Not fit for print (Apparently in the white media establishment)


First it was letters to the Travel Section of the Los Angeles Times, followed by an op-ed piece in The New York Times.

These opinion pieces distorted the real experiences of the majority of Japanese Americans who had been placed into United States-style concentration camps during World War II.

Seems like with the rise of Donald Trump, it has become acceptable to ignore the truth and to adopt fake news as reality.
But such practices didn’t start just in 2016.

The propaganda that proliferated during World War II regarding the imprisonment of more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry into U.S.-style concentration camps is another good example. Let’s not forget that 2/3rds of these people were U.S. citizens and the other 1/3rd was, by law, barred from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.

When the government issued orders that all people of Japanese descent, living on the West Coast, were to be imprisoned into concentration camps, the government swayed public opinion by touting “military necessity,” while telling the Japanese American community that it was their “patriotic duty” to abandon all their material goods and enter a concentration camp.

Not surprisingly, the nation of Japan pointed out the hypocrisy of the U.S. Japan questioned how the U.S., a country that prided itself on democracy and equality, could lock up their own American citizens.

To counter this, the U.S., then, raided the concentration camps for soldiers.

Initially, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. re-classified all Japanese American men as 4-C, ineligible for military duty.

Since there was no uniform policy, Japanese American soldiers, who were already serving in the U.S. Army, either had their weapons taken away and were subject to menial work or were discharged outright, depending upon their commanding officer.

When the U.S. came under criticism, the government re-classified Japanese American men a second time as 1-A, fit for military duty.

The government’s propaganda spin on this reversal was that it was allowing Japanese Americans to prove their loyalty. It wasn’t “patriotic” enough that Japanese Americans had given up their West Coast homes and material goods and entered a prison camp; they were now being told to give up their sons and husbands and to shed blood in order to prove their loyalty to a country that had shown little loyalty towards them.

The trauma of being imprisoned in these concentration camps did not end once these Japanese American prisoners were released.

Before their discharge, they were told by government officials not to congregate in groups of more than two or three, not to speak the Japanese language and not to practice any cultural practices that were too Japanesey. There is even a governmental handbook on this.

In order to discourage the newly-released prisoners from moving back to the West Coast, the government established “resettlement” offices in places such as Chicago.

Prisoners were also encouraged to become Christians, rather than practice Buddhism or Shintoism. Buddhist priests were some of the first people arrested without charge and imprisoned indefinitely at remote Department of Justice camps shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

It is thus, not surprising that in the 1960s and 1970s, when the children of those who had been imprisoned, came of age, these children had the highest rate of marrying out of the race than any other Asian American group. And not surprisingly, most married white people.

Since the war, psychologists within and without the Japanese American community have been studying the psychological impact of the camps on the prisoners and their children.

Some suffer from the Stockholm Syndrome, the seemingly contradictory phenomenon where the victim empathizes with the abuser. Patty Hearst and her support of her captors, the Symbionese Liberation Army, is a good example.

Is it any wonder, then, that some in the Japanese American community would support Donald Trump, who spouts racist and sexist rhetoric?

However, the most important issues that the New York Times op-ed piece and the Los Angeles Times letters fail to tackle is the civil and constitutional rights violations that occurred.

During the 1980s, a federal commission proved that government officials lied to the public and even to the Supreme Court justices during World War II and that there was no “military necessity” to imprison people of Japanese descent into concentration camps.

Stop using the trauma of the Japanese American World War II camp experience to pave the way to make it acceptable to stomach another discriminatory policy against another group.

Martha Nakagawa writes from Gardena, Calif. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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