Empowering Asian voices: the Japanese American Society of Central Oregon’s denouncement of racism

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Image by Miina McCown

Miina McCown/The Broadside 

In recent months, as well as around the start of the pandemic, there has been a rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes in America. These crimes are a recent culmination of the history of violence that many marginalized communities have experienced and have been intensified as a result of the ongoing pandemic and certain prejudices around it.

The Japanese American Society of Central Oregon or JASCO is a local community group that meets and celebrates Japanese heritage. JASCO recently released a statement denouncing racism.

https://www.midoregon.com/accounts/student.shtml

JASCO’s statement:

The Japanese American Society of Central Oregon (JASCO) is a local community group that honors and celebrates Japanese heritage through arts and culture, food, education, events, and sharing of traditions. 

Despite JASCO’s informal nature and in consideration of recent anti-Asian sentiment and racially targeted, national violence against Asians, JASCO cannot remain silent as these perpetuated acts tear at the moral fabric of our country, impacting all people negatively regardless of race.

JASCO strongly denounces any form of racism, discrimination, intimidation, and hatred occurring within our society. We honor diversity and inclusivity within our community and beyond. JASCO aligns with JACL, Embrace Bend, DEI Bend, C.O. Diversity Project, BLM, and others that work to eradicate systemic racism and discrimination in our nation.  

If you are encountering any form of racism, report to local authorities. To learn more, please visit Portland’s Japanese American Citizen League (JACL) site or the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans’ site.

JASCO Board Members

The Broadside reached out to several JASCO representatives regarding their general thoughts on the current climate and what they believe others can do to show support at this time.

Rachel Alm, JASCO’s Community Outreach Assistant stated that she had joined JASCO when moving from Hawai’i to Central Oregon, and that she is very grateful to have found a community to celebrate a part of her heritage. 

“Although we cannot fully represent the diversity of perspectives in the Asian American community, I hope our statement helps other Asian Americans in Central Oregon to feel supported.

I am grateful for the messages of support JASCO received from members of the Central Oregon community since posting our statement. It is beautiful to see so many of our neighbors reflecting and taking action in ways that feel personally meaningful. I hope that we continue to walk together on this path toward peace,” she stated.

Eric Ballinger, a JASCO Board Member remarked that the recent hate crimes remind him of the magnitude of racism that his family had endured throughout five generations as well as the strength and perseverance it took to remain positive and productive within their communities. 

“The recent events remind me of the devout loyalty my family has to this country. My grandfather and great uncles all served in the Japanese American 442 battalion during WW2 even when their families were behind the barbed wire of Tule Lake and Minidoka Internment camps. My hope is that we treat others the way we would want to be treated… with respect. My hope is that my Japanese American family does not have to endure another 130 years of discrimination and racism. My hope is if we encounter or experience racism and discrimination, we find the strength to speak up.”

Lastly, Ami Zepnewski a JASCO Board Member stated, “When we started JASCO, our goal was to create a space for families to share our cultures and to teach and educate our children about Japanese culture; a place where we can pass down traditions and where others can learn. I think it important to continue educating our community, build empathy and understand and celebrate our differences.”

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