Nation must learn from shameful episode of Japanese Internment

coloredited_ericalee_executiveorder
Erica Lee/Staff

Seventy-five years ago, in the midst of World War II, former president Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

Written ostensibly in the interest of national security but fueled largely by widespread racial prejudice, the order directed the U.S. military to remove people of Japanese ancestry from their homes in California and the Pacific Northwest and to place them into internment camps throughout the country. This systematic and forced displacement derailed the lives of more than 122,000 individuals, including hundreds of UC students who were forced to suspend their enrollment. It resulted in monumental personal turmoil, yet no interned Japanese American was ever implicated in any plot against the United States.

At the time, UC president Robert Sproul called the Japanese American internment what it was — discrimination dressed up in the guise of national security — and proclaimed that a person’s appearance and ethnicity had no bearing on “the quality of his mind, the strength of his character or the depth of his loyalty to the United States.” Sproul sought out other institutions willing to enroll displaced UC students and argued fervently for fair and equal treatment of Japanese American citizens under the law, noting that “whenever and wherever the constitutional guarantees are violated in the treatment of a minority … the whole fabric of American government is weakened.”

Sproul’s words, unfortunately, were largely ignored, and Japanese American internment lasted until nearly the end of the war.

Lessons from this shameful chapter of our nation’s past take on renewed relevance in our current political moment as fear, racism, xenophobia and jingoism again endanger the civil rights of friends and neighbors, while simultaneously betraying our country’s bedrock values. The recent executive order banning entry into the United States by individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries, vitriolic attacks on refugees, plans to build a wall on the Mexican-American border and the specter of ramped-up deportations are all being advanced under the spurious guise of promoting national security while in fact reflecting only a lamentable fear of otherness, to say nothing of a startling disregard for our common humanity.

For many members of the Berkeley community, these recent orders and actions are no abstract or faraway threat. Many among us are grappling with fear, confusion and uncertainty, stricken with worry about the possible deportation of relatives, about whether they will be able to go home for spring or summer breaks or even about whether they will be able to complete their studies. Many not directly affected by the orders still find themselves asking: “Am I next?”

As a campus, we are committed to standing with those who find themselves under threats that echo the Japanese internment policies of 75 years ago. I see great urgency and determination in the courageous and compassionate acts of leadership being taken by our students, staff and faculty. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for those in our student affairs office, the Berkeley International Office, the Undocumented Student Program and others who have been working tirelessly to provide affected students with legal aid, mental health services and other support during this tumultuous time. The University of California, for its part, has taken public stances against recent executive orders and declared that we will not cooperate with immigration authorities.

While the second World War ended in 1945, it took 30 years before the United States, under president Gerald Ford, formally terminated Executive Order 9066 and apologized for the period of Japanese American internment. It took until 1980 for president Jimmy Carter to commission a government study on the effects of displacement. And it took until 1990 for the government to begin issuing redress payments to surviving Japanese Americans.

Seventy-five years later, let us remember this history, and vow not to repeat it.   

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Nicholas Dirks is the chancellor of UC Berkeley. Contact the opinion desk at opinion@dailycal.org or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.

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  • Marc

    Marc

    One fact: The United States also had German internment camps during WWII. This fact disrupts the blanket racism claim of Japanese internment so it is often ignored, as it was here.

    You seem to be bringing up two issues. 1) Blocks on travel and immigration from certain countries. 2) The deportation of illegal immigrants from the US.

    In both instances, I fail to see the parallels of Japanese internment during WWII and the two issues above.

    1) the US is not currently involved in a state to state conflict with any of the nationalities mentioned or inferred.

    2) There is no call, nor public or governmental support to set up internment camps of any nationality.

    Your article is messy, simplistic and convoluted. After reading it several times I think your thesis would be:

    “…whenever and wherever the constitutional guarantees are violated in the treatment of a minority … the whole fabric of American government is weakened.”

    The presented “evidence” for your argument (deportations of illegal immigrants and travel/immigration bans from certain countries) does not in anyway support your thesis. Constitutional guarantees apply to US citizens only. It is in no way legally binding for foreign nationals of other countries. Even the rights in the Constitution did apply, your two examples of illegal alien deportation and a travel/immigration ban on certain foreign nationals violate nothing in the Constitution. To claim that the US constitution applies to other countries and their nationals would be to violate the sovereign rights of other countries and their peoples to rule themselves.

    Building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico and South America in no way impinges on anyone’s rights. Deporting illegal immigrants from the US is not illegal and well within the norms of ANY nation in the world to protect its borders. Banning foreign nationals from certain countries (while I may not agree with it) is completely legal and again, within the rights of ANY sovereign nation in the world.

    If you are going to make an argument, make sure to have supporting evidence that argues your case. As my professor once said to me, avoid simplistic thinking (best advise I ever got in college). I really hope this is not representative of what passes for an argument in Berkley. Unfortunately, after reading this paper for several weeks now, I am starting to believe it is.

    • Marc

      OMG! Nicholas Dirks is the Chancellor?! Face Palm (or whatever the kids are saying these days). Man you are the Chancellor. You can’t write dumb stuff like this. I thought you were an undergrad. Buddy you need to take some history lessons and read more.

      • Arafat

        The chancellor wrote this?

        Amazing. Simply amazing.

        Now I understand why UC schools are breeding grounds for intellectual dishonesty.

  • Kurt VanderKoi

    This is FAKE NEWS “The recent executive order banning entry into the United States by individuals from
    seven majority-Muslim countries “

    The seven Muslim-majority countries targeted in President Trump’s executive order on immigration were initially identified as “countries of concern” under the Obama administration.

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/29/politics/how-the-trump-administration-chose-the-7-countries/

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/us/politics/us-expands-restrictions-on-visa-waiver-program-for-visitors.html?_r=2

    • lee betancourt

      President Obama did not ban them from entry nor did he pick the 7 countries, he picked 3 or 4 , republicans added the rest.He stated anyone from these countries would be subject to stricter vetting, more layers, taking up to 2 years before they are cleared to enter the
      US. These rules are still in effect and to date not one refugee entering the country after this vetting has committed a act of terrorism.

      • Kurt VanderKoi

        The seven Muslim-majority countries targeted in President Trump’s executive order on immigration were initially identified as “countries of concern” under the Obama administration.

        CNN:
        “In December 2015, President Obama signed into law a measure placing limited restrictions on certain travelers who had visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011. Two months later, the Obama administration added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list, in what it called an effort to address “the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters.”

        FBI director warns of ‘terrorist diaspora’

        Gorka: FBI Director Comey Absolutely Correct About A Terrorist Diaspora
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gqDPJAPPCE

  • ShadrachSmith

    Search Rape of Nanking, 1937-38, it will help you understand the context. Be sure to look at the pictures.

    • lspanker

      The dumb-bunny students these days are taught a very abbreviated history of WWII. They leave out Manchuria, Nanking, Manila, Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, banzai charges, women and children being forced by their own army to jump off cliffs in Saipan and Okinawa, Kamikaze pilots, Korean comfort women and Unit 731. As far as the average undergrad at Cal knows these days, our war with Japan consisted of just 3 incidents: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Manzanar.

      • MikeCassady

        “Dumb-bunny” is not a flattering term. Do you have some background info about undergraduate education at UC Berkeley. Chances are, most students at UCB had a few bits of info on the war period prior to arriving at college. The poet Yeats suggested “passionate intensity” was not the equivalent of hard earned convictions: in which camp shall we place you.

  • Marc

    One fact: The United States also had German internment camps during WWII. This fact disrupts the blanket racism claim of Japanese internment so it is often ignored, as it was here.

    You seem to be bringing up two issues. 1) Blocks on travel and immigration from certain countries. 2) The deportation of illegal immigrants from the US.

    In both instances, I fail to see the parallels of Japanese internment during WWII and the two issues above.

    1) the US is not currently involved in a state to state conflict with any of the nationalities mentioned or inferred.
    2) There is no call, nor public or governmental support to set up internment camps of any nationality.

    Your article is messy, simplistic and convoluted. After reading it several times I think your thesis would be:

    “…whenever and wherever the constitutional guarantees are violated in the treatment of a minority … the whole fabric of American government is weakened.”

    The presented “evidence” for your argument (deportations of illegal immigrants and travel/immigration bans from certain countries) does not in anyway support your thesis. Constitutional guarantees apply to US citizens only. It is in no way legally binding for foreign nationals of other countries. Even the rights in the Constitution did apply, your two examples of illegal alien deportation and a travel/immigration ban on certain foreign nationals violate nothing in the Constitution. To claim that the US constitution applies to other countries and their nationals would be to violate the sovereign rights of other countries and their peoples to rule themselves.

    Building a wall to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico and South America in no way impinges on anyone’s rights. Deporting illegal immigrants from the US is not illegal and well within the norms of ANY nation in the world to protect its borders. Banning foreign nationals from certain countries (while I may not agree with it) is completely legal and again, within the rights of ANY sovereign nation in the world.

    If you are going to make an argument, make sure to have supporting evidence that argues your case. As my professor once said to me, avoid simplistic thinking (best advise I ever got in college). I really hope this is not representative of what passes for an argument in Berkley. Unfortunately, after reading this paper for several weeks now, I am starting to believe it is.

  • lspanker

    The individual taking up bandwidth to whine about the plight of Japanese internees and equate it to restricting immigration from countries with severe internal security problems is so wrong on too many levels. Others here have addressed many of those points, so I will take on the least politically correct of them, the nature and conditions of the internment itself.

    For starters, does the author of this hysterical article have any clue that our enemies in World War II, Germany and Japan interned civilians as well, and how THOSE internees were treated? In retrospect, the blanket internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII was unjust and excessive, but the revisionist cries of “racism” and “xenophobia” ignore that fact that there was a real, justifiable fear, especially in California and all over the west coast of the USA and Canada. Most of these 20-something children apparently aren’t taught that Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only place attacked on December 7th (December 8th on the other side of the Pacific). Wake Island, Guam, Manila. Singapore, and Hong Kong were attacked, with Japanese army forces landing in the Philippines and Malaya.

    For those of whose idea of history centers around the FSM and People’s Park and whatever Lady Gaga wore at the Super Bowl half-time show, you may have not known that not only was the US Pacific Fleet crippled after the Pearl Harbor attack, with little or nothing left to stop attacks on the continental US, but that Japanese submarines were already operating off the Pacific coast, shelling refineries and sinking ships, often within sight of American civilians watching helplessly on the coast. There was a genuine fear of invasion, and the Japanese track record in China and the Phillipines (raping women, bayoneting babies, setting buildings on fire with civilians inside) was well known. In addition, while there may have been no record of any of the internees committing acts of sabotage or treason, it was already known that individuals of Japanese descent had aided downed IJN flyers after the Pearl Harbor attack (Ni’ihau Incident). Given that the Japanese also attacked Pearl Harbor BEFORE breaking off diplomatic relations, the American government and people had some reason to be suspicious regarding the motives and intentions of many Japanese immigrants.

    The other issue that the bleeding-heart boo-hoo goo-goo liberals ignore is the fact that both Germany and Japan also interned civilians, under conditions that were as different as night and day. Japanese internees in the US had adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, the opportunity to conduct peaceful assemblies, worship and present grievances to the camp authorities without fear of violence or retaliation. They were often able to leave the camp on day passes for outside employment and return at the end of the day. The few cases of documented violence were for the most part the result of either miscommunication or internal squabbles between different factions of internees. The handful of criminal acts that may have been committed by individual military personnel were prosecuted as such. Contrast that to civilian internees in Japan who weren’t treated much better than POWs who were starved, beaten, housed in filthy conditions, denied medical care, and in many cases reduced to eating rats and insects to stay alive. Contrast American treatment of internees to the German allies of Japan who systematically murdered 6 million of their own internees during the war. These fools also need to consider the attitudes of the British, Dutch, Filipino, Australian and New Zealand veterans and civilians interned by the Japanese, who criticized our policy after the war on the basis we had been too lenient (!) with the Japanese, based on their documented barbarity.

    One final point with all the sanctimonious eejits like the author of this article: have the Japanese ever acknowledged the full extent of, much less apologized for, their own war crimes, which were far, far excessive than what we ever did to Japanese internees? There were and still are plenty of people in Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and the PRC who don’t believe so, given the atrocities suffered by their people in WWII. This author needs get out of his silly little progressive liberal bubble and learn something about history.

    • MikeCassady

      This blast of frustrated emotion is impressive for its synthetic inclusiveness, but Chancellor Dirks, whom I know to be quite well informed about world events and quite developed as a serious mind and moral person, is, in this article, articulating a much warranted gesture of disapprobation with regard to the tragic treatment of USA citizens during World War II, post Pearl Harbor, at the historic moment of commemoration of the events.

      The link the Chancellor makes with present stirrings of mob-inspired xenophobia as a genre of mental terror is justified, and something for which Chancellor Dirks deserves praise for leading with unqualified frankness, a tradition which UC Berkeley has promoted in loud language and defended in the trenches, to include anti-Franco work in Spain, pushing back at J.E. Hoover and the questionably sane Joseph McCarthy (perhaps just booze stoned), and the more recent Free Speech Movement that made it ok to be both a brain-alive USAmerican and born after the “war to end all wars plus one”, excuse the pun.

      Your piece is an amazing synaptic tour de force, but I think it makes better opera than anything so mundane as editorial comment.

  • FreedomFan

    Yes the shame of a Democrat president sending U.S. citizens to concentration camps is EXACTLY LIKE keeping Islamic fundamentalist IMMIGRANTS from terror-infested countries temporarily out of the U.S.

    OMG Berkeley makes kids incredibly stupid.

    • garyfouse

      And let us not forget that one of the central figures in the relocation was that great liberal icon, Earl Warren. At the time he was attorney general of California and a great proponent of the relocation. After the war, he opposed the return of the internees to California to reclaim their homes and businesses. To his shame he never owned up to it and apologized. He even cancelled a scheduled speaking appearance (at UCB I think) when Japanese-American students announced they intended to respectfully ask him about it.

      • MikeCassady

        Earl Warren, a Republican, was the moving force behind the Japanese internment after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He did regret his “hasty act driven by fear.” Here is an exerpt from his memoirs: (Wikipedia)

        “[He later said] since deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony advocating it, because it was not in keeping with our American concept of freedom and the rights of citizens…Whenever I thought of the innocent little children who were torn from home, school friends, and congenial surroundings, I was conscience-stricken…[i]t was wrong to react so impulsively, without positive evidence of disloyalty.”

        — The Memoirs of Earl Warren (1977) G. Edward White (Autumn 1979). “The Unacknowledged Lesson: Earl Warren and the Japanese Relocation Controversy”. Virginia Quarterly Review: 613–629.

        Your own take-no-prison remarks suggest you have a deep understanding of world events, history, and almost anything that might come to mind. So, where did you get your intellectual cultivation? I’m all ears.

        • garyfouse

          I am a little confused by the :”(He later said”) part, but I will accept it on face value. I do recall reading in a newspaper at the time that he cancelled a speech when Japanese-American students signaled their intention to ask him about his role in the relocation.

          • MikeCassady

            Your response gives me hope we can talk to each other rather than at each other. I’ll quickly add that I have no more info than this about Warren’s later attitude toward the internments. From a very thin family connection to him, I know he was a kind and hopeful person, and may have gotten carried away by the hysterical panic that arose in CA post Pearl Harbor, where he had been governor for three terms. What he may have first seen as a stop-gap measure turned into a serious blight on his life, and I’ll own that with him. The internment deserves to remain in memory as a “never-again” moment, not that there is a dirth of such moments. And, yes, I am a graduate of UCB (’71) and, yes, I am Rebecca of Stoneybrook Farm. The ducks ask me to say “Hi.”

          • garyfouse

            Mike, You and I are in total agreement on the Japanese internment issue. I grew up and went to school with Japanese-American kids in W LA and no doubt many of their families were interned. I attended a Japanese-American church for several years and met people who were interned. To be fair I am not old enough (class of 1945) to understand the fear that no doubt existed on the West Coast. In retrospect, we know that it was an injustice.

            My best to the ducks.

          • MikeCassady

            Gary, I believe peer-to-peer consensus formation, from first-person thought and experience, is the most promising means we have today to share thought and information at the level of moral communtiy where people just don’t happen to live on the same street, or in the same town—and haven’t been watching the same 4th of July parade since birth. Democracy depends upon a widespread community base, a shared respect for common sense and a willingness to search for informed consent and a common understanding. Republicans can commune in club-fashion anyway they like, but that wide swath of humanity who might think of themselves as liberal, in the sense of fair-minded and level headed, inclusive and generous, can achieve collective consent through consensus arbitration by being a collection of serious, thinking peers who keep their moral autonomy even in groups. As a member of the class of ’46 (just a bit your junior), I cannot forget the way Daly Democrats in Chicago at the ’68 Presidential Convention turned the thugs and dogs on young people wanting to have a say. I don’t like political mob-action anymore, nor masses of faceless protesters who pass their moral authority over to some spokesperson with a megaphone and an amazing set of simple minded ideas. Peer power is the new grass-roots allowing cooperation to occur between people without borders, not between towns, villages, cities, states and naitons and their geographical ideas of power distribution. Peers are like seeds and patient moles: they keep working underground when the chaos in the light makes for a “darker shade of pale”, said the pied-piper leading the ducks! You have a lot to offer a consensus conversation.

          • garyfouse

            Mike,

            I agree with your first statement. As for my own life experience, that includes 3 years in the army, an entire career as a DEA agent and having lived in Thailand, Germany and Italy a total of 11 years. Along the way, as you can imagine, I picked up several languages. My wife of 41 years is Mexican and that has exposed me to that culture as well. After retiring from DEA, I taught 18 years part time in the UCI Ext, (Teaching English as a second language. I think my “multi-cultural” credentials are in order.

            My life experiences have formed me as a conservative-not a racist, not a fascist or a homophobe just a conservative. While UC Irvine is a much calmer place than Berkeley, I saw and heard things that led me to become an activist (outside the classroom). The specific issue was the anti-semitism and anti-Americanism that was being expressed by a certain segment of the student body and their invited speakers. As a result I started my blog (http:garyfouse.blogspot.com)

            I am also old enough to remember the riots in Chicago in 1968. Yes, the cops over-reacted, but those who were rioting were also wrong.

            Today, it is the left that riots just as in the 60s. You used the word “inclusive”. The left celebrates “inclusion” when it comes to ethnic groups and minorities, but not for conservatives, whites or Jews for that matter. Activists and students rioted at Berkeley because they did not want an opposing voice heard. Even if Milo Y. is offensive, he had a right to speak. I go and listen to a lot of people speak who I think are offensive. I do not disrupt. I do not try to stop them from speaking. That is what the left does.

            I accept your offer of a conversation. Visit the above site and weigh in. We welcome disagreements.

  • M2000

    Um, it is NOT THE SAME. Stop confusing legally born Hispanics and mixing them up with those who are not here legally. It is NOT the same. Quit this stupid fantasy world, this is why people don’t want to believe you.

  • garyfouse

    As one who has studied the relocation of Japanese Americans, I know how mistaken and shameful it was. I do not see the connection with the current threat to America.

    There was never one documented instance of Japanese-Americans engaged in plots against us on US soil during WW II. The US has acknowledged that the relocation was a mistake.

    On the other hand, there have been 72 convictions of people from the 7 countries in question. Recently, a Somali student at Ohio State Univ tried to kill several people before being killed by police. Somalia is one of the 7 countries on Trump’s list. There have been multiple cases of the FBI arresting Somalis in the US who were in the process of joining ISIS or the Somalia-based Islamic terror group, Al Shabaab.

    Yet nobody is talking about interning Muslim Americans in the US. We know it would be wrong to punish all Muslims, most of whom are guilty of nothing. There is a big difference, however, between interning people already here, citizens or not, and not allowing certain people to enter the country. Nobody has a right to enter the US or any other country if they are not a citizen.

    Remember that during the Iranian hostage crisis, Pres. Carter banned Iranians from entering the US.

    It is true that innocent Muslims from those 7 countries would be denied the ability to come to the US, but the President is merely trying to save American lives. In that, I support him.

    • MikeCassady

      The threat from Trump’s 7 targeted nations for entry exemption did not change from January 19 to January 20, the day of Trump’s inauguration as President; and there is no credible evidence Obama’s scrutiny of these quasi failed states was deficient. Trump’s grandstanding and highly personalized ban is psychological warfare against us and serves to promote the fear hysteria which creates a need of a daddy savior in slimy armor who just happens to be the one who owns the fire department and has his finger on the 911 button.

      Postwar liberal politics since Bill Clinton has worked to terminate the emergency powers governanace addiction of USA national politics held over from the time of World War II, and get the USA to integrate the community of extra-national states as an equal. A regime of permanent stress is fatal for animals, including us. Emergencies cannot be a staple in a healthy diet. Knee-jerk mobilization sanctions nuance and difference of opinion in the consensus and consent process, and destroys brain tissue. Trump’s dog is all just tired old tricks and the birth-death cycle has all but erased the memory traces required to get fear to be an end in itself.

      Shutting our borders, pushing others away, promoting isolation, and going home with our toys at the least provocation are the poster children of mindless sticking our heads in the sand. The two Big Wars announced the end of a reality of self-explaining nations closed off physically and intellectually from a new, and not unpromising, reality of nations as member states in a larger whole. Local control does not mean familiies cannot exist within towns and villages, regions, nations and more extended domains of effective action; individuals are powerless without forms of collective extension to their means of action. Obstacles to human life on earth such as global warming, nuclear materials, massively powerful machines, accessible knowlege, are factors that go beyond the competence of historical nations. We are moral citizens of the domain of action that affects our framework of opportunity and responsibility. Trump’s and Bannon’s retro-nationalism does not have legs, will not fly—except on reality tv.

      • garyfouse

        You sound like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Unfortunately, it’s a dangerous world out there.

        • MikeCassady

          Please quantify “dangerous world.” Was there a quantum shift between January 19 and January 20? I agree, life on earth is not without risks, but “dangerous world” cannot mean “riskless world” in any way that can matter. Obama was working with the changes occuring (and for the good) in the Middle East at a granular level, working closely via knowlegable Sate Dept area specialists to favor local leaders and communities trying to reconcile their societies with the postwar, extra-national world. Trump wants us to believe shouting from his tower is what it means to do something. Besides making a lot of noise that draws attention to himself, what he is “doing” in fact is mucking up a lot of careful, precise diplomacy away from the sound stages of realtiy tv.

          • garyfouse

            What I am referring to is ISIS, the entire Middle East, the Russians and the threat of Islamic terrorism in the US and Europe. I don’t know how Trump will do in these areas, but if you think that Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry did a good job in the Middle East, you are sadly mistaken. They left a real mess behind.

          • MikeCassady

            The facts I see on the issues you mention are historically pretty much what we might expect as the Middle East emerges into the 21 century, from hundreds of years of occupation by the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, British Colonialism and the Cold War manipulators, i.e., the USA and Russia.

            Terrorism has killed vastly more people in the Middle East and Africa than in Europe or the USA. ISIS is one of many challenges to the antiquated power structures in the Middle Eastern countries. I worked in Saudi Arabia. CIA funding of feedom fighters in Afaganistan gave rise to the modern jihadists, including Ben Laden. G.W. Bush in Iraq against WMD poured gasoline on fire. History is change. By what reading of events leads you to find this page of the story so unusual? I try to avoid hysterical readings when at all possible, which is not to say I refuse all entertainments.

          • garyfouse

            Typical blame the West for the failures of the Middle East. What about Islam? after all jihad didn’t start after colonialism.

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