CA State Assembly apologizes for Japanese internment, discriminatory policies

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The California State Assembly unanimously passed HR 77 on Feb. 20, a resolution that formally apologizes for the California Assembly’s role in the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The resolution apologizes to Japanese Americans for exclusionary laws and incarceration during World War II and for failing to uphold the civil rights and liberties of Japanese Americans during that time.

HR 77 also acknowledges other exclusionary laws passed before World War II, including the California Alien Land Law of 1913, which prevented Japanese and other Asian Americans from leasing land.

“The incarceration of people of Japanese descent … is one of the darkest chapters in U.S. history, with profound lessons for how wartime hysteria coupled with longstanding racial discrimination can result in egregious violations of civil rights and liberties,” said Mark Brilliant, an associate professor in UC Berkeley’s history department, in an email.

The resolution also mentioned Gen. John DeWitt, who alleged that many Japanese Americans in California were spies for the Empire of Japan and had more arms and ammunition than the United States’ own armed forces.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, introduced HR 77 in honor of the 78th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which incarcerated Japanese Americans, according to Kerry Jacob, communications director for Muratsuchi.

“Given recent national events, it is all the more important to learn from the mistakes of the past and to ensure that such an assault on freedom will never again happen to any community in the United States,” the resolution stated.

Muratsuchi said during his speech introducing the bill that it was important to introduce the resolution to prevent history from repeating itself.

While introducing the resolution, Muratsuchi said the state Assembly passed discriminatory laws and that an apology for these laws is important to Japanese Americans that were incarcerated and are still alive.

Also finalized this month, UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library digitized thousands of materials from Japanese internment. These materials include photos, letters and reports.

According to Brilliant, this digitizing of documents is an enormously important act that helps preserve the memory of this time in history.

“The more we can make more widely available the historical records of this dark stain on our nation’s past, the more we can (hopefully) help insure that something like it never happens again,” Brilliant said in the email. “UCB’s renowned Bancroft Library should be applauded and supported for taking on this enormous – and enormously important – act of historical preservation and collective memory promotion.”

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson