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[HISTORY] Japanese Internment Camp Question Returns

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  • madchinaman
    Do we really need to relearn the lessons of Japanese American internment? http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 18, 2004
      Do we really need to relearn the lessons of Japanese American
      internment?
      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
      file=/chronicle/archive/2004/09/16/EDGP28P0T11.DTL


      In 1942, I was arrested and convicted for being a Japanese American
      trying to live here in the Bay Area. The day after my arrest a
      newspaper headline declared, "Jap Spy Arrested in San Leandro."

      Of course, I was no spy. The government never charged me with being
      a spy. I was a U.S. citizen born and raised in Oakland. I even tried
      to enlist in the Coast Guard (they didn't take me because of my
      race). But my citizenship and my loyalty did not matter to the
      federal government. On Feb. 19, 1942, anyone of Japanese heritage
      was ordered excluded from the West Coast. I was charged and
      convicted of being a Japanese American living in an area in which
      all people of my ancestry had been ordered to be interned.

      I fought my conviction at that time. My case went to the U.S.
      Supreme Court, but in 1944 my efforts to seek protection under the
      Constitution were rejected.

      After I was released in 1945, my criminal record continued to affect
      my life. It was hard to find work. I was considered to be a
      criminal. It took almost 40 years and the efforts of many people to
      reopen my case. In 1983, a federal court judge found that the
      government had hidden evidence and lied to the Supreme Court during
      my appeal. The judge found that Japanese Americans were not the
      threat that the government publicly claimed. My criminal record was
      removed.

      As my case was being reconsidered by the courts, again as a result
      of the efforts of many people across the country, Congress created a
      commission to study the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese
      Americans. The commission found that no Japanese American had been
      involved in espionage or sabotage and that no military necessity
      existed to imprison us. Based on the commission's findings and of
      military historians who reconsidered the original records from the
      war, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, declaring that
      the internment of Japanese Americans was unjustified. Finally, it
      seemed that the burden of being accused of being an "enemy race" had
      been lifted from our shoulders.

      But now the old accusations are back. Fox News media personality
      Michelle Malkin claims that some Japanese Americans were spies
      during World War II. Based upon her suspicions, Malkin claims the
      internment of all Japanese Americans was not such a bad idea after
      all. She goes on to claim that racial profiling of Arab Americans
      today is justified by the need to fight terrorism. According to
      Malkin, it is OK to take away an entire ethnic group's civil rights
      because some individuals are suspect. Malkin argues for reviving the
      old notion of guilt by association.

      It is painful to see reopened for serious debate the question of
      whether the government was justified in imprisoning Japanese
      Americans during World War II. It was my hope that my case and the
      cases of other Japanese American internees would be remembered for
      the dangers of racial and ethnic scapegoating.

      Fears and prejudices directed against minority communities are too
      easy to evoke and exaggerate, often to serve the political agendas
      of those who promote those fears. I know what it is like to be at
      the other end of such scapegoating and how difficult it is to clear
      one's name after unjustified suspicions are endorsed as fact by the
      government. If someone is a spy or terrorist they should be
      prosecuted for their actions. But no one should ever be locked away
      simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a
      spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the
      internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous
      times for our democracy.

      Fred Korematsu was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the
      Presidential Medial of Freedom, in 1998. He and his wife, Kathryn,
      continue to live in their longtime hometown of San Leandro
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