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History as lesson for growth: AAPI Heritage Month

This month is nationally recognized at Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the United States, and while we at Thrive Central Oregon honor the contributions of the AAPI community in our area and throughout our nation, we also recognize that this honor should not be reserved for a single month. Honor, respect, and justice for the AAPI community should not be something we shed light on but once a year.

Perhaps some of you have heard about the recent increase in hate crimes against AAPI individuals, particularly the elderly, over the past year. If not, please continue reading to educate yourself on this ongoing issue in our country: BBC Article, United Nations Report. Misinformation, often used throughout history to cultivate fear between peoples, was used throughout the pandemic to foster violence against AAPI individuals.

The west coast states- California, Oregon and Washington- are no stranger to discrimination and violence against the AAPI community. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII has been noted as one of the most aggressive violations of civil rights in American history; an action that happened across the West Coast, but also right in our own backyards in Central Oregon.

Only hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 (during World War II), quick misinformation spread about innocent Japanese Americans. High ranking officials determined that regular citizens were a threat to the country's safety, with no legitimate evidence, resulting in the arrest of 1,200+ Japanese Americans by the FBI within a day of Pearl Harbor. Lt. General John DeWitt, who had tried to encourage the government to detain Italian Americans and German Americans to no avail, compiled falsities into a report and encouraged the creation of military zones and detainment of Japanese Americans.

Shortly after, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Japanese Internment camps through his Executive Order 9066. For three years (until 1945) it became the policy of the U.S. government to incarcerate people of Japanese descent in isolated camps. One need only be 1/16th Japanese to be subject to this internment, and over 2/3 of those incarcerated were American citizens. All told, over 120,000 individuals were subject to this violent removal and treatment across the West Coast.

It is important for us to recognize as a community that Central Oregonians were taken from their homes and sent to these camps. Our community is not devoid of tragic and violent racial injustice. Recognizing the history of our area and the history of systems of oppression in our communities, helps us to move toward an anti-racist future as individuals and a community.

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