Speaking Up to Genocide: What About the Uyghurs?

All of us at BC Law Impact want to make it clear that the contents of this guest post is addressed to those who deny the very real genocide happening in Xinjiang, and is not meant to group together or target anyone because of their race. We recognize that anti-Asian racism is a very real and terrible thing, and we stand with all Asian members of our community in denouncing hate in all its forms.


By Danny Abrahim 

“There is no genocide.”

If you feel attacked by the words “genocide,” “human rights,” or “the Chinese government is committing an ethnic and cultural genocide against millions of Uyghurs and violating numerous international human rights laws in the process,” this blog post is not for you.

After BC Law’s student organizations MELSA, APALSA, HHRP, ILS, and the Boston College’s Center for Human Rights co-hosted a talk on the mass detention of Uyghurs in China’s predominantly Muslim city Xinjiang, three things became abundantly clear: one, that oppression abroad can reach college campuses within the United States; two, that state-sponsored violence occurring in other countries intersects with different practices of law and U.S. movements; and three, how powerful speaking up and listening can be.

Unfortunately, these lessons were not entirely contained in the speakers’ talks, but were demonstrated in part by the reaction some students had to the event.

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Remembering Fred Korematsu

Korematsu v. United States is easily one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of all time, and one that people are often unaware of until they get to the strict scrutiny aspect of their Constitutional Law class. In fact, I distinctly remember getting to the World War II portion of history in APUSH back in high school, seeing a brief mention of this case, asking about it in class, only to be brushed off because it “wasn’t important.”

Yesterday was January 30th, 2022: Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, a day that is mostly only observed in California. On the anniversary of Korematsu, I’d like to draw attention to the article my APALSA mentor, Rosa Kim, wrote up a year ago–and also to weigh in with my own thoughts on the matter.

Korematsu is, undoubtedly, an ugly portion of US History that is often swept under the rug. Fred Korematsu was only 23 when he was ordered by the US Government to evacuate his residence and move into one of the Japanese internment camps prepared in the wake of Pearl Harbor, designed to herd the Japanese American population into controlled areas to supervise them. Anyone “at least 1/16th Japanese” were evacuated. Korematsu was the age many of us students are today when he changed his name and had plastic surgery done to try to avoid this mandate. As a US citizen, he did not understand why he was being herded off to camps as a prisoner merely for the way he looked. He chose to stay at home rather than relocate and was eventually arrested for his violation of the order. Korematsu then courageously appealed his case until it reached the Supreme Court, maintaining that the evacuation order was a violation of his 5th Amendment right.

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Why We Chose Environmental Law

The following post was written by 1L, Logan Hagerty. Logan is an avid member of the BC Environmental Law Society (ELS) and serves as a 1L Representative. ELS is the umbrella organization for the BC Land & Environmental Law program. We lead research, service, professional training, social events, and more. As President of ELS, it has been a pleasure working with the new students like Logan who share my commitment to environmental law. -Fiona Maguire


I read dozens of faculty bios and course listings when applying to law school. I keyword-searched more variations of “environmental law” than I thought was possible: “Land,” “energy,” “property,” “environmental justice,” and “natural resources,” just to name a few. You guessed it – I came to law school with an interest in environmental law. 

Professor Plater’s bio (and bow tie!) stood out on the BC Law website. I’d struck a gold mine. I explored the BC site some more, finding pictures from the Environmental Law Society (ELS) Barbeque and Winter Weekend events. I was hooked! (I also attended both of these events). Now I view the environmental law program as more than a “gold mine.” The program is an old-growth forest; it offers rich, deep-rooted connections, support, and development. 

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Reminding Ourselves Why We “Do” Law School

Writing an Impact post at the beginning of the semester is never easy. How to recapture the excitement for school after a month’s vacation and a return to campus in the middle of a Boston winter? 1L’s gearing up for round 2, 2L’s grinding away, and 3L’s wondering why we are still on campus. In addition, with the latest Covid surge, another round of “when will this all be over” doesn’t exactly help the cause. 

But in this case the answer of what to write about seemed clear to me: my experiences in the Innocence Clinic working for my client. While I am not able to disclose many of the details about his case, I can say that my client had a clean record both before and after the arson he was wrongfully convicted of, and that our clinic recently filed a motion for new trial looking to overturn his conviction using newly discovered evidence that demonstrates his innocence nearly twenty years later. 

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Where Abortion Is Illegal

The young girl was sick, afraid, and ashamed when she came to the hospital. She had had an unwanted pregnancy. In Uganda, abortion is illegal.[1] Without access to safe, legal reproductive health care, she turned to a traditional healer.[2] The traditional healer helped her end the pregnancy but she developed an infection.[3] Given the legal jeopardy and social stigma of abortion, the girl tried to keep it a secret and delayed seeking care; by the time she came to the hospital, she was septic and needed surgery to survive.

My friend was serving as a visiting physician at the hospital, teaching obstetrics and gynecology to medical students and resident physicians. She quickly performed surgery to control the infection. But that was just the start of the girl’s treatment. Northern Uganda is under-served and remote. Public health resources are lacking and hygiene can be difficult to maintain. Surgery is dangerous, but so is post-operative care. The risk of infection remains high. So, the girl had to spend months in the hospital, where doctors and nurses monitored her and changed her surgical dressings on a daily basis until she healed. She had to go back to the operating room three more times during that period. Through care and great perseverance, the medical team avoided having to perform a hysterectomy to eliminate the infection. When she could finally go home, she left quickly and quietly. My friend said it was likely her youth, the resilience of a teenager’s body, that allowed her to survive.

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Why Are Women Still Left Behind?

In September 1995, 30,000 activists and 17,000 participants streamed into Beijing for the opening of the Fourth World Conference on Women. For the next two weeks, representatives of 189 countries discussed and developed historic commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment around the globe. The final product of the conference was the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It was a blueprint for advancing women’s rights and it set forth thorough commitments under twelve key areas of concern, including women’s health, education, violence against women, and women in the economy. 

Unfortunately, over 25 years later, no nation has achieved gender equality in all dimensions of life, as originally envisioned by the Beijing Declaration. Nearly one third of all women suffer from physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. Without adequate healthcare, nearly 800 women die giving childbirth every day. Over 80 million women globally have no legal protection against discrimination in the workplace. Not a single country is on track to achieve gender equality by the year 2030. But it seems we hear statistics like these all the time. Why, then, does gender equality remain an unattainable target?

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Not Your Model Minority

Dear Readers: As I was writing this blog post, it started to sound more like a poem than an article – so I turned it into one. The above audio contains an introductory note to the piece as well as a voice reading of the poem so that you can listen along as you read.

“Sometimes I wonder if the Asian American experience is what it’s like when you’re thinking about everyone else, but no one is thinking about you.”

-Steven Yeun

Let’s talk about this past week and the hate crimes perpetrated
against Asian Americans the last few days in Oakland
Let’s talk about this past year and our past period in American history 
This neglected narrative
This invisible experience

While the country does its annual round of capitalizing 
off of Lunar New Year this weekend, I think about the Asian Americans who will spend 
what is supposed to be one of the most festive and important holidays in their culture 
cowering instead of celebrating
Let me tell you about the attacks that have been happening
because you won’t find them headlining on national news
A conversation that is long overdue

An 84 year old Thai man was attacked in bright daylight and died from his injuries 
Vicha Ratanapakdee
Say his name
and pronounce all. of. it. 

Numerous robberies and assaults in Oakland’s Chinatown 
A 91 year old man was pushed down
It was like watching my own grandfather get slammed into the pavement
Look up the video on your own if you want to see it
but I refuse to circulate Trauma Porn – my trauma, your porn
Non-POC: You cannot fathom how personally traumatizing it is to watch these videos

Faces slashed, grandmothers set on fire 
The sheer volume of violence is staggering 
I’m having a hard time grappling with this inhumanity against our elderly
Our elders 
Who are revered and respected in our culture in a way unlike the culture of this country
Who rose from the ruins of a broken nation seeking solace 
Searching for a better life in the Land of Opportunity that only knew them by the word 
Foreigner 

In the wake of these assaults there is one word that comes to mind 
A word that has been grinded and conditioned into the Asian American experience:
Invisible 
Anti-Asian sentiment since the beginning of this pandemic 
Targeted hate crimes have surged by almost two thousand percent

Where are you, CNN? 
Where are you, my fellow activists and leaders of social justice?
Deafening silence from the news media and our so-called allies
Feigned outrage only when it’s trendy  
I am traumatized by your apathy

You cannot be anti-racist without acknowledging the Asian American experience. 

Enough with the narrative of the Model Minority
What is the Model Minority Myth? 
I guess I’ll save you the self-education
And tell you about a nation that only respects you when
you keep your head down and talk nice 
Get good grades and that’s the price 
of being tolerated in White America 
But despite staying out of trouble and being quiet 
equality never comes with being compliant 

Because you see, 
the Model Minority Myth was weaponized 
by our government back during the Civil Rights movement 
to say that there is a “correct” way to be a minority  
The audacity of White Supremacy 
To give us a pat on the head for being silent
To take a diverse race of people and reduce them to a monolith 
The audacity of White Supremacy
To use us as their tools to undermine the Black fight for civil rights 
To pit minority groups against each other and further the divide

A nation built on the backs of
Black people and immigrants 
Born with this burden that we were doomed to carry 
as soon as our lungs drew in the first breath
The breath that got heavier and heavier with each year of life 
A life of N*****, Ch*nk, Oriental, “blacks” as a noun with a lower-case B,
Dred Scott, Korematsu, Plessy
Yellow Peril, Chinese Excluded, For Colored Only
A life of imperialism and colonization and cultural appropriation 
A life of “I think you may have confused me with the other [insert indistinguishable face of color] in this room” and 
“I’ve never dated a [insert fetishizable object of color] person before” and 
“But what’s your real name” and
“Can I touch your braids” and
“Your English is good” and 
“You don’t sound Black” and
“Your lunch smells funny” and 
“Go back to your country” 

No amount of the Model Minority Myth embedded in deep interracial conflict
will change the fact that we have always been seen and treated as secondary citizens
If citizens at all

From a young age I didn’t know how to take up space
It’s having to laugh off microaggressions because 
we are made to feel that the racism against us isn’t real – is miniscule, is just a joke 
Gaslit over and over 
We are told to embrace our “good stereotypes”
I mean what exactly is our plight when 
we’re all just so good at math
Right? 
But this Myth invalidates the reality of the Asian American experience
Our internalized racism, our intergenerational traumas
Our women the subject of hyper-sexualization
Our men the epitome of emasculation
It paints us as submissive and void of personality 
Strips us of our individuality 
It erases the millions of low income Asian Americans that exist in poverty
It ignores the historic underfunding of Chinatowns as people huddle
around what little reminders they have of their homeland 
It silences our struggles and shoves them to the sidelines 
This repulsive notion of white proximity 

I’m tired of being told that we are not Oppressed Enough. 
Enough.

We are not your model minority.

I’ve said this a hundred times and I’ll say it again:
The burden should not fall on people of color to be educators 
I’m going to be honest and I hope you will be modest enough to listen
Because writing this piece was so exhausting 
So emotionally draining
I wanted to swallow my words, swallow my pain
To shut off my brain and just mourn in bed
I wished I was privileged enough to write about Snow Day instead
But instead I opened a Google Doc and my curtains and my wounds

This toxic rhetoric of 
“Your oppression isn’t as bad as mine” and 
“Now is not the time”
Sorry but 
I didn’t know that racism had a sign-up sheet 
A hate crime against one community is a hate crime against all of our communities
We all suffer under the puppetting hand of this systemic oppression 
The problem is not us and each other and this underlying tension 
The problem is White Supremacy so pay attention 

If your anti-racism isn’t intersectional, are you really anti-racist?
Don’t ask us to shrink our space when we have already gone 
our whole lives feeling small
I promise that there is enough space to go around this arena of 
Oppression Olympics that was designed to be the modern day Hunger Games
Designed to point fingers and call names but we are all pawns of the same system
So shouldn’t we be asking instead: who designed it? 
And how do we get out?
Unity is not possible with White Supremacy 
But unity against it is necessary to defeat it 
The only way out is together 
Diversify your narratives so we can do and be better 
So that we can uplift all of our communities and stand in solidarity 
This struggle for safety
This struggle for scraps 
of space at each other’s expense 

But now that I’m here, let me make this clear:
Asian Americans cannot find safety in the same institutions 
that terrorize Black Americans
Although we are wounded, the police must still be defunded
Increased policing is not the answer 
Black Lives Matter
So we must make good on our promise from last summer 
To use our privilege and protect the Black community 
So instead of calling for increased policing that will harm Black bodies
Let’s get to the root and provide adequate services and resources 
for all of our communities 
Let’s rid this false notion that there is mutual exclusivity in this fight for equality
The solution lies in addressing this violence that is rooted in White Supremacy
A violence that is not the violence that we see but the violence that is
Unemployment, Homelessness, Wealth Hoarding, Redlining, and Poverty 

So let’s turn this mentality into a new story 
One where Asian Americans can take up space unapologetically
and speak their truths and shed their invisibility 
One where our white and POC allies support us openly 
by condemning anti-Asian violence in their own communities
I challenge you to check your own biases 
and follow through on your commitment to diversity 
See us, show up for us, and take on responsibility 
Hold accountability

Marginalized freedoms have always been and will always be intertwined 
My pain is your pain is our collective pain 
It is our collective grief and our collective loss
And so your fight is my fight and my fight
Should be yours, too


Rosa Kim is a second-year student at BC Law. You can reach her at kimeot@bc.edu.

Featured image: Vicha Ratanapakdee

No, This Is Exactly Our America

Yesterday was nothing short of horrifying, but unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m surprised. This act of domestic terrorism was not unexpected. It was the result of one of the most divisive American presidencies of all time; it was but a likely consequence after months of repeated baseless allegations of election fraud. 

That is why I am sick of the “this is not our America” rhetoric. Because this is exactly our America right now, and we best believe it. The “this isn’t our America” rhetoric lets us think that what happened yesterday was unpredictable. It allows us to neglect that the riots stemmed from a system historically built upon and contemporarily sustained by white supremacy. If we begin to believe what happened yesterday was an anomaly, it lets us shirk away from accepting that the root of the problem is deeper than the current presidency: it is an entire system that is in dire need of reform.

Screenshot of performer, author, and storyteller, Joel Leon’s Tweet/Instagram post.

 

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Introducing Just Law: A Podcast

I am pleased to announce the launch of Boston College Law School’s podcast Just Law

I am 1L Tom Blakely and will be hosting the show alongside 3Ls Lea Silverman and Kevin O’Sullivan, and fellow 1L and Section 3er (the best section) Joanna Plaisir. 

We are very much appreciative of our tremendously talented editor and producer 3L Mark Grayson, and the institutional support from Boston College, specifically Director of Marketing and Communications Nate Kenyon.

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A Night on 10 NW: Why I’m a Volunteer and How It Changed My Outlook on the Law

Note: Identifying information has been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned.

There come few more humbling experiences in life than getting destroyed at a video game by an 8 year old. In my heyday, I knew my way around a PlayStation controller. But times have changed.

I was sitting in a room on 10 NW, the ward of Boston Children’s Hospital reserved for surgery and orthopedic patients. 

It was my first night as a volunteer at the hospital.

There are many reasons one gets involved in community service. For many, school and work requirements, as well as retreats and other social events will often prescribe the rolling up of one’s sleeves and getting out there. Many people also enjoy the intrinsic reward and benefit of making a positive difference in the world around them. 

But my reason was different. 

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