american japanese internment

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February 19th 1942: Japanese internment begins

On this day in 1942, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 which allowed the military to relocate Japanese-Americans to internment camps. A climate of paranoia descended on the US following the attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan, which prompted the US to join the Second World War. Americans of Japanese ancestry became targets for persecution, as there were fears that they would collude with Japan and pose a national security threat. This came to a head with FDR’s executive order, which led to 120,000 Japanese-Americans being rounded up and held in camps. The constitutionality of the controversial measure was upheld by the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States (1944). Interned Americans suffered great material and personal hardship, with most people losing their property and some losing their lives to illness or the violence of camp sentries. The victims of internment and their families eventually received an official government apology in 1988 and reparations began in the 1990s. This dark episode of American history is often forgotten in the narrative of US involvement in the Second World War, but Japanese internment poses a stark reminder of the dangers of paranoia and scapegoating.

The USA is not a Moral Authority

I’m sick of this nonsense about the U.S. being a moral authority. At no point in its history has the U.S. been a beacon of morality:

  • Not when committing genocide against the Native Americans.
  • Not when passing out smallpox blankets and liquor to Native Americans.
  • Not when forcibly performing experiments on Black slaves.
  • Not during the Tuskegee Experiment.
  • Not when stealing Puerto Rico.
  • Not when performing forced sterilizations on unknowing women of color.
  • Not when stealing Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and California from Mexico.
  • Not when enslaving, selling, raping, murdering, and torturing Africans.
  • Not when it had Jim Crow.
  • Not during the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Not when it was dropping bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
  • Not when it had Japanese internment camps (WWII), into which they forced American citizens.
  • Not when it engaged in an illegal war with Vietnam and committed MANY horrific war crimes (My Lai Massacre; Agent Orange).
  • Not when it assassinated–or helped bring about the assassinations of–Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, MLK, Fred Hampton, and many more.
  • Not when it put drugs and guns into Black communities.
  • Not when it instituted racist drug laws.
  • Not when creating racist organizations to sabotage Civil Rights movements (COINTELPRO).
  • Not during the terrorist acts against “Black Wallstreet” in 1921 (Tulsa race riot).
  • Not when lynchings of Black people were sources of entertainment for racist monsters.
  • Not when it invaded the wrong country (Iraq) under false pretenses.
  • Not when it has the highest prison population in the world.
  • Not when has a culture that promotes rape.
  • Not when people can be murdered on camera and the murderer go free (Eric Garner murdered with illegal chokehold).
  • Not when Native American populations have been decimated, and many of the ones left continue to suffer on reservations.
  • Not when using drones to kill innocent Pakistani, Yemeni, and even American civilians.
  • Not when torturing people with water-boarding, rectal feeding/rehydration, and force-feeding people through tubes shoved down their nasal passages.
  • Not while continuing to keep Guantanamo Bay open, holding more than 130 people prisoner.

The U.S. has long lauded itself as THE moral authority, but it is a nation founded on hypocrisy and irony, genocide and slavery, rape and torture, theft and corruption. The United States of AmeriKKKa is one of the most immoral and unjust nations in the world… Possibly the worst, on the basis of its hypocrisy. 

That was in 1942. Earlier that year, on February 19, 75 years ago this Sunday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order, No. 9066, which set the internment into motion. On its face, the order was “neutral,” authorizing the military to designate whole swaths of land as military zones, and evacuate any persons from it as they saw fit.

But behind that facade lay a much darker purpose: to tear 120,000 innocent Japanese-Americans from their homes along the West Coast and relocate them to 10 prison camps scattered throughout the United States.

It didn’t matter, back then, that most of us were US citizens and had never even been to Japan. We were presumed guilty, and held without charge for four years, simply because we happened to look like the people who had bombed Pearl Harbor. For that crime, we lost our homes, our livelihoods and our freedoms.

Every year, on February 19, we Japanese-Americans honor this day as Remembrance Day, and we renew our pledge to make sure what happened to us never happens again in America. I am always amazed, and saddened, that despite our decades long efforts, so many young people today are not even aware that such a tragedy and miscarriage of justice took place here.

[…]

We are an interdependent people, sharing a common bond of humanity. The most pernicious aspect of Trump’s policies is thus the denial of those basic bonds and that humanity. I will not stand for it, and no people of good conscience should.

The internment is not a ‘precedent,’ it is a stark and painful lesson. We will only learn from the past if we know, understand and remember it. For if we fail, we most assuredly are doomed to repeat it.

High School Dance,Tule Lake Relocation Center, 1940s

Life has its sweet moments – even in an internment camp. Tule Lake was in operation from 1942 to 1946. It was the only high security camp and was under martial law and occupied by the Army. Those who protested the incarceration were labeled “disloyals” and sent here.

This is part of the State Library’s collection of California history. 

White History Month

A Caucasian co-worker and I(Yup! The same one from the last post. Go figure.) were discussing why there should or shouldn’t be a “White History Month”. Nevermind the fact that EVERY MONTH is White History month. But I decided to humor him and play along…

“There should be White History Month” so we can expose all the evil things white folks have done in history and present that still affect the victims and their descendants till this very day like:

1 Cherokee Trail of Tears
2 Japanese American internment
3 Philippine-American War
4 Jim Crow
5 The genocide of Native Americans
6 Transatlantic slave trade, and the lies that Africans sold other Africans into slavery
7 The Middle Passage
8 The history of White American racism
9 Black Codes
10 Slave patrols
11 Ku Klux Klan
12 The War on Drugs
13 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
14 How white racism grew out of slavery and genocide
15 How whites still benefit from slavery and genocide
16 White anti-racism
17 The Southern strategy
18 The rape of enslaved women
19 Madison Grant
20 The Indian Wars
21 Human zoos
22 How the Jews became white
23 White flight
24 Redlining
25 Proposition 14
26 Homestead Act
27 Tulsa Riots
28 Rosewood massacre
29 Tuskegee Experiment
30 Lynching
31 Hollywood stereotypes
32 Indian Appropriations Acts
33 Immigration Act of 1924
34 Sundown towns
35 Chinese Exclusion Act
36 Emmett Till
37 Vincent Chin
38 Islamophobia
39 Indian boarding schools
40 King Philip’s War
41 Bacon’s Rebellion
42 American slavery compared to Arab, Roman and Latin American slavery
43 History of the gun
44 History of the police
45 History of prisons
46 History of white suburbia
47 Lincoln’s racism and anti-racism
48 George Wallace Governor of Alabama
49 Cointelpro
50 Real estate steering
51 School tracking
52 Mass incarceration of black men
53 Boston school busing riots
54 Man made Ebola and A.I.D.S.
55 Church Bombings and fires in deep south to Blacks
56 Church Shootings
57 How the Irish and Italians became white
58 The Perpetuation of the idea of the “model minority”
59 Housing discrimination
60 Systematic placement of highways and building projects to create ghettos
61. Medical experimentation on poor poc especially Blacks including surgical and gynecological experimentation
62 History of Planned Parenthood
63 Forced Sterilization
64 Cutting children out of pregnant Black mothers as part of lynchings
65 Eurocentric beauty standard falsification
66 Erasure and eradication of all achievements of Ancient Africa and Kemet
67 White washing of history and cultural practices of poc’s
68 Media manipulation and bias
69 Perpetuation of the myth of reverse racism
70 The history of white cannibalism
71 White fragility
72 White on white crime and white on everybody else crime
73 Irish slavery, Jewish slavery, African slavery, Native American slavery
74 White police officers murdering unarmed men, women, and children and not being convicted for it
75 Population control warfares worldwide
76 Chemtrails
77 Oil spills and chemical dumping in oceans worldwide
78 Water fracking
79 Gmo foods worldwide
80 Monsanto
81 World Wars 1 and 2
82 Wars on indigenous peoples throughout the world
83 Stolen inventions and blueprints from African people and other indigenous people worldwide
84 Steal concepts from cultures worldwide and then corrupt it
85 Mass murders and massacres worldwide
86 Eugenics and the history of sterilization of poc and history of fetal abortions worldwide
87. Flint Michigan water poisoning crisis

and too much more….

Yet you all have convinced the world and your delusional selves that melanated human beings “black” people are perceived as dangerous, unruly, racist, uncivilized, thugs, gangsters etc… Yeah ok not according to historical and present day facts.

Needless to say… We don’t have these types of discussions anymore. 😎😉😂

Today is the birthday of Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American who challenged the racist executive order that sent Japanese Americans to internment camps. Even though he fought all the way to the Supreme Court, he lost. His conviction was overturned decades later, and January 30th is recognized in Virginia and California as Fred Korematsu Day.

Tule Lake Relocation Center, ca. 1942, watercolor by Mary Oshiro.

 Mary Oshiro was interned at the Tule Lake camp, beginning in 1942.  She worked as an artist and stencil cutter for the camp newspaper, the Tulean Dispatch. The camp housed between 14,000 and 15,000 Japanese Americans. Two-thirds of the internees were born in the U.S.

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 that authorized the relocation and internment of people of Japanese ancestry residing on the West Coast.

Oshiro’s artwork, photos, and correspondence are part of the State Library’s collection.

Bird pins (brooches) made out of scrap materials by Japanese Americans held in internment camps during World War II.

From The Art of Gaman: Arts & Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946 by Delphine Hirasuna (Ten Speed Press, 2005).

Gaman is a Japanese term of Zen Buddhist origin which means “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity”.

There were lies you were told about WWII, Hitler being evil wasn't one of them

I remember a while back there was this immensely popular post with a gif of Hitler flattering his wife, that had tons and tons of notes from all these people gushing about how they had no idea Hitler was human too. When I criticized it, this older blogger claimed all these tumblr teens were taught in school to “dehumanize” Hitler, and now they were learning more than the simplistic narrative they were taught in school. It was, according to them, mind-broadening and important. The dehumanization of Hitler they claimed is a huge problem, and a bigger problem was young people thinking too simplistically about this complex person.

But this is the thing:

It’s true you are taught a simplistic and misleading narrative about World War II and the Nazis in school. But the problem isn’t that you’re taught to think badly of Hitler and Nazis, who committed mass murder, torture, enslavement, and other human rights abuses. The problem is you are taught that the US was the good guy and the Nazis were the antithesis to everything the US represented and now represents. You’re taught that the US came in and saved everyone in the name of freedom and democracy and crushed those Nazi fascists! And everyone lived happily ever after.

When in reality, the US invented eugenics which inspired the Nazis’ Aryan racial ideals in the first place. The Nazis modeled their treatment of Jews, Romani and other minorities after how the US treated Black people. Not only that, but the US refused the entry of many European Jews fleeing the Holocaust into this country. The US refused to help the Jews and other minorities targeted by Nazis. The US ignored pleas begging them to destroy gas chambers when they were so close within striking distance in Europe that they hit one accidentally.

What happened was after Pearl Harbor put the US at risk, they got involved and then they made up a story about why they were the good guys and why the Germans were the bad guys, about how they were now all about saving the world and the poor Jews. And the truth about antisemitism in the US (there were literal signs saying NO JEWS and shit, which you never learn about in school), about eugenics in the US, about the US’s deadly passivity for much of WWII, is actively erased, glossed over or explained away. And meanwhile, irony of ironies, the US sent thousands of Japanese Americans to internment camps–which of course were not the same as Nazi Germany’s extermination and concentration camps, but weren’t exactly the kind of thing someone who was ideologically opposed to Nazis would do. (You’re taught about the internment of Japanese Americans in school, but you aren’t encouraged to think about it as compromising the US’s alleged position as ideologically opposing Nazi Germany).

The US has used WWII to its advantage to create a particular narrative. It’s arguably a big reason antisemitism in the US changed and Jews started to achieve much greater access to whiteness. Associating Jews with whiteness dissociates Nazis from American racism and eugenics, despite how much mental gymnastics you have to do to ignore the fact white supremacy was at the core of Nazi ideology (people continually allege Jews were white in Nazi Germany despite the fact Nazis killed them, literally, to purify the white race). It takes the conversation away from the end result of white supremacy: genocide and brutality. Think about how important that would have been in the 1930s and 40s when the US was even more overtly racist than it is now. How would the US look: a nation where PoC, and Black people especially, were constantly exposed to violence and oppression? When what allowed the concentration camps in Nazi Germany to exist was a change to their constitution that allowed the deprivation of human rights in particular spaces, and all Roosevelt had to do was write an executive order depriving Japanese Americans of rights just as easily. Criticisms of white supremacy and human rights violations in Nazi Germany open up the same criticisms toward the US. I’m not the first to have that idea. Harper Lee tackles it in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Tumblr SJ who complain the Holocaust gets “too much attention” compared to other social injustices also seem to miss this point–they suggest it’s ~Jewish privilege~ or white privilege that explains why everyone cares more about the Holocaust, ignoring the fact that the mainstream narrative in the US about the Holocaust and WWII also often erases the long history of antisemitism in Europe and the history of it in the US. The narrative suggests Nazis arbitrarily decided on Jews as a scapegoat and ignores the racialization of Jews in Europe. There’s also an implication that with the end of the Holocaust came the end of antisemitism. Many aspects of the mainstream narrative around the Holocaust is hurtful to Jews. Ignoring the role of white supremacy in the Holocaust does no marginalized people any favors: as well as making it too easy to let the US off the hook for creating eugenics in the first place, it also erases Romani, who were targeted in the genocide, and are still definitely not racialized as white to this day.

The US is a racist empire (and I say empire because we currently live on colonized land and also exert worldwide control) and while I don’t like comparing Nazi Germany to anything, we’re not the opposite of Nazi Germany by any means–we certainly were not in the 1940s when we fought them. I don’t think the US is the same or even similar to Nazi Germany (as I said, I don’t like making lazy comparisons like that), but I think both the US and Nazi Germany have two terrible things in common: white supremacy and a government that has the power to deprive citizens of their basic rights at a moment’s notice.

That’s the story you’re not taught in school. That’s the mind blowing epiphany that actually matters.

Hitler being human is a fact of course. But he was a horrible, horrible human being, probably one of the worst in history. And making excuses for him being primarily responsible for wiping out one third of population of a people (Jews; edit: see here), 90% of the population of another (Romani), as well as countless other atrocities doesn’t make you interesting, edgy or counter-culture. It makes you downright despicable.

Sadly, it seems tumblr’s teens find the idea of Hitler flirting with his wife more interesting and mind-blowing than the idea that everything they were taught about the US’s role in WWII is slanted to mislead them.

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In 1942, shortly after the U.S. entered World War II, President Roosevelt issued Executive order 9066, which declared areas of the country military zones. This led to the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps. The U.S. War Relocation Authority hired photographer Dorothea Lange to document the relocation process in the Pacific Coast area.

Lange’s earlier work documenting displaced farm families and migrant workers during the Great Depression did not prepare her for the disturbing racial and civil rights issues raised by the Japanese internment. Lange quickly found herself at odds with her employer and her subjects’ persecutors, the United States government.

To capture the spirit of the camps, Lange created images that frequently juxtapose signs of human courage and dignity with physical evidence of the indignities of incarceration. Not surprisingly, many of Lange’s photographs were censored by the federal government, itself conflicted by the existence of the camps.

Over 100,000 Japanese American men, women, and children were relocated and detained at these camps. ( )… This internment is now recognized as a violation of their human and civil rights. In 1980, the US government officially apologized and reparations were paid to survivors.

The true impact of Lange’s work was not felt until 1972, when the Whitney Museum incorporated twenty-seven of her photographs into Executive Order 9066, an exhibit about the Japanese internment.

ASX Magazine

it’s international women’s day, and i’m not that big on hashtags (despite sporadic participation), but i’m all about opportunities to share asian-american and [east] asian books-in-translation (i admit/acknowledge that my geographic focus is narrow).  here are ten books by international women i love.

  1. banana yoshimoto, lizard (washington square press, 1995)
  2. marilynne robinson, lila (FSG, 2014)
  3. krys lee, drifting house (viking, 2012)
  4. ruth ozeki, a tale for the time being (penguin, 2013)
  5. mary shelly, frankenstein (penguin clothbound classics, 2013)
  6. han kang, human acts (portobello books, 2016)
  7. helen macdonald, h is for hawk (grove press, 2015)
  8. charlotte brontë, jane eyre (penguin clothbound classics, 2009)
  9. jang eun-jin, no one writes back (dalkey archive press, 2013)
  10. shin kyung-sook, i’ll be right there (other press, 2014)

also, one of my favorite book quotes comes from yoshimoto’s “helix,” a story which can be found in her collection, lizard:

“even when i have crushes on other men, i always see you in the curve of their eyebrows.”  (64)

happy international reading!

The psychological effects of the camps were devastating. At first, there was the apprehension of not knowing where we were going, what was to become of us, let alone the question of why we had to go. After three mindless years behind barbed wire fences and guard towers, cut off from society, our release came with the instructions that we were to “Avoid large groups of Japanese, avoid use of our language, to develop American habits, to behave in a manner reflecting all that is ‘good, reliable and honest in Japanese Americans’…” racism knows no bounds. A friend of mine said it all: “ after 40 years, we finally come out of the camps…” It must never happen again to any group of people.
—  Lillian (Sugita) Nakano