This week, we are happy to report that the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of King County (APIC) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) have issued a joint statement encouraging everyone to avoid using the ethnic slur “Jap” and all its variations.
The statement was borne out of a misunderstanding. In 2009, during the Seattle Jewish Film Festival, the AJC had promotional content on its website that said J.A.P or JAP, were acronyms meant to stand for Jewish American Princess. The AJC was unaware that the term would be so offensive to Japanese Americans.
“Jap” was popularized during World War II, and it became a derogatory term to describe Japanese and Japanese Americans. It was widely used in the United States in anti-Japanese propaganda and newspaper stories.
Though the city is known for its diversity and multiculturalism, many say Seattle is still very cliquish and fragmented along ethnic and racial lines.
In our front page story, “Asian American, Jewish American communities unite to stop use of the ‘J-word,’ ” Bettie Luke from the APIC and Wendy Rosen from the AJC talked about how their organizations overcame the misunderstanding and how they are ready to move forward and fight intolerance — together. Luke and Rosen are trying to push beyond ethnic lines. As Luke said in the story, historically, there has been a partnership between Asian Americans and Jewish Americans, but as of late, the partnership has fallen away.
One very important thing Luke pointed out is that relationships need maintenance. It’s easy for local communities to become comfortable and shrink inward — this is a characteristic of many Asian communities. Though it’s wonderful to have a strong cultural identity, how many times have community members needed help from outside of their ethnic group and found that there’s no one there that will help?
This is because we only reach out to others when we want something from them, which is not the best way to build and maintain relationships. We hope that others will follow the examples of the APIC and the AJC.
Remember that there is great value in having people of diverse viewpoints and backgrounds working together.
Lastly, we want to explain why we chose to write out the word “Jap” in our story instead of using the “J-word.” James Tabafunda, the reporter on the story, was apprehensive about spelling out the word “Jap” because he sincerely didn’t want to offend anyone, and we appreciate him so much for this.
However, our supreme goal, as a newspaper, is to serve all of our readers — as diverse as you all are. We want to do our job as best we can, and so we always strive to give you the most complete and most accurate information we can. We wholly believe that it’s not right for us to shield you from reality, and it’s not right for us to water down ideas or concepts because they are difficult to talk about. ♦