YWCA’s Japantown Land Grab

Race, Land , Civil Rights

By Melia Franklin May 15, 1999

YWCA’s Japantown Land Grab
A February 19 candlelight vigil commemorating the internment of the Japanese during WWII in San Francisco’s Japantown turned into a noisy rally in protest of the YWCA. In a decidedly un-Christian move, the YWCA has been trying for the past three years to sell off the historic Japantown YWCA, which it has held in trust for a group of first-generation Japanese women since 1921.

The YWCA is, in effect, trying to steal a building worth over $1.5 million from San Francisco’s Japanese community. Because of California’s Anti-Alien Initiative of 1921 (the Alien Land Law), which banned Japanese immigrants from owning or leasing land, the women from Japantown churches who raised the money for the site asked the YWCA to hold the land on their behalf until they could legally take title.

However, the YWCA put the building on the market in 1996, then withdrew the listing amid a storm of community protest. It has also threatened to close the site’s programs for preschoolers and adolescent girls.

The Alien Land Law was declared unconstitutional in 1952, but the YWCA seems dead-set on applying its racist principles today. A group of Japantown churches have filed suit against the YWCA to try to get it to release the deed to its rightful owners. The YWCA has responded with a flurry of technical reasons why the churches don’t have a claim. For an organization whose motto is “working to empower women and eliminate racism,” the YWCA is doing neither.

Civil Rights for the Right
Tired of the American Civil Liberties Union’s “leftward tilt”? How about the American Civil Rights Union? But before you sign up, you should know that the new ACRU opposes gun control, environmentally sound policies—and not surprisingly—racial equality. Equality under the law, it says, is a principle that “has been broadly undermined in American life today through racial quotas and preferences and other race conscious policies.” Its policy board includes former Reagan cabinet members Robert B. Carleson and Edwin Meese III, arch-conservative Judge Robert Bork, and conservatives-of-color James Q. Wilson, Linda Chavez, and Joseph Perkins.

Denny’s Gives Racism the ‘Grand Slam’
“Noticing a person’s color doesn’t make you a racist,” intones a young black announcer in one of a series of “anti-bias” advertisements paid for by Denny’s restaurant chain. “Acting like it matters does.” Of course, that’s been Denny’s big problem. If you’re a person of color and come in for a “Grand Slam” breakfast special, you’re likely to be given the bum’s rush.

Denny’s has had many such incidents over the past several years, including a highly publicized case in which Denny’s managers harassed and refused service to a group of African Americans who just happened to be secret service agents. Denny’s paid $45.7 million five years ago to settle a discrimination suit brought by black customers, and has been the site of numerous racist incidents since then. The ads, which cost Denny’s $2 million, are aimed at changing the attitudes of Denny’s 50,000 employees. Says David Magulies, a Dallas-based consultant to the chain: “It’s to say to this huge, diverse work force that things have changed and if you haven’t changed, you don’t need to be here.”

By the Numbers

  • According to a recent government study, Native Americans are victims of violent crime at a rate that is twice the national average. And, contrary to all other groups, 70 percent of those committing violent crimes against Indians are of a different race. Whites commit 60 percent of these crimes.
  • About 1.4 million African American men—13 percent of the black adult male population in the U.S.—can’t vote because they have been convicted of a crime, according to a study by Human Rights Watch. While most states allow ex-cons to vote after they have completed their parole or probation, 14 states prohibit ex-offenders from voting even after they have completed their sentences. In Florida, 1 in 3 black men are locked out of the voting booth because of past felony convictions.
  • In the two years since Congress passed the Illegal Immigration and Reform Responsibility Act, which granted the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) broad new powers, 300,000 immigrants have been deported. That’s more than double the number of people deported in the two years prior to the new law. The INS is now the largest federal law enforcement agency, with more than 15,000 gun-toting officers authorized to make arrests. It’s bigger than the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, or the Drug Enforcement Administration. As INS spokesman Russell Bergeron Jr. puts it: “We apprehend and take into custody more people than any other agency in the world.”