THE REV. DAVID KAGIWADA, A JAPANESE-AMERICAN MINISTER, WAS ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN PACIFIC/ASIAN DISCIPLES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST). HE SERVED CONGREGATIONS IN CALIFORNIA AND INDIANA. THE REV. KAGIWADA WAS KNOWN AS A STRONG ADVOCATE FOR RACIAL JUSTICE, RECONCILIATION AND CHRISTIAN UNITY, FUNDAMENTAL VALUES THAT UNDERGIRD NAPAD’S MINISTRY TO THIS DAY.
Kagiwada Sunday, Moderator’s Message
In Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday, August
11, 2017, before they clashed with counterdemonstrators, white supremacists marched on the grounds of the University of Virginia, shouting, “Blood and Soil!” “Jews will not replace us!” “You will not replace us!” In doing so, they expressed their hatred and their fear of losing privileges associated with being white. The marchers didn’t care that the white privilege they enjoyed came at cost: the disprivilege suffered by Jews and non-whites.
Disprivilege suffered by Jews and non-whites such as Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics are well known. Not as well known, perhaps, is that suffered by Asian Americans.
Most Americans, for example, do not know
that the Naturalization Act of 1790 disprivileged Asians by excluding them from becoming naturalized
citizens. Initially, this Act granted the right of naturalization to whites only; after the Civil War, however, the right was also extended to people of African descent and Native Americans—but not to Asians. Then the Immigration Act of 1924 disprivileged Asians outright by barring them from immigrating to the U.S., on the grounds that immigration would be allowed only to those who could become naturalized in America. In 1943, during World War II, when China was fighting as an American ally, Congress made an exception to the law, for 105 Chinese each year. Later in the 1940s, similar exceptions were made for Indians and Filipinos.
Then the Immigration Act of 1952 finally annulled race as a factor in determining the eligibility of naturalization and immigration. Even so, because of a quota system based on national origins, the number of Asians that could immigrate was extremely limited. It was only with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which repealed the national origins system, that the disprivileges inflicted on Asians, with respect to immigration, began to be dismantled.
1965 was only 52 years ago—not a long time ago in the larger scheme of things—and I didn’t even mention Yellow Peril or the Chinese Exclusion Acts or the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Who perpetrated these unjust deeds, to privilege whom, to displace whom?
The national laws targeting Asians inevitably
disprivileged Asians in churches, as well, including those in the Disciples, causing, for example, the Chinese Christian Church in Portland, Oregon, to close its doors in 1924. It was in the late 1970s that American Asian Disciples (the antecedent of NAPAD) came into being, certainly not to replace white Disciples, but to ensure that Pacific-Islander/Asian Disciples would no longer be subjected to disprivileges, to ensure that they would enjoy and partake in the same kind of rights and responsibilities as all other Disciples. It was to secure those rights and responsibilities that our founding leaders strived so tirelessly: Harold Johnson (1921– 2014), David Kagiwada (1929–1985), and Soongook Choi (1933–2002).
Moderator of North American Pacific/ Asian Disciples