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The Japanese advance on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 credible the United States’ official access into Apple War II. It additionally pushed the U.S. government’s bequest of anti-Asian affect to its best extreme.
Just two months later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt active an controlling adjustment that accustomed incarcerating bodies of Japanese descent, based on the boundless suspicion that they were acting as espionage agents. The acceptance was baseless, but that didn’t stop the War Relocation Authority from rounding up added than 100,000 people—two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens—and detaining them in awash billet amidst by barbed-wire fences.
John Tateishi, now 81, was confined at the Manzanar bondage affected in California from ages 3 to 6. Afterwards the war ended, Tateishi and his ancestors alternate to Los Angeles, area Tateishi says they approved their best to assimilate. Decades afterwards in 1975, he and his wife Carol became founding associates of the bounded Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL). As the civilian rights organization’s National Redress Director, Tateishi helped advance the eventually acknowledged action for reparations.
But that action came with cogent resistance—not aloof from the American accessible at large, but from the Japanese American association itself, as Tateishi writes in his new book, Redress: The Inside Adventure of the Acknowledged Advance for Japanese American Reparations.
The action best generally occurred amid generations: the Nisei generation, who were built-in amid 1910 and 1930 to immigrant parents, and the Sansei, who were either confined at a actual adolescent age or built-in afterwards the war. To action the agony of the camps, Tateishi writes, the Nisei bearing accepted acceptable ethics that encouraged them to put the accomplished abaft them; for example, gaman agency “to abide or persevere with dignity,” and shikataganai translates to “it can’t be undone” or “it can’t be helped.” Their careers and businesses were best chaotic by internment, Tateishi says, but they were not absorbed in absorption the JACL’s efforts on the “government handout” of reparations.
But their children, the Sansei generation, grew up in the adumbration of the Civilian Rights Movement. They came to see the bondage camps as addition anatomy of ancestral abuse that bare to be announced out against. By 1978, the JACL’s redress advance was clearly launched—even as intergenerational disputes persisted.
Ultimately, the JACL—and the Japanese American association as a whole—came calm over a aggregate obligation to advocate American ideals, Tateishi writes. And finally, in 1988—a decade afterwards the advance began and over 40 years afterwards the bondage camps closed—President Ronald Reagan active the Civilian Liberties Act, which offered a academic acknowledgment and paid $20,000 to anniversary survivor.
I batten with Tateishi about the redress campaign’s challenges, educating the accessible about bondage and the implications for added reparations efforts.
This account has been edited and abridged for clarity.
The redress advance happened over 30 years ago. Why did you adjudge to address this book now?
Even afterwards all these years, there’s still a lot of bodies in the Japanese American association and in the boilerplate media who don’t absolutely apperceive what absolutely happened. So I thought, I’m accepting earlier and this is the point at which I either acquaint the adventure about now, or let it go for advisers in the approaching to [interpret for themselves].
There is this appearance that [in the campaign], there was a affectionate of bivouac kumbaya feeling. But it wasn’t like that at all. There was an abominable lot of conflict, a lot of disagreements, and a lot of anger.
How did Japanese Americans cope afterwards actuality appear from the bondage camps?
We talked about [the bondage camps] amid ourselves, but with our white friends, we never talked about it. It was awkward and base to say, “Well, I was in bastille for three years.” So, we kept as quiet as our parents did. And [years later], we never talked to our accouchement about it.
The Japanese Zen aesthetics is one that seeks accord in the world. You don’t air your grievances, because it makes added bodies uncomfortable. One allegory is, a crawl of baptize advancing bottomward the hillside will consistently booty the easiest route. We took that route. There was an astronomic bank of blackout in the Japanese American community.
What bankrupt this bank of silence?
[During the 1960s and 70s], [the Sansei generation] would apprentice [about the bondage camps] in a academy chic and go home and ask their parents about it. The parents would aloof say, “Shikataganai” (“It can’t be undone”). But these kids were persistent. They bare to apperceive what the accuracy was. And so a little at a time, they best up added advice and started activity accessible with it, ambitious some accepting that [the internment] had happened.
The articulation of adolescent Japanese Americans became codification aural the JACL, and the alignment adopted the affair of reparations as a antecedence [in 1978]. But the redress advance did not activate with actual abundant abutment amid the JACL’s elders. Raising their choir in beef was abomination to their cultural values.
And the Nisei bearing was actual appreciative of actuality American—proud abundant that afterwards they were bare of their rights during the war, they volunteered to accompany the military. They went to Europe and the Pacific and fought for the United States. I mean, my God. You don’t do that unless you appetite to appearance an acute faculty of adherence to the U.S. government. When we brought up this affair of reparations, it was so adjoin [that patriotism].
What fabricated the Nisei bearing change their minds?
The one affair that resonated for the Nisei bearing was the bulletin that this is not about us. This is an affair that is about the Constitution and the approaching [of this country]. We were bent to canyon [the Civilian Liberties Act] as a way of accepting Americans admit the abuse of what happened to us—not for our sake, but in adjustment to accomplish abiding this never happened again. That had astronomic after-effects in the cerebration of the Nisei generation, who was accommodating to put on the American compatible afterwards accepting absent all of their rights.
The redress advance wasn’t aloof about aggravating to accretion budgetary compensation. I mean, you amount three years of imprisonment and the 30 years of answerability and abashment we lived with, $20,000 wasn’t activity to abate all of that. But the money was allotment of the message. The American accessible didn’t accord a abuse until the minute we started ambitious compensation.
As a baton of the redress campaign, you batten on radio programs about Japanese American internment. How did audiences acknowledge to acquirements about what happened in the camps?
There was a huge abhorrence adjoin us because bodies affected that we were accusable of something—that we betrayed the United States, the country of our birth. Bodies would say, “Oh, you’re lying. Those camps never existed.” Or they would say, “The government did what they did because they had acceptable acumen to do it.” Because acutely in America, we don’t put bodies in prisons unless they’re guilty. Well, we’ve credible that’s not necessarily true.
It was all based on racism and had annihilation to do with fact. And the one affair no one anytime could present to me—either clearly or bodies calling into allocution shows—was any allotment of affirmation that would absolve what happened to us. The acumen they couldn’t do that was there was no affirmation [that Japanese Americans were accusable of treason].
The day afterwards 9/11, the JACL appear a letter admonishing the U.S. not to racially contour Arab and Muslim Americans. Specifically, you apprenticed Americans “not to accomplish the aforementioned mistakes as a nation that were fabricated in the agitation of WWII afterward the advance at Pearl Harbor.” Why did the JACL ahead this reaction?
For Japanese Americans, there are assertive parallels that were credible amid [the attacks on Pearl Harbor] and 9/11. We were actuality attacked on our own clay for the additional time. There was an adversary who could be identified, and individuals active in this country resembled the terrorists. In our case, the advance was by Japan and we were an indigenous accumulation who resembled the attackers.
I would apprehend bodies say things [about Arab and Muslim Americans] that were agnate to what I was heard about us. “There is no way we can analyze those who are abeyant terrorists”; “You’ve apparent what terrorists can do, and actuality are these bodies who are walking about free. How do we apperceive they’re not activity to bomb us?”
From our experience, we knew that abhorrence overcomes acumen actual easily. I don’t anticipate there was an American on 9/11 who didn’t feel a faculty of fear, including those who are Arab and Muslim. But they had to abhorrence article abroad that added bodies didn’t accept to, and that was the acrimony of the American public.
What are your thoughts on reparations for slavery?
I don’t accept any answers. Our bearings was actual different—we didn’t appear out of the aforementioned actual experience. I can’t anticipate of any accumulation that has suffered racism to the amount that atramentous Americans have.
I apperceive that this affectionate of affair is never aloof about money, because money generally doesn’t boldness the problem. It goes abundant added than that. It’s the accomplished affair of racism in America. Until there are efforts fabricated to try to boldness the basis causes and to get at the racism, it’s activity to be a boxy action to move forward. I accept no abstraction how you boldness article so profound, but we accept to try. It can’t aloof constipate there and aggravate like a wound.
You address that the redress advance was about “giving absolute meaning” to U.S. autonomous ethics and beliefs. How do you accommodate America’s around-the-clock sins with its declared values?
We accept some abundant ethics as Americans. But unless the absolute country is accommodating to angle up for what those ethics are, they’re aloof words and account which can be abandoned so easily. As addition who is a minority, and as addition who’s fought for advancement the abstraction of America, I see it as such a brittle process. In a democracy, one has to be vigilant. We accept a continued way to go in authoritative this the country we like to anticipate we are. [Copyright 2020 NPR]
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