How to support the largest academic labor strike in US history

27 11 2022

As 48,000 academic workers enter the third week of this historic strike, support is urgently needed.

Here are ways to help:

For UC Faculty:

  • The most impactful act you can take is to honor the picket line and sign the UC Faculty Pledge of Solidarity with UC Academic Workers’ Strike. Join distinguished colleagues such as Angela Davis, Cherrie Moraga, Howard Winant, Robin D. G. Kelley, Frank Wilderson, Judith Butler, Karen Barad, and more than 200 others in pledging to withhold faculty labor—including grades—until the strike is over. Only through such solidarity can faculty and strikers collectively bring the gears of the neoliberal edu-factory to a grinding halt, thus providing the crucial structural leverage needed to bring UC to the table to bargain fairly and urgently.
  • Share the Pledge with your UC colleagues:
  • Build undergraduate solidarity by teaching students the structural urgency behind the strike (UAW Teach-In slideshow)
  • Concerned about withholding grades or replacing struck labor? See CUFCA’s FAQs and Additional FAQs re: Grading

For UC undergraduate students: here is a link to a template letter you can customize to ask your professor to cancel class and honor the strike.

For everyone:

More information available at

Detailed Receipts on the Topaz Museum crisis

7 09 2022
TOPAZ by Kimiko Marr

>> Drawing from primary source documents, this easy to read PDF by Kimiko Marr tells the whole story <<

Notable Highlights:

The Six Points

Part 10 – The Six Points (p. 40): On September 7, 2021, the Wakasa Memorial Committee sent its first official letter to the Topaz Museum Board, listing six measures that the Board could take to “remedy the problems that the Museum’s actions have given rise to.”

The Six Points (for collaborative solution)

  1. Recognition of the Wakasa Memorial Committee and its Advisory Council
  2. Apology for Desecration of the Memorial Site
  3. Archaeological Assessment and Release of Video and Photography
  4. Partnership and Consultation with the Wakasa Memorial Committee
  5. Memorial Ceremony at the Topaz site
  6. Mediation between Topaz Museum and Wakasa Memorial Committee

The points are further elaborated in Marr’s TOPAZ pdf.

National Trust Endorsement

National Trust for Historic Preservation

At face value, the six points seem to be reasonable and functional measures to enable a transparent process of shared decision making. This is confirmed when the Topaz Museum Board turns to the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) for outside consultation, starting on p 56.

But first, what is the NTHP?

“Congress chartered the National Trust in 1949 as a private, nonprofit membership organization to facilitate public participation in historic preservation, and to further the purposes of federal historic preservation laws. With the strong support of over one million members and supporters nationwide, the National Trust works to protect significant places representing our diverse cultural experience by taking direct action and inspiring broad public support.”

Mediation, MOA, Collaboration

In his letter to the Topaz Museum Board on September 21, 2021, Rob Nieweg, vice president of preservation services and outreach for NTHP makes the following points (emphasis added).

  • First: “In the National Trust’s experience, consulting with stakeholders and planning with experts would have reduced or avoided harm to the Wakasa Monument and its Memorial Site.”
  • Second: NTHP “asks whether the Museum, as the steward of Topaz, intends to consult with the communities of stakeholders and to plan with outside subject-matter experts […] The National Trust anticipates that experienced experts and interested stakeholders would be willing to help if the Museum were to ask.”
  • “Third, the National Trust for Historic Preservation supports the newly formed Wakasa Memorial Committee’s constructive six-step proposal for a collaborative solution with the Topaz Museum. To that end, the National Trust highly recommends these initial steps by the Topaz Museum:
    • Initiate a mediation process among the Topaz Museum and the Wakasa Memorial Committee, utilizing an independent, professional, and mutually acceptable mediator;
    • Through mediation, establish a binding Memorandum of Agreement between the Topaz Museum and the Wakasa Memorial Committee, particularly to formalize communication, consultation, and shared decision making; and,
    • That the Topaz Museum publicly commit to collaborate with the Wakasa Memorial Committee to jointly plan the best ways to protect, preserve, and interpret the Wakasa Monument, its Memorial Site, and the Topaz National Historic Landmark.”

Rebuild Stakeholder Trust

Nieweg further clarifies “it seems that purposeful change is necessary to rebuild trust with Survivors, Descendants, and the Japanese American community…”

Nieweg concludes:

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation urges the Topaz Museum to commit itself to the Wakasa Memorial Committee’s six-step proposal of a collaborative and transparent pathway forward.”

Rob Nieweg, VP of Preservation Services and Outreach, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 9/15/21

Topaz Museum Board: No Mediation, No MOA, No Collaboration

“Perpetrators disregarded our views, beliefs, and rights because

colonialism instills the colonizer with a notion of absolute entitlement

— a notion that denies the colonized the respect and rights afforded

other humans.” 

James Riding In

In response to the Wakasa Memorial Committee’s request for outside mediation, sent September 7, 2021, the Topaz Museum Board replied on November 3:

“Since the Topaz Museum Board is hopeful that our discussions with the WMC can result in productive outcomes, we believe that any discussion of mediation and of identification of a specific mutually acceptable mediator is premature. In the unlikely event our hopes are misplaced, we would be open at a later time to consider, together with WMC, a facilitated process to expedite a way forward.”

Indeed, the Topaz Museum Board’s hopes were “misplaced”, as evidenced by their own words on April 8, 2022:

“We cannot continue to meet with a committee that professes to work cooperatively on the one hand, and then vilifies the Museum and spews vitriol on the other.”

Despite their own clearly demonstrated need and the urging by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Topaz Museum Board has refused to engage in mediation. No Memorandum of Agreement can be formalized, thus eliminating the possibility of stakeholder collaboration.

Basically, the Topaz Museum Board chooses to avoid any process that would require sharing decision-making power with its primary stakeholder/source community.

It’s the epitome of a colonial power relationship, characterized by:

  • Violence: of taking without consent
  • Extraction: of community resources for consolidation of private power
  • Position: Who speaks, and who is silenced, in the narration of (Japanese American) history

The “End Around”: Community Outreach as PR Sham

Instead of entering into mediation as a good faith step towards rebuilding broken trust, the Topaz Board exercises colonial entitlement by attempting an “end-around” to marginalize the Wakasa Memorial Committee.

By seeking “advice and feedback from the greater Japanese American community” via the PR farce/ethical violation that is the Topaz “Community Outreach” Project, Topaz Museum Board tries, arrogantly and in vain, to summarily dismiss stakeholder concerns via their unilateral and oxymoronic declaration:

“What’s happened in the past is not relevant to how we’re going to move forward.”

Topaz “Community Outreach” Project leader, at “community outreach” meetings held on July 30 in Emeryville and August 13 in San Francisco

Ethically speaking, what does it mean when an archaeologist hired by a white-run museum tells an aggrieved racial group that the recently inflicted colonial violence is not relevant to the “community outreach” project?

History Repeats Itself, unless…

Despite the institutional sloganeering of “Never Again,” Topaz Museum Board is operating with the same one-sided, colonial racial logic that made the camps possible in the first place.

But this is 2022, not 1942, and as more and more light is shined on this racially structured abuse of power (e.g. among state legislators, in mainstream media, professional networks such as American Alliance of Museums and Society for American Archaeology, national funding sources, and so on—i.e. in places where ethical standards matter), things are going to reflect badly on the Topaz Museum Board, if they continue to persist in their supremacist hubris.

A museum, even if privately held, operates as a public trust. There is no “moving forward” without restoring that broken trust, unless that movement is into state or federal receivership.


Petition for Transparency and Shared Stewardship

WMC Town Hall scheduled for September 9 @ 5p PT / 8p E

Wakasa Monument Town Hall on 9/9

1 09 2022

Members of the Wakasa Memorial Committee will be hosting a town hall on Friday, September 9, 2022 at 5pm PST live (in person & remote) from JCCCNC, 1840 Sutter St, San Francisco. Live feed linked below.

They are prepared to answer any community questions about the Wakasa Monument.

If you would like to submit a question to be addressed by the committee, visit

Topaz survivor, Patrick Hayashi, will moderate the event.

The Wakasa Memorial Committee is comprised of Topaz Survivors, Descendants, members of the Japanese American community and allies who came together in response to the sudden and unprofessional excavation of the Wakasa Memorial Monument on July 27, 2021 by the Topaz Museum.

Background Information

The Wakasa Monument: What It Is and Why It Matters, by John Ota

NPS Archaeologist Jeff Burton and Mary Farrell’s article on the Wakasa stone at Discover Nikkei

The Demolished Monument, by Nancy Ukai

Timeline of Events by Wakasa Memorial Committee

News coverage in Nichi Bei Weekly: Unearthing a monumental controversy: Removal of memorial to Topaz shooting victim enrages community

A conversation, hosted by Kimiko Marr, about the Wakasa stone and its excavation (featuring Patrick Hayashi, Claudia Katayanagi, Masako Takahashi):

Petition demanding the Topaz Museum release the video of the excavation and to allow the National Park Service to lead a community excavation of the site

Wakasa Monument Petition and Video

22 08 2022


Video by Emiko Omori (15 min.): on the one-year anniversary of the removal of the monument


The Wakasa Monument: What It Is and Why It Matters, by John Ota

The Demolished Monument, by Nancy Ukai

Timeline of Events by Wakasa Memorial Committee

What is the Wakasa Monument?

It is a half-ton memorial stone thought to have been destroyed, but was rediscovered by National Park Service archaeologists in September 2020 where it had rested for 77 years in the site of the Topaz concentration camp.

The monument was erected by Issei incarcerees in the Topaz landscape crew in memory of James Hatsuaki Wakasa who, at age 63, was murdered by a camp sentry while walking his dog on the evening of April 11, 1943. The 19-year old white sentry who killed Wakasa with a single shot from a distance of over 300 yards, claimed it was a warning shot and was acquitted. (The acquittal is structurally consistent with other gun homicides committed by U.S. Army soldiers in WRA and DOJ camps in violation of the governing Geneva Convention of 1929.)

Camp administration ordered the monument destroyed but the Issei buried it instead.

Topaz descendant Nancy Ukai’s research was instrumental in enabling the discovery by archaeologists. Ukai found a map by George Shimamoto in the National Archives that showed the precise location of the monument. The NPS archaeologists who discovered the monument, Jeff Burton and Mary M. Farrell, published series of articles on their quest and results.

A month after the discovery, a 14-member committee convened to discuss the care and handling of the monument. It included National Park Service representatives, Japanese American community members, archeologists, and the director and two board members from the Topaz Museum.

The Problem

Without consulting the committee, the (historically white) Topaz Museum unilaterally chose to unearth the monument and take it to the museum, in the absence of archaeologists, historians, or Japanese American community members, on July 27, 2021. The removal was performed via forklift “by a contractor hired to clear trash from a separate part of the former concentration camp.”

A subsequent 60-page Condition Assessment Report by the National Park Service notes numerous fractures of the monument which “may have been exacerbated by the stone’s relocation.” It also notes damage to the site caused by mechanical equipment, and that, in the absence of archeologists, Topaz Museum chose to backfill the removal site.

This raises serious ethical concerns about stewardship, accountability to the ‘source’ (primary stakeholder) community, and violation of the public trust that is foundational to museum practice.

The Wakasa Memorial Committee is “comprised of Topaz Survivors, Descendants, members of the Japanese American community and allies who came together in response to the sudden and unprofessional excavation of the Wakasa Memorial Monument on July 27, 2021 by the Topaz Museum.”

According to the Wakasa Memorial Committee, the Topaz Museum Board made a video record of the unearthing, but has refused to allow it to be seen.


The petition urges “the Topaz Museum Board to respect Japanese American history by acknowledging and honoring two demands:

1. Release the video of the excavation of the monument so the truth of the event can be witnessed;

2. Allow the National Park Service to lead a Community Archaeology Project so that the place where one of our ancestors was murdered can receive professional assessment and handling with participation by students, Japanese American survivors and descendants and dedicated volunteers.”

Why is ‘The Asian’ so white? Receipts for Today’s NY Times Article

16 06 2020

This came out in today’s NY Times: Asian Art Museum to Remove Bust of Patron. That’s Just a Start, by Carol Pogash.

The Times’ article takes the Asian Art Museum’s bust of Nazi sympathizer Avery Brundage as a point of departure to explore the museum’s checkered past in light of their director’s recently initiated #BLM PR campaign. The museum was originally founded around white supremacist Brundage’s largely unprovenanced collection.



A Compelling Response


Please see “Hoodless and Institutionalized” by artist Chiraag Bhakta, aka Pardon My Hindi.  Bhakta’s work has been featured on this blog twice previously.

Correction to the Times:  Brundage Tortilla Art (2012)

Brundage Tortilla: Colonial KarmaWe’d like to offer one correction:  In the Times, Director Jay Xu claims to only have become aware of Brundage’s white supremacist history as recently as 2016.  However, longtime subscribers to this blog might recall that back in 2012, we created edible tortilla art featuring a graphic of Brundage as severed Buddha head (left) that was distributed to museum-goers along with the informational flyer below.

Flyers were distributed discreetly to AAMSF visitors throughout a Matcha event in 2012

We also blogged in 2015 about how Brundage’s racist roots can be traced back to his presidency of an Aryan fraternity in his college days. 

Who was Avery Brundage?

Avery Brundage Bar Graph

Receipts for the White Gaze

Since one of us is quoted several times in the article, we’d like to provide a few receipts.

“Historically, at this institution, there’s been a white gaze defining what ‘Asia’ means,” said Scott Tsuchitani, an Asian-American artist.

Mr. Tsuchitani, the artist, objected to the racial impact of the culture of the museum. He said that over many years, the museum has exhibited “a pattern of repeatedly exoticizing, hypersexualizing, playing dress up with Asian cultures.”

Receipts linked below:  (just a sampling)

Why is ‘The Asian’ So White:  a problem of positionality

If the Asian Art Museum

  • was founded by white people around the mostly unprovenanced collection of a white supremacist, and
  • white people have remained in key positions of power on both board and management throughout its history, and
  • in 2020, white staff outnumber Asians by roughly 2:1, Latinx by 4:1, and Blacks by 7:1,

then what steps can we expect the museum to take as it scrambles to declare support for Black Lives Matter and professes to reckon with a history so fraught with whiteness?

We as an institution have not done enough. We must take action and become the change we wish to see in the world.

While the museum has begun to denounce Brundage’s racism, it has not accounted for its own cultural capitalization of the racist’s ill-gotten collection.  If the collection at the heart of “The Asian” is a product of U.S. imperial violence in Asia, then what is the nature of the museum’s positional relationship to Asia and local Asian American communities?

If a white institution is knowingly in possession of goods stolen from Asia, then what is the obvious action that must be taken to “become the change we wish to see in the world”? Relocating the imperialist’s bust or removing his name from museum initiatives offers nothing in the way of either restitution or meaningful corrective action at a structural level.

Welcome to “The Caucasian”

The same racial logic that would capitalize on a racist’s collection of stolen goods  underwrites, for example, the transformation of the relatively innocuous “Arts of Japan: The John C. Weber Collection” into a hypersexualized “Seduction” opening, complete with performers (and staff?) in yellowface.  Over time, practices such as these have repeatedly served to center whiteness by racializing Asians as foreign Others, in effect functioning as a Caucasian Art Museum that extracts racial capital from Asian cultures and bodies.

This pattern of symbolic violence implicitly shares an underlying racial logic in common with that of the late Nazi sympathizer himself.  It will take more than public forums and incremental hires to fundamentally change an operational common sense that continues, even now, to defend its history of whiteness in the face of criticism from Asian American voices.

Talk is cheap and implicit bias trainings are limited, so here’s a proposition.  What can we learn from the dramatic transformation unfolding all around us? Rather than framing this through a lens of liberal reform, how might we apply the radical logics of abolition and decolonization to remake this institution in a way that centers the needs, voices, and perspectives of the very communities whose cultures are on display?

In closing, we return to Bhakta’s “Hoodless and Institutionalized“:

If the museum wants change, the change needs to be radical, and the structure can’t remain. To start, the current leadership needs to step down. White people in high positions in the education, curatorial, PR, and other departments need to step down. White people on the board should step down…

Must Read: “The Whitewashing of #WhitePeople Doing Yoga”

19 10 2019

On the eve of the opening of his “Why You So Negative?” solo exhibition at Human Resources LA, artist Chiraag Bhakta offers an op-ed on the whiteness of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco’s appropriation of his artwork about the whiteness of the appropriation of yoga titled #WhitePeopleDoingYoga.

Chiraag Bhakta, “The Whitewashing of #WhitePeopleDoingYoga,” Mother Jones, October 17, 2019.

Supporting Essays
Occupying Negative Space by Anuradha Vikram
Keeping it “Real” by Vivek Boray
Our Complicity With Excess by Vijay Iyer

#WhitePeopleDoingYoga 01

The installation as it appeared at the Asian Art Museum in 2014.  Photos by the author.

Watch whiteness work:  some choice pull quotes from the op-ed:

During our initial meetings at the museum, they told me to “turn down the volume” of my critique. They also insisted I remove a section of the installation—a Hindu-inspired shrine featuring photographs of a white couple as South Asian gurus. “This might be offensive to Indian people,” staffers said—white authorities telling me what Indian people might find offensive.

From the museum’s response:

According to a museum spokesperson, Bhakta was told that the phrase “white people” could be “offensive or puzzling” to some. As examples, the spokesperson pointed to “Anglo practitioners of yoga unfamiliar with the concepts of cultural appropriation/appreciation . . .”

Mindblowing how it’s completely acceptable from the museum’s (Anglo) point of view for Anglo practitioners of yoga to appropriate yoga without an awareness of the politics of cultural appropriation—and to invite such white practitioners of appropriation to perform it inside the museum as part of the museum’s public programs—and yet inappropriate for an Indian American artist to raise the issue of appropriation while at the same time wanting to appropriate his work about it.

#WhitePeopleDoingYoga 03

Detail of #WhitePeopleDoingYoga installation at Asian Art Museum in 2014

Bhakta puts it in context:

Let’s break this shit down: Here were white elites exerting power over Brown critique that was explicitly about white elites exerting power over Brown culture. […] People across the operation, from the marketing department to the education team to the curatorial staff, continued to sterilize my perspective, tiptoeing around me to make themselves feel more comfortable and spare the museum further controversy. Brown critique had to be sanitized for white consumption.

And the mystery:  who is “this unseen figure in the forest“?

Throughout my meetings with curators and educators, there was one person whose name they kept mentioning as an authority calling the shots—the chief curator, also white, an unseen figure in the forest who seemed to be deliberately keeping a distance.

It’s almost as if this shot-calling “collector of South Asia” is completely unaware of his own coloniality of being, almost as if this issue isn’t part of “our daily conversation, among staffers and just inside our own brains … issues of Orientalism, of context, of how much information to provide and what kind, of what kinds of intentional and unintentional interpretive views we might be putting on things,” as he was quoted by the Chronicle’s Kenneth Baker in response to our own intervention a full decade ago.

#WPDY Totebag

Now a collector’s item!

One can’t help but admire Bhakta’s fortitude in engaging not only with curatorial coloniality but also the white fragility of our favorite museum marketing chief, who argued that the words “white people” on the merch—already purchased by the museum store from Bhakta—were “offensive” and “out of context”—unlike the isolated word “Asian” emblazoned on the museum’s very own tote bag.

Oh, the cognitive dissonance of white epistemicide!  The “Asian” never stops to consider what Asian Americans find offensive (because, y’know, the subaltern still cannot speak), and when we ever so artfully try to tell them, well . . .  (I’m already warning students to brace themselves for Hallowe’en) . . .


White people watching #WhitePeopleDoingChanting at a 2014 gala celebrating the Asian Art Museum’s “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibition.

Bhakta concludes:

That was it: My experience with the Asian Art Museum was an exercise in watching white people work out their identity on the back of mine. The platform they seemed to give me, it turned out, wasn’t actually for me—it was for them, a way to fashion my Brownness into something they could wear. White supremacy works that way, for all “minorities”; it censors any critique contained in nonwhite expression and commodifies and tokenizes whatever’s left, forcing people like me into the posture of the model minority.

But I’m the negative one, right?

Chiraag Bhakta

Learn more about Chiraag Bhakta’s work on His solo show, “Why You So Negative?,” opened 10/18 and runs through October 27 at Human Resources in Los Angeles, at 410 Cottage Home Street,

Chadwick Boseman to play Yasuke, the first African samurai

7 05 2019

The first black man to set foot on Japanese soil, Yasuke’s arrival aroused the interest of Nobunaga, a ruthless warlord seeking to unite the fractured country under his banner. A complex relationship developed between the two men as Yasuke earned Nobunaga’s friendship, respect — and ultimately, the honor, swords and title of samurai.

Full story at

White at the Museum

26 04 2019

Samurai sword attack in SF’s Tenderloin . . .

7 12 2018

. . . injures three people (via sfgate). . .

+ miscellaneous tweets . . .

“Ancient Art” on display in the ‘burbs

4 10 2018

Exhibiting some “ancient art” (paintings from the mid-2000s) in a gallery in the central park of the East Bay suburb of San Ramon.  Under a half-dome, facing a window on the park . . .

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