany must learn about the Holocaust. And every year teachers are given continuing education so they can teach more effectively, and there are museums and memorials just everywhere, and the children are required to make visits as part of the curriculum. I think we can we can definitely learn a lot about that.
About a month or so ago, I saw a U.S. News and World report, front page, that said that only 8 percent of high school students in a study knew that slavery had anything to do with the Civil War. So, you know that tells us how buried these histories are, how silenced they are. So the first thing that needs to be done in any campaign — a strategy for reparations is truth-telling. Like I mentioned earlier, universities are starting to do that, and some, many white individuals a growing number of white individuals are starting to do that. That's really really important. And then, you know taking responsibility saying sorry, and doing sorry. I gave some examples of what doing sorry might look like.
SH: In San Jose Japantown, we did a series of programs called ‘Don't Exclude Us’ and we tried to tie the history of Japanese Americans to the communities that actually grew up around San Jose Japantown like Chinese Americans and the Exclusion Act and also Mexican Americans and the so-called Mexican repatriation of the 1930s. So in that incident over 10 years, there were almost a million I believe Mexicans and Mexican Americans who were forcibly deported from the United States and some people were rounded up at shopping centers. We had a program with Dr. Francisco Balderrama from CSULA (Cal State LA), and one of the things that was very striking, he showed two pictures side by side and one was a Japanese Americans being loaded into trains on their way to the concentration camps and the other one was Mexican Americans being loaded onto trains on their way to Tijuana and you couldn't tell the difference. I mean it was just astounding. And so Dr. Balderrama was actually very inspired by the Japanese American Redress Movement. He's an expert in the Mexican repatriation and he wrote a book about it, which is used as a text in colleges. And he tried to start a movement for reparations for repatriation in the California Assembly and Senate. He was not successful. They would not support it, but they did create a monument in Los Angeles, I believe. So I just wanted to say that about reparations for Mexican Americans and Latinos, that there are some people thinking along those lines.
FD: And I think that fundamentally any reparations movement must be anti-capitalist because that's where all of these pervasive human rights violations, the genocide, the slavery and all of the afterlives of slavery. It's the colonization and conquest of people of color, Asia, Africa, Latin America. That was all assured by racial capitalism and we say racial capitalism – there is no such thing as just plain capitalism – its racial capitalism, because there would be no capitalism without Mississippi. Manchester, England, yes, but you know, there would be no capitalism were it not for cotton and if it were not for all of the conquests in Third World countries.
And so we've got to figure out how to completely transform our society, our government, our school, our economic system. That needs to be a bottom-up participatory grassroots process. How do we elicit from the people of this country, especially elevating the voices of those who are most oppressed and the formerly incarcerated and the youth, those who are most marginalized? They need to weigh in on what reparations should look like.
People talk about truth and reconciliation that's been mentioned in this whole narrative about reparations. And I think we can learn something from the truth and reconciliation processes – almost 50 of them over the last decades. But one of the things that we really can't do, in my view, is to have a process that is dominated by experts and that's the top down process.
The last thing I'll say on this question is we need a healing component. The trauma resulting from genocide, and land theft, and forced assimilation, and the Indian boarding schools, and slavery, and convict leasing, and lynching. Today, until today, you know: mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the immigration oppression that we’re witnessing. It has really hurt us, all of us. And so trauma healing must be a very deep component of this. And people are already starting to think about that, using trauma strategies that have been applied in African post-conflict zones, for example. And people are doing racial healing circles around the country. And you have the wonderful work of people like Robin DiAngelo who talks about white fragility. Those kinds of conversations will allow us to have productive great cross-racial healing conversations. It won't go south. Yeah.
PS: Yeah specifically with Central and South American folks, one of the important things that's happening is the reuniting of the Eagle and the Condor. So people from Central and South America are indigenous people. And the colonizers came and they did what they did everywhere and so my name is St. Onge because I was part of a French colony in Quebec. And so people whose names Alvarez and Lopez and all of that are blended indigenous people with the colonizers. And so the Eagle is the North American spirit — the leader of the winged ones — and in South and Central America it’s the Condor. And so over the last decade there have been a series of healing ceremonies as well as runs from Patagonia to Alaska where people are coming together and recognizing the centrality of our indigeneity that brings us together and so the healing that's happening in that process is significant and I think that then the question of reparations becomes a bigger, more hemispheric conversation.
RA: And before I ask you all to offer final thoughts, I was really struck by what Fania said about Germany. And I've heard this from a lot of people that you cannot walk for five minutes in many parts of Germany without seeing a remembrance of the Holocaust, which is the way it should be, and I always think when is that going to happen here? Because you can go to all of the major attractions in this country, and unless you really look for it, you'll see know hardly anything about Native Americans, right?
PS: It's true.
RA: I mean there's so much great work happening right now, but it's just rare.
PS: Not only do we not see Native Americans, we plastered four big president heads in the Black Hills, which is a sacred site for all of the Plains peoples so we've done the opposite of what Germany is doing. We're trying to erase...we put statues up for all the Confederate people who did horrible things. And we're trying even now the textbooks are being written by people who want to erase all of this history and all of these stories, so, it's on us. We really have to do the work of stepping up and being in solidarity with each other so that the healing happens across communities, including white communities, so that we move to a way of being that reflects wholeness and wellbeing and the highest values that we aspire to, not the ones that we've been living in, that we've been living for a long time.
Truth-telling and Collective Healing, a Path Toward Righting Wrongs
RA: As we said tonight, that the idea of reparations has really become more widely discussed and there's a lot of truth-telling happening right now. Where do you see these movements going? What are you hoping for, Patricia?
PS: I'm hoping that we’ll begin...not begin, we've been doing it for a while, but that we will accelerate our commitment to connecting the dots so that we don't continue that Western frame of hyper individualistic worldview, but rather see how reparations for all communities that have been marginalized and othered need to be connected so that we see ourselves in relationship to each other in a way that really makes it impossible for resistance to this idea of collective healing.
FD: Yes. Collective healing. We need justice and that's part of the healing, righting the wrongs, and we need healing, as I was saying earlier. We need a complete transformation in the way that we are present to one another. And to the Earth, and to the Divine, and that gets back to the Eagle and the Condor. There was a prophecy and I think it was Aztecs where around the time of the Conquista and slave trade and when capitalism was beginning, they said there will be 500 years of darkness. There will be a dark sun, but after 500 years, a bright sun will emerge. I think we're in the time of the bright sun now, and all of these things that we're seeing — even though it may be hard to believe when we look at what's happening in Washington — but there's just a lot of incredibly historic things that are going on that I think protend the coming of the bright sun.
SH: I'm a co-founder of an organization called San Jose Nikkei Resisters. Many of us are former redress activists from the 80s and some of us are activists from the 60s and 70s and some of us are young people, and our goal is to unite and mobilize the Japanese American community in opposition to the Muslim Ban, in opposition to the family separations, and the indefinite detentions, and also in opposition to mass incarceration and any injustice, so I think that's how we see moving forward. We feel very strongly that we need to use our history and our experience with the purpose of advancing other people's struggles for justice.
RA: Susan Hayase is a longtime activist in the San Jose Japanese American Community. She was a local leader of the San Jose area movement to win redress for the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. Susan, thank you so much for joining us.
SH: Thank you.
RA: Fania Davis is a long time social justice activist, civil rights trial attorney, restorative justice practitioner, writer and scholar with a PhD in indigenous knowledge. Fania, thank you so much for joining us.
FD: Thank you Rose.
RA: Patricia St. Onge is an activist and changemaker supporting progressive social justice movements. She's worked as executive and interim director of more than a dozen nonprofits. She's part of Idle No More SF Bay and an adjunct faculty member here at Mills College. Patricia, thank you for joining us.
PS: You're welcome.
RA: This series is made possible by the California State libraries, California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. A special thanks to Mills College for hosting us in this beautiful space, especially Professor Margo Okazawa-Rey [and] manager of student services and operations, IfeTayo Walker. Thanks also to everyone who helped bring the show together, and they work very hard to do it. Laura Wenus, Phil Surkis, Taylor Simmons, Laura Flynn, Brieanna Martin, and Brendan Glasson. Your Call is a production of KALW public radio in San Francisco. I'm Rose Aguilar, and also thanks so much to our audience for joining us. Thank you.
Rose Aguilar, host
Laura Wenus, producer
Laura Flynn, project producer
Phil Surkis, assistant producer
Taylor Simmons, social media manager
HEAR is made possible by funding from the California State Library's California Civil Liberties Public Education Program.