Collective statement by Asian American studies scholars regarding Japanese American ‘Internment’ and a proposed registry of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries

December 3, 2016

(Editor’s Note: Vivian Shaw, University of Texas at Austin; Simeon Man, University of California, San Diego; A. Naomi Paik, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Christen Tsuyuko Sasaki, San Francisco State University; and Yoshinori H. T. Himel, University of California at Davis, along with more than 900 other Asian American studies professors, have signed the following statement):

As scholars of Asian American studies, we feel we are uniquely positioned to respond to recent statements made by the president-elect and his spokespeople using the history of what is known as Japanese American internment to justify a proposed registry for immigrants entering the United States from Muslim-majority nations.

Throughout his campaign, the president-elect made multiple statements suggesting his support of the race-based mass imprisonment of Japanese American citizens and residents from the West Coast. More recently, his spokesperson, Carl Higsbie argued that Japanese American “internment” provides a “precedent” for a Muslim registry. A few days later, he continued to justify his argument, stating, “there are some people that need to be prevented from coming into this country.”

Such statements willfully disregard decades of knowledge about so-called “internment,” ranging from the vast body of historical scholarship and educational materials produced on the subject to the achievements of the redress movement as consecrated in the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, passed by a bipartisan Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan. This legislation, which formally apologized to imprisoned Japanese Americans, unequivocally states: “The internment of the individuals of Japanese ancestry was caused by racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The legislation implicitly acknowledges that the government, through its policy of mass imprisonment, facilitated and sanctioned anti-Asian discrimination and violence throughout the country. Alarmingly, calls for a Muslim registry now both draw upon and indirectly condone the rise of Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism in recent months.

That the president-elect promises to “make America great” by institutionalizing thinly veiled racist policies and practices assaults our principles and values. Alongside Black Lives Matter, DREAMers, #NoDAPL, and other social justice movements, we cannot stand for policies or rhetoric that threaten any of our communities. We understand the legacy of so-called internment as a guiding light of what not to do for our present and future. We fear the long term implications of any list based on race or religion. The proposed policy of a Muslim registry lays a dangerous ground for the violation of civil liberties that may or may not include mass imprisonment. We reject using Japanese American mass imprisonment to justify the targeting of Muslim people.

We sign this statement as individual scholars of Asian American studies or as scholars from other disciplines who stand in support with our colleagues in that field. Institutions are listed for identification purposes only.

To join our collective statement, sign here: http://ow.ly/40y5306UYcw.

Vivian Shaw, University of Texas at Austin;
Simeon Man, University of California, San Diego;
A. Naomi Paik, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Comments

  1. RE: The legislation statement ” “The internment of the individuals of Japanese ancestry was caused by racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”” The truth and facts of internment will prove that this statement is incorrect. Had the legislators and the president done their homework they would not have come to this conclusion.

    During WWII the Japanese Americans were not the only ones affected by the war, German Americans and Italian Americans were also interned, many in the same camps as their Japanese American counter- parts. We were at war with Germany, Italy and Japan. Hence we arrested and interned persons of the ethnicity of the enemy.

  2. Eberhard Fuhr says

    The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required every alien ,non citizen, to register regardless of nationality, male/female, aged 14 plus, I will venture that if there is a registration EVERY alien will need to register. I was 15 when I registered and I was interned WITH JAPANESE in Crystal City Texas.Each one got $20,000,BUT ONLY JAPANESE GOT IT- NO ONE ELSE ,including Italians, Germans, Germans from Latin Countries interned there with their indigenous families.
    Just quit this mis- representation of fact. We can say that Japanese interned themselves by not leaving the designated war zone before that fateful day in April 1942. Those that obeyed the designation were never RELOCATED by the War Department. Our Internment was by the Dept. of Justice that took pride in not permitting counsel.
    Then too, why do Japanese relocatees identify with a group that destroyed the World Trade Center and 3,000 innocents, massacred 50 gays in a night club in Florida, shot up and killed US military recruiters at work and wreaks havoc all over the world, when not a single Japanese or German did such before our incarceration?

  3. Adolf Wesselhoeft says

    RE: The legislation statement ” “The internment of the individuals of Japanese ancestry was caused by racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.””
    This is a statement by man, yet people hold to it as if it were written by the finger of God. It is not true. However, since so many seem to believe this, I would like for someone, perhaps you Scholars, to explain on what bases the Germans and Italians were interned. I was interned with my family in Crysral City, Texas, a camp that also held Japanese. I, an American born citizen, was traded with our enemy, Nazi Germany, and sent into that country while it was under siege. I endured the day and night bombings and the lack of basic necessities following the war.

    I am “uniquely positioned to respond”.

    Was this racism? No, then what? Why is this not addressed in this country? We have received no apology and no reparations.

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