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JACL Statement on the Killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

Sterling, Castile, Thompson

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson

WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement on July 8.


In 1982, a federal commission issued its report on the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. The report was titled “Personal Justice Denied” to remove the anonymity from an outrage perpetrated against a group. It happened to men, women, and children; people with names who lived ordinary, and for some, extraordinary lives.

This title aptly describes the events of the past several days where the killing of two black men has again raised the specter of a society that continues to devalue black and brown lives. Alton Sterling, a black man, was killed by police in Baton Rouge, La. Philando Castile, a black man, was killed by police in Falcon Heights, Minn. The U.S. Department of Justice will investigate the killing of Sterling, and the Minnesota governor has called for a similar investigation in the killing of Castile.

According to a database created by The Washington Post, 509 people have been shot and killed by police in the United States this year, over half of whom are people of color. Although we acknowledge and respect the difficult situations that law enforcement officials often find themselves in, we also question what appears to be an excessive use of deadly force, particularly against black men.

JACL has stated before that it is impossible to understand these deaths outside the context of a society that rests upon deep foundations of anti-black racism; a society where structural racism works to economically, emotionally, and physically devastate people and communities of color.

We must do better than to simply express outrage, as these expressions by themselves leave communities of color with the impression that racism and excessive force have no end. These communities will not tolerate it, nor should we. We cannot simply reiterate our emotions each time these incidents occur.

JACL remains committed to the struggle for racial equity and will continue to work alongside our partners in the pursuit of institutional change because our own historic experience obligates us to do no less.

The foregoing in no way diminishes the outrageous shootings in Dallas last evening, where it is reported that 12 officers were shot, leaving five dead. Confronting racism in America does not conflict with an admiration for the courageous work of law enforcement officers who, in the face of danger, protect the public in a manner that respects the law. We mourn the passing of DART officer Brent Thompson, and the other officers whose names are yet to be released.

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