Affordable housing crisis brings city and county leaders together
S1: The city and county of San Diego launch a new initiative to build more affordable housing.
S2: 10,000 is an aggressive goal and it's going to be hard , but we know the need is so great.
S1: I'm Andrew Bowen with Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. Emergency COVID 19 tenant protections are set to expire tomorrow , leaving some to fear their housing security is in jeopardy.
S3: That's why there is a lot of heated homelessness in our community where , like families are doubling up in one bedroom , two bedroom goes off. They cannot afford to rent.
S1: A new report shows hunger in San Diego County is on the rise. And lessons from Japanese-Americans in the fight for reparations for African-Americans. That's ahead on KPBS Midday Edition. On Monday , for the first time in more than 20 years , the San Diego City Council and the County Board of Supervisors will hold a joint meeting and the topic is a familiar one Affordable housing. The city and county both agree the lack of affordable housing is a crisis , and the meeting's goal is to get the two separate government bodies to better coordinate on the issue. Joining me with more are San Diego City Council President Shaun Isla Rivera and County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. Welcome to you both.
S2: Thank you , everyone.
S1: At this meeting on Monday , you'll be setting a joint goal of building 10,000 affordable homes by 2030.
S2: But we know the need is so great. And it's not just 10,000 units of affordable housing. We need more than that. This is 10,000 units of affordable housing on government owned land , on vacant or underutilized government owned land. And it's not just an issue of homelessness. The issue of affordable housing , of working class families out there , folks who get up and go to work every day , who can't afford a place to to live and to raise their families. And at the county , we've got about 1000 units of affordable housing going on. County owned Land Council president. You know , Rivera and I both serve on MTS , where we very effectively put to use MTC only land about 2000 units of housing overall moving forward. And so this is a regional goal , but this is your county government , your city government coming together to say , Hey , folks , expect us to work together , they want us to tackle these things. And I really appreciate the partnership of Council President elect Rivera , Mayor Gloria and the city and the county. And I'm committed to having having this spirit of collaboration become institutionalized so that we never repeat the mistakes that happened before. Either one of us were in office in a situation like that. So we're coming together , committed to building housing and really trying to move forward.
S2: The fact is the status quo in terms of housing production is not good enough. And part of the reason why is that government is not doing all that we can to make our land available for housing. And I think that the city and the county coming together , committing to try to do better and do more with respect to making our governmental land available for housing and we need it on that front can only help in achieving the regional goal that we have of creating 100,000 new homes for San Diego.
S1: I've heard a lot about how the city and county need to coordinate their efforts better around affordable housing , but plenty of issues.
S2: And I've watched as Chair Fletcher and are Gloria has created some meaningful partnerships , especially as it relates to addressing homelessness in the region. I think that's a huge shift in comparison to what we've seen in the past. But we each own a piece of the puzzle with respect to solving some of the biggest problems that we have. And so the county was was , I think , demonstrated a lot of leadership in putting forward the $10 million to not just the city of San Diego , but throughout the region to to address homelessness. We've seen the way that the city and county are leaning into creating shelter options. And there's a variety of ways that the city and the county need to work together in order to most effectively and efficiently solve problems. So I think this is the beginning of of the policymaking bodies coming together , putting that policy thinking cap on and saying , how can we collaborate to meet the needs of San Diegans and accomplish our goals of making this a region that is a great place to live , not just for those who are wealthy , but those who are middle , middle class , working class folks who are working way too hard right now to barely , barely get by.
S1: One of the big discussion items , or readily the main focus of Monday's meeting , will be this list of publicly owned properties that can be developed into affordable housing. Tell me more about that and maybe give me some examples of of where you own this land that could be built on. Yeah.
S2: Yeah. I'll give you a couple from the county. We have the old crime lab in Claremont. This is county owned land in the city of San Diego. We're underway developing 480 units , 100% affordable. And and we're able to do that again because it's publicly owned land with a little more certainty around entitlement. We have affordable housing projects going throughout. We've got a senior focused one in Linda Vista on county owned land. Got the old family courthouse downtown that is moving forward. And then attempts we've done it attempts some land in multiple jurisdictions. As Councilmember Carlo Rivera mentioned. And so it's a matter of taking this model , Andrew , that we know works. We know we can make it work and figure out how do we take it to scale. And this is the partnership where we bring in our philanthropic community. San Diego Foundations put up an initial $10 million investment , and we want to grow that to 100 million. They'll provide bridge financing , technical expertise , water , all the things we need to do so that it's not 480 units there and 112 units here and 57 there. It is literally we're trying to master plan and develop 10,000 units. Now , it's going to be hard because it's not just City of San Diego and County of San Diego. We need the other incorporated cities. We need our school districts and our other governing bodies to all be a part. But people expect us to work together and they expect us to to try and figure out how to get it done. They don't care who their representative is or technically whose responsibility is. They just know housing cost too much and they want us to deal with. And that's that's what we're what we're focused on doing.
S1: You mentioned cities outside of the city of San Diego. No , I imagine some of the lands that the county owns is in jurisdictions where either the leaders or the residents are perhaps not as enthusiastic as the city of San Diego about increasing density and building affordable housing. Supervisory.
S2: And then folks say , well , not here , go deal with it somewhere else. And the same is true for for housing. And , you know , I get it's got to be done right. You got to do it the right way and you got to work through through all of that. But at the end of the day , we've got to get past this militant can't do it. It's literally like folks are saying , there's a leak in your side of the boat. Go fix it somewhere. No , we're all in the boat and we got to all have skin in the game. And , you know , council president , you were there and I sat through an hour and a half of getting yelled at by folks in our overlapping jurisdictions because of affordable housing projects , permanent supportive housing. And we are moving forward with that project. We're not going to be deterred. And so I think we've got to summon the will and show the leadership to be willing to lean in to some of these challenges and fights to try and make a difference. We had one just with City of Alcohol. You know , their actions were to create more homeless. And we're just we can't stand for that. We've got to move forward.
S1: Council President You've taken an interest in expanding tenant protections in San Diego.
S2: We know that right now , with the rental market being what it is , someone who is evicted from their home and injected into that market could very well find themselves in a situation where they can't afford to stay in San Diego or potentially can't afford to find a new home. We know that evictions lead to homelessness and certainly accelerated displacement for our communities. So it's part of the overarching , overarching umbrella of different policies that need to be put in place to provide housing security for poor San Diegan. So we are working on that. Andrew , And updating tenant protections. There's a lot of urgency to do that because we've got a lot of folks who for very good reason are very , very concerned right now that if they get an eviction notice , they're not going to be able to come up with a 30 $500 a month that it'll cost to find a two bedroom apartment in San Diego right now. And we need to do what we can to avoid that. Obviously , that is also related to this this production issue. These things go hand in hand. The more homes we have , the less pressure on the market overall and the less vulnerable folks are to kind of being preyed upon in a really , really tough housing market.
S1: San Diego has done a lot to streamline approval of housing projects , increase density , increase height limits so that affordable housing can be built legally in more places. But it still needs the money to actually build that housing.
S2: I'd point you to the example of of county doing it , of us doing it. One of the biggest costs to build affordable housing is the cost to acquire the land. But if the public already owns the land and you don't have to make a profit on the land , then you have the ability to make these projects pencil out and work and the ability to get them done quick. So I absolutely believe we can. It takes it takes a will. It takes a lot of work. It takes people doing things that they've never done before. But but if you're not doing things you've never done before , then you're not going to get an outcome different than before either. And so , you know , I think that's the key point that. We're driving here is identified. This is our highest priority as a region. And these are the steps you can take. And then for folks that have never thought about it being there to provide some assistance , some mentorship , some help in kind of showing them the way. Yeah. The only thing I would add to that , Andrew , is , you know , as you know , there's a lot of levers to pull when it comes to making housing more more affordable for for the folks who are going to live in those homes. And one of the ways is through through subsidizing that housing. Right. And that can at times require additional revenue. But that's not what we're doing here. We're reducing costs. We're reducing cost by , as Chair Fletcher said , kind of pulling up the cost of land , which is incredibly expensive here in San Diego. And then there's other ways that we can reduce costs as well by streamlining permitting processes , by making it easier to build , to make to by creating more certainty for those folks who want to build homes. So there's a number of ways that we can reduce cost. We have to wrestle it as a region and as a state with the reality that building housing in the state of California , in the region of San Diego is way , way too expensive and that we can't subsidize our way out of this. We are also going to have to reduce costs. And I think that what the county and the city are going to be talking about on Monday , we've been doing it. Yes. Is a very effective way of reducing that cost and hopefully can provide a model for other cities out the region.
S1: There was a ballot measure in 2020 that would have raised property taxes in the city of San Diego to fund more affordable housing. It got a majority , but not the two thirds majority that it needed to pass.
S2: But we have the ability now. We've demonstrated that this is a viable path that we can do with the resources we have. And so , you know , we'll always look at what opportunities arise down the road , but that should not stop us from taking action today for something that we know can work. And that's what we're really trying to drive. We've seen a model where it works. We've demonstrated this is doable. Now we just got to get more folks doing it and we got to do it at scale. We also have the tremendous support of the philanthropic community who's stepping up in a big way , in a significant way to say , we're going to be part of this. We're going to come with some skin in the game and we're going to help help join in the effort. And so we can always look to the future for other ideas or other opportunities. But we got to look to the present for what we need to be doing right now.
S1: Building new affordable housing is one challenge , but there's also a challenge in preserving the affordable housing that we have today. Many of these deed restrictions that keep rents below the market rate are expiring , and that could mean that tenants could face big rent increases.
S2: Right. So I think that the preservation is the thing we have to stack on top of production. It's it is it's incredibly important , especially when it comes to avoiding displacement. And I want to make sure that folks are clear about what I mean when I refer to displacement. This is preventing people who've committed their lives , decades of their lives , to improving their communities , to being important parts of their community , and then are forced out of that neighborhood. They've invested time , energy and put love into that because they can't afford it anymore. And we have a way to stop that by preserving our affordable housing stock. And we need to invest in that preservation , want to make sure that we are not accelerating the housing cost crisis and to to provide folks with the dignity of being able to know that the blood , sweat and tears that they've invested in their community is not going to be lost simply by the way of market forces.
S1: I've been speaking with County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and San Diego City Council President Shawn Ella Rivera. They'll both be chairing a joint meeting of the city council and the Board of Supervisors on Monday. And thank you both for joining us. Absolutely.
S2: Absolutely. Thank you , Andrew. Thank you , Andrew.
S3: You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Andrew Bowen. Maureen CAVANAUGH is off. Emergency COVID 19 Tenant protections are set to end tomorrow in the city of San Diego. KPBS reporter Jacob Baer says some San Diego renters are worried their housing situations could be in jeopardy.
S4: Rama Abdi is a mother of six who rents an apartment in City Heights. She's lived there for decades and says she loves the community of fellow immigrants and refugees.
S3: So I grew up in City High as well , and when my family was renting , it looked like community looks like a farm where , like all families stay together.
S4: But now she's worried more of her friends and neighbors will be forced to move as emergency COVID 19 tenant protections are set to phase out on September 30th.
S3: But now , because of Syria , it's getting expensive , because of the lack of protection that we have , everybody like spreading out and moving out and being displaced.
S4: Rajkumar works at Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans , or Pana. Osma Abdi is Penas policy associate. She says she wants an extension of tenant protections and is urging the San Diego City Council to take action.
S3: It means that many families , even if they do absolutely everything right , they pay their rent on time. They don't violate their lease agreement. They can still be at risk for eviction. And so it creates a lot of uncertainty in our community. And people don't know whether or not they'll remain in their homes.
S4: Once the new full protections expire , the city will be left with its tenant's right to know ordinance. It requires landlords to provide at least one of nine listed reasons before terminating a lease with a renter who has lived at a property for more than two years. San Diego City Council President Shawnee La Rivera says he submitted a potential set of updates for the tenant Protection Ordinance to the city Attorney's office.
S2: Any protection that goes away that makes it easier for folks to be evicted and put out into the rental market is one that creates added vulnerability , and that concerns me.
S3: We are hoping that the tenant protections ordinance will provide stronger protections for our low income , elderly , disabled and terminally ill tenants , some of our most vulnerable community members , and allow them the right to relocation payments in the event that they are evicted.
S4: Current state law , with some exceptions , limits rent increases at 10%. Well , that sounds like a lot. Lucinda Lilly of the Southern California Rental Housing Association says landlords have also faced difficult circumstances over the past few years.
S3: When we couldn't terminated tenancy , even if there was an extremely bad actor on a property. So rental housing providers have really risen to this.
S4: Lily wants solutions for struggling renters. But stands against any form of extending the protections.
S3: This isn't going to result in an avalanche of people getting termination notices for no reason , just cause it's just cause. And if a renter if an owner needs to move into a property , then they need to move into a property if they need to sell , because they can no longer afford to support the property than they need to be able to do that.
S4: Well , time is of the essence for many renters. It could be a while before any form of the TPO can be enacted with the rising cost of overall living. That's pushing many tenants over the edge.
S3: I'm likely to have four bedroom. But some other families who cannot afford to rent for like four bedrooms. That's why there is a lot of heated homelessness in our community where , like families are doubling up in one bedroom , two bedroom because of they cannot afford to rent.
S4: Pena says the updated ordinance would close loopholes that landlords can use to wrongfully evict families. It would also require landlords to provide relocation assistance to tenants who face no fault evictions. Jacob Air , KPBS News.
S3: And for people who are struggling to put food on the table , every cent counts. A new report from the San Diego Hunger Coalition finds nearly 40% of black and Latino San Diegans are experiencing food insecurity. Joining me now to talk about this is Hunger Coalition president and CEO Anahi Brockie. Welcome to you. Thank you , Jade. I'm really happy to be here. Thank you. Anahi the number I just gave. Nearly 40% of black and Latino San Diegans are experiencing food insecurity. That is staggering. Tell me what the Hunger Coalition found out about the impact of hunger in these communities. Well , what we know is that , you know , I mean , what this data shows is that hunger and nutrition insecurity is a hidden crisis here in San Diego County. San Diego households have been pummeled over the past few years with one economic hit after another. And on top of about 30% of San Diego earning less than $30,000 a year , these were households that were already in a precarious financial position. Hmm. And I think it would also be good to understand how you are defining the term nutrition insecurity. What does it mean ? So the San Diego Hunger Coalition and other leaders from across the sector started an initiative in 2016 called Hunger Free San Diego. And our goal is to make sure that everyone in the county has enough to eat and that anyone who needs food assistance can get it. We aren't satisfied with just providing enough calories. We are setting a standard for nutrition security for the region. And that means that everyone should have access to three healthy meals a day , whether they can afford it or not. I mean , this report shows who's most affected by food insecurity in the region down to the zip code. What are some takeaways from that information ? When you look at where there are allocations of poverty around the county , you know , that is where we see a lot of food insecurity and these different clusters. You know , it's not an accident. It's actually the result of decades of exclusionary policies that have resulted in this kind of structure that is essentially racist in its origin. You know , that may not be the way that people see it today , but , you know , decades and decades of unequal access to land , unequal access to wealth. Grocery stores going into higher income communities and not going into lower income communities like this has been decades in the making. And the good news is we are getting a lot smarter as a community and as a nonprofit sector and government agencies. And we're looking at this as a problem that can be solved using data , using collaboration. We can we can see the path in front of us. And I think that with the White House's new strategy on nutrition and health , we've got the support at the federal level to make some really big , broad , sweeping changes. And where specifically are some of these clusters in San Diego ? There are big clusters up in North County , Escondido , El Cajon. And down in the San Ysidro area. One of the things that our maps don't show is the level of need in the rural communities. We produce different maps that at a finer scale , you know , because the rural community is is not as dense and so it doesn't show as dark. But that doesn't mean that there isn't tremendous need among the households that are out there as well. And , you know , when we're talking about low income San Diegans , we're talking about people who consider themselves middle class , too. Is that right ? This is one of the things that we're really going to have to change in our national dialogue. When you look up the definition of middle class , it spans from $40,000 a year to about $160,000 a year. Having grown up in a family that was on the very lower end of that and then gone to a college that was , you know , an Ivy League sort of ish school , and to see other households who call themselves middle class and just the wide , vast difference in opportunity , what that does to people who are on the lower side of the middle class range is it makes you feel like there's something wrong with you if you can't make it. You know , you're supposed to be middle class. What the heck is happening ? You're working full time. Maybe you have two full time jobs in your household , but somehow you're still struggling. And I think the you know , there's a lot of rhetoric at the national level when we talk about SNAP and talking about how people don't want to work. And that couldn't be further from the truth. Nobody wants to be on welfare. Nobody wants to be on food stamps. But it is a means to an end and it is a support that we need to make more readily available so that our community members can thrive and our kids don't. Don't fall behind. And how our food banks and programs like SNAP filling in the gaps. Feeding San Diego. The San Diego Food Bank , which operates the North County Food Bank. These organizations understand that charitable food is not going to end hunger , and that is why both organizations do a lot of Cal Fresh application assistance. And so I think , you know , the hunger relief providers know that this is a puzzle that we need to put together using data as a guide , maximize all of our resources. We could be enrolling at least another 100,000 people into the SNAP or Cal Fresh program that would ease the burden on food banks. And so I think to you know , when we look at some of this pandemic aid ending. In early 2023. You know , we're all bracing for a spike in need. And the more that we can support Cal fresh application assistance at the community based level , the more that we can support school districts in expanding their meal programs and reaching more kids , then we can be more strategic about those charitable pounds of food and use them more strategically to fill gaps. And you've touched on this , but , you know , we've been talking about a broken system and the work that is being done to repair it in the long term. But what about the people who are struggling now ? What are some ways they can be helped in the short term ? I think the one of the one of the things that the Hunger coalition developed during the pandemic is a hunger free navigator training. It's a 90 minute training. We provide it online and it is for people who are seeking food assistance to understand all the programs out there and what they're eligible for. And it's for people who want to help. And so we've got our Hunger-Free Navigator training program , and we also have food assistance resource flyers. And we put these flyers together in partnership with all of the agencies to make sure that we've got the latest information about how to find food assistance in your community. They are on our website , SD Hunger dot org , and they're available in 15 different languages. And so we really you know , it can be really daunting , especially if you've never experienced food insecurity before , you know , and maybe you're ashamed to even admit it , you know ? I mean , who wants to ? To share that. You know , it's it's a it's a point of pride for a lot of people. But there are ways that you can do this in a very private way. Get a get assistance. You can call two , one , one. San Diego , just dial two. One , one. They can help you with an application over the phone. The food banks. You can call the food banks. They can help you with an application over the phone. You never actually have to even go into a county office. I've been speaking with San Diego Hunger Coalition president and CEO on ahead. BROCKIE And Anahita , thank you so much for joining us. Thank you , Jade. Much appreciated.
S1: The California Department of Education has not yet released its statewide school test results from the spring. Results from this spring's Smarter Balanced tests normally are released by early fall. But the department says it needs additional time to incorporate the results into a new dashboard it's creating. But it's an election year , and some suspect politics may be the main reason for the delay. That's the argument made in a new column in Calmatters by my guest , Dan Walters. Dan , welcome to Midday Edition.
S2: Now , thank you very much.
S2: And it's a way to judge something that's very , very important in the educational circles narratives. What effect did the pandemic and all the school closures have on the academic achievement of California's 6 million students ? And , you know , the annual things are interesting , but this is kind of a critical this is a very important thing. It's a very important debate that's gone on as to what extent the learning of students was retarded by the fact that they had to go to Zoom school rather than being at real school.
S2: But before that , they were saying that they needed they wanted to put these results into what they call a dashboard. The dashboard was created a few years ago to supposedly give parents and voters in the general public a real quick glance at how well their particular schools and their particular school districts are doing. And it included test scores , but it had other factors that were included in the dashboard. This was very controversial at the time it was created because it was widely seen among educational reformers as a way of kind of downplaying the importance of academic learning and by just making it one factor among many in this so-called dashboard. And of course , with the pandemic having had some effect on school learning , it would even be more , I guess , kind of obscuring the import of what these tests , the late 2022 tests show.
S1: Your column makes it clear you don't buy the Department of Education's explanation for delaying the release of these test results.
S2: My my contention was the data is there. It's been released already. Put it out there. You can always put it in the dashboard later. So they decided to release it in October. It's before the Election Day , but it's out. It's be released , apparently while the voting is still going on during in October.
S1: You mentioned that many local school districts have released their data from these tests.
S2: Los Angeles Unified is the nation or the state's largest school district and the second largest school district in the country. I mean , it has four or 500,000 students. And the results that were released was about a week or so ago at L.A. Unified were devastating. They showed tremendous loss of learning during the pandemic. And the superintendent of Los Angeles school said it basically wiped out five years of gains that the district had seen before that. And this is particularly important because the biggest losses , the most devastating effects are on children who are either English learners or from poor families , which , by the way , is about 60% of California's schoolchildren fall into those categories , English learner or from poor families. They have been historically behind their more privileged contemporaries in terms of academic learning , and that's been acknowledged multiple times. It's called the achievement gap. And it looks like the pandemic closures widened that gap even more , although all school children in L.A. Unified took a tumble , so to speak. The tumble was worse among those at risk children. And that's me. That makes a lot of sense because those are the people those are the kids who would not have access to Internet and tutors and all the stuff that more affluent families can offer their children. So it's not surprising that that gap widened during the pandemic.
S1: There were national school test results that were released earlier this year , and they showed big declines in reading and math scores.
S2: And that's a subject of great debate , has been debating California now for more than a decade. I know at least remember back during Jerry Brown's governorship about a decade ago , they actually overhauled school financing in California to give more money to schools and school districts that have large numbers of these at risk children. Trying to close the achievement gap. Well , it hasn't closed and and now it's probably even widened even further. So as money the answer to the question , a lot of educators think , yes , you need more money , but maybe there's something else going on here. I am struck by the fact , and I've written about a number of occasions , that there are school districts in California with large numbers of poor and non-English speaking or English learner students who do a very good job of educating who whose test scores are right up there where they should be. So I said I said in print many times , why aren't we replicating what those school districts are doing ? Why are we assuming that just throwing more money at the problem is going to be be the answer ? Because in these school districts , it's not it's not only more money , but how you spend the money. If you just simply use that money to raise everybody's salaries. That doesn't do it. If you use that money for true enrichment for the kids who are mostly at risk , that seems to be paying off in some school districts which are doing that. So maybe we ought to be looking at how they're spending the money , not just getting more money.
S1: I've been speaking with Dan Walters , columnist with Calmatters. And Dan , thanks for joining us.
S2: You're very welcome.
S3: You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Andrew Bone. Maureen CAVANAUGH is off. This past weekend , California's reparations task force focused part of the hearings on the Japanese-American redress movement , which was galvanized during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Out of that Movement for Redress , Japanese-Americans who were forcibly removed and confined in internment camps during World War Two obtained reparations. So what can be learned from the Japanese American Movement for Redress ? Here to talk about that is Mitch McKay , an expert on the Japanese-American redress movement who has written several books and is the president and CEO of Go for Broke National Education Center. Mitch , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: JB Thank you for having me.
S3: So during the reparations task force hearings over the weekend , you gave testimony and started off by talking about the importance of speaking with a unified voice when it comes to this process.
S2: So there really is no claim of equivalency , but I think there are some insights that we might be able to gain from the Japanese-American redress movement. And the Japanese-American communities fight for recognition and atonement for what happened during the redress movement for Japanese-Americans. It started off by there being great dissension and differing opinions as to what the Japanese-American community should demand. There was one group that said Let it go. A second group said , no , What was done to us was wrong , and we're demanding a good , authentic apology. And the final group said , know what was done to us was wrong and we are deserving of a good , authentic apology. But there were monetary losses , there were real harms , and those need to be addressed with monetary payments. And the sixties and seventies and the beginning of the 1980s was the time when the Japanese-American community had to struggle with that to finally come to a place where the vast majority of the community agreed on that third perspective. And once we came to that point , it was a lot easier to push the movement forward and to put push the demand forward.
S3: How important was the education of the public and even legislators about the details of Japanese internment camps to the movement.
S2: In the 1970s and the 1980s ? It was critical because the reality is that most of America , mainstream America and non-Japanese American America knew very little about the camps and in particular the American Congress. And another unintended consequence of our commission hearings was that Japanese Americans got to hear this , these stories oftentimes for the first time. So the commission hearings , which took place in the early 1980s , was a way of educating the American public as well as the Japanese American community on a deeper level as to what exactly happened.
S2: I know that there are others in the community who say , you know , we know enough and we know that a harmless gun , let's get straight to the point and start talking about reparations. Right. And I think part of the answer to your question would be , how are we going to obtain reparations ? Are we going to obtain reparations through the courts or are we going to obtain reparations through the Congress ? And certainly , if it's going to be through the Congress , then there's a lot of work that has to be done in changing the minds of our elected officials who are currently there.
S3: And in going that route.
S2: It simply makes me sad as as a former educator myself , as someone who's valued the search for truth in our nation's history. I don't. Banning books is just antithetical to everything that I've grown up and believed in and based my career on.
S3: In your testimony , you also talked about the objective for the Japanese-American Fight for Redress.
S2: In Japanese culture , there's the term checkup agony , which means it can't be helped. And it's a fatalist. Most people think it's a fatalistic term , but really , it's a term that talks about there are some things in life that you can't change , so you learn to adapt or go around it. We have to change that perspective that what happened to us during World War Two was something that was psychotic or not , something that couldn't be helped to , something that we could do something about. We had to change the mindset from viewing the incarceration during World War Two , from being a social misfortune to viewing it as a political injustice.
S2: And that , of course , is not the case for slavery , where there are no slaves that are currently alive. So being able to identify and say those who are affected by executive Order 9066 would be eligible. But here's the the kicker , if you will. You have to be alive. On August 10th , 1988 , when President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act. And there are basically two reasons why this was built into the bill. One is that they thought half the people had died already , so that it would be a big money saver. And you wouldn't you could save about $1,000,000,000 by only paying those that were alive. But there was a more sinister reason , in my view , and that was it prevented setting a precedent , a precedent of paying reparations to individuals who are no longer alive. And , of course , what they had in mind , the forces that demanded that part be put into Bill , were African-American slaves.
S3: That's very interesting.
S2: And I think that's what where I think we can take away some of the lessons from the Japanese-American redress movement is our nation apologized for a wrong that it had committed. And that's the core of the Japanese-American redress story. I think we have to take that same lesson and apply it to the issue of slavery. How does our nation atone for this moral injustice that lasted not four years , but 250 years , along with the discrimination that continued afterwards ? I mean , it is a difference of tremendous magnitude , but it doesn't absolve our nation from being accountable for this moral stain.
S2: We as Americans , each and every one of us , regardless of our skin color , regardless of when our families came to America , we all benefit from the riches that slavery brought to our our nation. We live in the richest country on the face of the earth , and those riches were derived from this moral stain on our our , our nation. And we all , in doing so , have a responsibility to address that. Many African-Americans were allies to Japanese-Americans during the redress movement , and people like Mervyn DeMille and Ron Dellums in the Congress were were just real champions for us. And I don't mean this in a transactional way , but you stand with your friends , people who have been with you in the past. It's our turn now to be with the African-American community.
S3: I've been speaking with Mitch McKay , president and CEO of Go for Broke National Education Center and lead author of the award winning book Achieving the Impossible Dream How Japanese-Americans Obtained Redress. Mitch , thank you very much for your insight in joining us today.
S2: Jay , thank you for the work that you do.