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April 19, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-04-19

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The Michigan Daily- Monday, April 19, 1993- Page 5
Japanese American plight featured in exhibit

(C by Sarah Kiino
Daily Staff Reporter
WASHINGTON -It was a con-
stitutional disaster kept for years out
of the public's consciousness. Forty
years later, many Americans are still
unaware of the injustices suffered by
the West Coast Japanese American
population during World War II.
Between 1942 and 1946, more
than 120,000JapaneseAmericans-
two-thirds of them American-born
citizens - were kept as prisoners by
their own country, living in desolate
barracks surrounded by barbed wire
and guard towers.
As apart of a growing movement
toward awareness, the story of the
internment is on display at the
Smithsonian Institution's National
Museum ofAmerican.History.
The exhibit, titled "A More Per-
fect Upion - Japanese Americans
and the United States Constitution,"
opened in 1987 in observance of the
bicentennial of the Constitution.
"We want to show how the Con-
stitution is not necessarily a guaran-
tee of civil rights. It is a working
document always up for interpreta-
tion by those who are in power," said
Jennifer Locke, museum specialist at
the National Museum of American
History. "Your rights are not neces-
sarily guaranteed unless you take an
active role in making sure they are
Locke saidtheideaforthe exhibit
originated when a museum curator
saw a photo exhibit about the 442nd
Regimental CombatTeam, which was
a Japanese American battalion that
fought for the United States in Eu-
The Smithsonian exhibit was
originally planned as a similar photo
exhibit, but the idea grew to cover the
entire Japanese American experience
during World War II.
The entrance to the exhibit -

It was in support of the Japanese
American combat team idea that
President Franklin Roosevelt ironically said
in 1943:
'No loyal citizen of the U.S. should be denied the
democratic right to exercise the responsibilities
of his citizens, regardless of his ancestry. The
principles on which this country was founded and
by which it has always been governed is that
Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart.
Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of
race or ancestry.

camp photos with segments of the Con-
stitution written over them - high-
lights the discrepancies between the
Constitution and the treatment of the
Japanese Americans.
The history of the Japanese in the
United States is shown, as well as how
theireconomic success fueled the growth
of anti-Japanese sentiments.
The exhibit states, "Their ability to
make do with little and overcome great
odds made them objects of envy by
some members of the dominant white
community.Anti-Japanese feeling grew
in the West, particularly in California."
The impact of American popular
culture on prejudice - from bubble-
gum cards featuring Japanese atrocities
in China to fictional books outlining
evil intentions Japan supposedly had
toward the United States - is made
Theexhibitunveils theracialaspect
ingrained in the conflict between the
United States and Japan during World
War II.
"For both the Japanese and Ameri-
can combatants, World War II had all of
the ugly overtones of a racial conflict.
Americans who might regard German
or Italian enemies as the misguided
victims of evil leaders saw the Japanese

people as 'yellow vermin,' 'mad dogs'
and 'monkey men.' The implications of
this racist wartime propaganda for
Americans of Japanese ancestry were
clear," the exhibit states.
Included on a timeline are the dates
of Feb. 19, 1942 - the day President
Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive
Order 9066 - and March 2, 1942 -
the day John DeWitt, commander of the
Western defense command, signed Pub-
lic Proclamation No. 1.
Executive Order 9066 empowered
the military to designate "military ar-
eas" from which "any or all persons
may be excluded."Public Proclamation
No. 1 formed two West Coast military
zones from which Japanese Americans
were eventually required to leave.
The evacuation was said to be a
military necessity, for fear of Japanese
American sabotage, but not a shred of
evidence supporting this claim ever sur-
One is given the opportunity to walk
down the abandoned strect of a Japa-
nese American community in the ex-
hibit, with the stores and businesses
boarded up and eerily empty.
There is a replica ofa barrack room,
a life-size guard tower looming over all
who walk through, as well as photos

from Assembly Centers - the tempo-
rary camps where Japanese Americans
were initially sent.
Sanitation, food service and health-
care facilities did not meet the lowest
U.S. Army standards in the assembly
centers, where the barracks were often
former horse stables.
An outsider's perspective is also
given, fromstanding in frontofabarbed-
wire fence which has a life-size pan-
oramic photo of a camp behind it.
Actualpersonal experiences ofJapa-
nese Americans are presented in the
exhibit. Via television monitors, one
can "talk" to people about their experi-
ences incamp, and explanations ofcourt
cases in whichJapanese Americans sued
the government are given.
The last part of the exhibit high-
lightsthe accomplishments of the 25,000
Japanese Americans who served in the
U.S. nilitary during World War II, in-
cluding those of the 442nd, the most
decorated unit in U.S. military history.
It was in support of the Japanese
American combat team idea that Presi-
dent Roosevelt ironically said in 1943,
"No loyal citizen of the U.S. should be
denied the democratic right to exercise
the responsibilities of his citizens, re-
gardless of his ancestry. The principles
on which this country was founded and
by which ithas always been govemedis
that Americanism is a matter of the
mind and heart. Americanism is not,
andneverwas, amatterofrace orances-
Locke said when the exhibit opened,
it was very controversial. "We didn't
know what to expect ... We still get
people protesting it, especially veterans
from World War II. They are not differ-
entiating between the Japanese, who
were the enemy, and the Japanese Ameri-
However, she said the most com-
mon reaction is disbelief. "People are
amazed - they can't believe this hap-
pened to American citizens. If they can
get the idea that (the Japanese Ameri-
cans) were citizens, then we've done
our job"
Reactions to the exhibit, although
generally positive, are mixed.
University Prof. Gail Nomura said
she was not completely happy with the
exhibit, saying it was "sanitized," and
should have included more personal
experiences. She also said she thought it
focused too much on the 442nd, al-
though she was glad the exhibit in-
cludedstories of the "resisters" -those
who sued or defied the government.
JoyNakamura, assistantrepresenta-
tive at the Washington, D.C.-basedJapa-
neseAmerican Citizens League (JACL),
said she is happy with the exhibit. "I
think it'swell-done andrealistic, butwe
also need to expand our program," she
said."... Eventhoughwe'reveryhappy
with it, we can't just stop there."

by Sarah Kiino
Daily Staff Reporter
The last Japanese American in-
ternment camp closed in 1946; the
Civil Liberties Act giving retribution
payment to the interned Japanese
Americans was passed in 1988 -
nearly half a century later.
The opinions about the delay of
justice totheJapaneseAmericans vary.
Clifford Uyeda, president of the San
Francisco-based National Japanese
American Historical Society, said
many people who were interned chose
to keep silent.
"The Japanese Americans them-
selves had kept the acute sense of
frustrations and humiliations mostly
to themselves, sensing this was the
proper behavior - a behavior they
had learned from their parents," he
He added that many Nisei (sec-
ond-generation Japanese Americans)
were afraid to speak out immediately
postwar for fear of jeopardizing their
jobs. Now that they are retiring, they
are speaking out, he said.
University Prof. GailNomurasaid
there were people who did speak out,
but they were not heard.
"What people think is that the
Japanese Americans were like sheep
- that they deserved to be interned
because they didn't protest. ... But
the government suppressed knowl-
edge of the resisters," she said.
Uyeda said the general public's
awareness began to be aroused dur-
ing the 1960s.
"The movement toward the pub-
lic awareness of the Japanese Ameri-
canexperience was the directresultof
the civil rights movement of the
1960s," he said. "The Sansei (third-
generation Japanese Americans) felt
it was archaic and un-American to
merely suffer in silence, that it was
necessary to cry out in pain before the
public would recognize that the Japa-
nese Americans were suffering from
the pain of being treated as second-
class citizens."
Joy Nakamura, assistantrepresen-
tative of the Japanese American Citi-
zens League (JACL), agreed with
Uyeda that the younger generations
of Japanese Americans have been in-

strumental in bringing the issue to
"A lot of students and younger
generations learn about what hap-
pened and feel very strongly about it
- they want to make sure it never
happens again," she said. "They are
no longer ashamed to be Asian -
they want to be part of their Asian
Nakamura said although there has
been an increase in Asian American
studies, the awareness level is still
low. She said the JACL is fighting for
money for the Redress Educational
Fund, which makes sure the intern-
ment experience is included in his-
tory textbooks.
Nomura said reforms in the edu-
cational system have alsohelpedbring
the issue to the public.
"We've been trying to reform our
studies tohave amore inclusive focus
... not only to glorify our country, but
to include the more troubling issues,"
she said.
"World War II was a most trou-
bling issue for us constitutionally....
What most people recognize is the
precedent it set. If you are an accept-
able target group, you can have your
rights taken away," she said, adding
that still more must be done to incor-
porate the experience into the educa-
tional system.
Now that awareness has grown,
Uyeda said public opinion has been
strongly in support of the Japanese
"The public has been outraged by
the truth, which took nearly half a
century to be fully revealed. The pub-
lic in general no longer thinks that the
mass internment based only on race
was justified," he said. "The passage
of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988
confirmed this."
However, Nakamura warned
about being overly optimistic.
"You still have to realize there are
still people out there who still believe
the camps were justified," she said,
adding that she is concerned about a
recent increase in anti-Asian senti-
ments and discrimination.
"... We stillneed to make sure this
part of history is not forgotten," she

Understanding of World War II
internment experiences brought
out by younger generations


Peacekeepers sign
truce in Srebrenica

Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina
(AP) Srebrenica's defenders
caved in to a relentless Serb siege
yesterday and signed a truce that
permits aid and evacuation, but
amounts to virtual surrender of the
strategic Muslim town.
Many of Srebrenica's fighters
resented the agreement and it was
unclear if the cease-fire would
Serbs are driving for control of
eastern Bosnia to hook up with
adjacent Serbia and other Serb-
held areas of Bosnia and Croatia
into a "Greater Serbia." Only two
other Muslim enclaves, Gorazde
and Zepa, remain in eastern
Just hours after Serbs and the
Muslim-led forces signed the
truce, 130 Canadian U.N.
peacekeeping troops entered the
town to a hero's welcome, radio
operators said.
Crowds mobbed the
peacekeepers' 22 armored
personnel carriers and 19 trucks
and hugged and kissed the
French and British helicopters
then began ferrying sick and
wounded to Tuzla, under an agree-
ment permitting airborne
evacuation of the 500 most
desperate cases before an overland
evacuation starts for all those who
want to leave the town.
U.N. officials said they
expected about 60 people to be
evacuated before nightfall
yesterday, and the helicopters
would continue their mission over

the next few days.
Tuzla, 45 miles northwest of
Srebrenica, is already overflowing
with an estimated 60,000 refugees
from the Serb drive in eastern
Bosnia. There are up to 60,000
more in Srebrenica.
Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian
Serb leader, pledged to honor
terms of the Srebrenica agreement.
But in an irate reaction to the
U.N. Security Council's decision
Saturday to impose new sanctions
on Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia,
he threatened to boycott further
U.N.-sponsored peace talks.
One of the peace mediators,
Britain's Lord Owen, said
yesterday he believes sanctions
alone are not sufficient to stop the
Serbs and reiterated his suggestion
that military intervention may be
U.S., German and French mili-
tary planes yesterday airdropped
about 60 tons of food and medical
supplies over Srebrenica. The air-
drop has been concentrating on
that besieged area in recent days.
In central Bosnia, at least 50
people were reported killed
Saturday in Muslim-Croat clashes.
Though nominal allies against the
Serbs, the two ethnic groups have
nonetheless clashed repeatedly
over territory. Fighting continued
yesterday, but no new casualty
figures were available. British
Maj. Martyn Thomas, a U.N.
peacekeeper, called the situation
"very alarming."
The Muslim-led Bosnian gov-


ernment paid a high price for the
relief of Srebrenica, giving
effective control of one of the last
three remaining enclaves it holds
in Serb-dominated eastern Bosnia
-roughly the region east of a line
from Tuzla to Sarajevo, the
Under the agreement, both
sides are to stand in place at their
current lines and all supporting
guns, rockets and artillery also are
to be stationary.
Within 72 hours, the
Srebrenica area is to be
completely demilitarized, U.N.
peacekeepers' spokerperson Barry
Frewer said.

I E go,
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Play . 1993 aV A //'1 ' ixllnes
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