Position Statement of Houston Chapter of JACL
March 29, 2004
The approach taken by the Houston Chapter of JACL to renaming of Jap Road in Jefferson County and Jap Lane in Orange County was to develop an appreciation by the local population for the history of the Japanese American pioneers that settled their neighborhood. We would then seek local organizations to be an advocate for changing the road names to honor the Japanese American pioneers. This included the Orange County Historical Society. The administrative complaint with the Department of Transportation filed by Sandra Nakata Tanamachi and Thomas Kuwahara in December 2, 2003 against Jefferson County has started a chain of events that will either result in the name being changed, or if it fails, will make it much more difficult to change the name in the future.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Japanese American Citizens League, League of United Latin American Citizens, District 8, the Urban League, the Organization of Chinese Americans, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, the Asian Pacific American Heritage Association, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, while not joining with the Japanese Americans in the discrimination complaint, strongly support efforts to rename "Jap Road."
T he name change issue in Jefferson County will be discussed with the local residents and possibly be brought to a vote in April. Neither the county commissioner, Domingue, nor the local residents wish to rename the road after the name of the pioneer, Mayumi. If anything, they favor renaming it Japanese Road or Japanese Farm Road. In Orange County, the Orange County Commissioners Court decided not to change Jap Lane to Kishi Lane, even though it was recommended by the Orange County Historical Society. Therefore, the Executive Board of the Houston Chapter of JACL recommends that the National JACL take all possible actions to insure that the name change does take place in Jefferson County. To this end, we recommend that National JACL embark on a campaign to encourage individuals and organizations to write to the commissioners of the Jefferson County Commissioners Court and the Beaumont Enterprise informing them that the word "Jap" is not an honor but is a racial slur and it offends in the same way as slurs such as "nigger," "kike," "fag," "chink," or "wop." These terms are demeaning and they cripple the spirit by causing a person or an entire racial or ethnic group to feel vulnerable and isolated. Bigots and racists used the term, "Jap" to exploit the fictitious "Yellow Peril." During World War II, "Jap" meant the enemy. Several editorials in the Beaumont Enterprise written by Dee Dixon in December and January were in favor of a name change. There has been no mention of the Roads in February or March. The local people may have the impression that this is an issue that is quickly forgotten and will go away. Since attempts to work with the local historical society failed in Orange County, we should focus our efforts on Jefferson County. A success there will be helpful in making a change in Orange County in the future.
Contact information for the Jefferson County Commissioners Court can be found at http://www.co.jefferson.tx.us/comm_crt/commlink.htm
The history of the efforts the change the road name can be found from the link to Texas Roads at http://www.jacl-houston.org/
Thomas Kuwahara is maintaining a website of the current status of the road at: http://www.geocities.com/thomas_kuwahara/
Dee Dixon of the Beaumont Enterprise: email@example.com