After a positive conclusion to the 2018 JACL Convention: Redress, Resistance, and Reconciliation, the themes of our convention were immediately put to the test. Upon checkout, a convention attendee who had problems with her room during her stay found the words “Jap Conv” written at the top of her room folio. Immediately upon learning of this on Sunday, JACL contacted the Sheraton and initiated discussion and education about the history of the word’s hurtful past as a racial slur. The ensuing investigation revealed that the word was used in ignorance of its historically racist significance. It is still without question that JACL condemns the use of this word in any context.
Anti-Asian racism ran rampant in the late 19th and early 20th century preventing Japanese from immigrating, naturalizing as citizens, and owning land. This racism culminated in the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese American Citizens in concentration camps for no reason other than their Japanese ethnicity. The use of the word “Jap” evokes painful memories for those who were incarcerated and is one of many terms that has been used throughout history to dehumanize people of color in this country.
While this incident occurred without any malicious intent, this a reminder of why our organization is so relevant today and why we must continue to actively educate individuals about Japanese American history. In addition to refunding the convention attendee, the Sheraton is engaging in immediate training of its full staff and committing to hosting a citywide training in conjunction with PHLDiversity, the arm of the convention bureau responsible for outreach to diversity groups such as ours to bring them to Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Chapter JACL will help facilitate this training to include multicultural training, creating awareness and understanding around the differences between a guest who is from Japan and a Japanese American, and most importantly, the significance of racism in the history of Japanese American incarceration and its relevance to the racial slur that was used.
JACL’s newly elected President, Jeffrey Moy, will also be meeting with Marriott’s Vice President of Multi-Cultural Affairs in the coming weeks to further discuss how the Marriott corporation, which includes the Sheraton brand, can ensure its employees worldwide have a better awareness of Japanese American history.