Camp survivors call on Japanese Americans to oppose immigrant detainment

A reminder:

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, prompting the incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, only a handful of Americans took steps to oppose it.

Now, survivors of those camps are trying to make sure that immigrant detainment doesn’t go unopposed again.

On Friday, four survivors of the camps gathered in San Francisco’s Japantown to call on Japanese-Americans to oppose family separation and detainment of children by the U.S. government. The panel, which also included two Japanese-American activists, was hosted by the Bay Area Day of Remembrance Consortium.

“It’s the concept of the way these people are being treated,” said Chizu Omori, a former resident of the government camps. “It’s the racism. That’s the thing that gets to me — that peoples of color are particularly being singled out for exclusion from our country.”

At about the age of 13, Omori and her family, a farm family in San Diego County, were incarcerated in Poston, Arizona.

She recalled her parents signing repatriation papers to return to Japan because her father was an issei — a first-generation Japanese immigrant living in North America, which was illegal at the time.

“This was a very devastating thing to happen because I really didn’t know very much about Japan and didn’t think of myself as Japanese, and I didn’t want to leave America,” she said.

The civil rights activist, who now works with the nonviolent action project Tsuru for Solidarity, plans to protest in Washington, D.C., against the detention centers and family separation policies in June.

Sadako Kashiwagi, another speaker at Friday’s event, lived with her family as tenant farmers in the Sacramento area and was incarcerated in Arboga and then Tule Lake, California.

“We were there because we were rejected,” she said. “It was really dark because your country tells you you’re not good. So you reject your language, your food — your culture.”

Her father, who was known as a troublemaker to the authorities, was reported to the FBI, she said. The bureau separated them for several months.

“I really feel for those kids,” Kashiwagi said, referring to the immigrant children being separated from their parents today. “And all I can say (to them) is: Know your language, be proud of who you are, be strong, be kind and smile.”

For film producer Jon Osaki, who accompanied the former detainees on the panel, it was essential to note that the faults of the times are being repeated today.

Osaki said that some Japanese-Americans believe that immigrants detained today deserve it because they’re illegal.

But during World War II, he said, the Immigration Act of 1924 banned Japanese immigration; one-third of those detained were isseis and illegal for that reason; and those who resisted the mass roundup and incarceration of Japanese-Americans were technically breaking the law.

“Today, as a community that has experienced one of the greatest civil liberties violations in the history of this country, we have an opportunity to push back against the same sentiment that banished our mothers and our fathers and our aunts and uncles and our bacchans [grandmas] and jiichans [grandpas],” he said.

His parents, too, were incarcerated at camps before they met.

“The incarceration is ultimately about politics,” he said. “It was about people who did not want Japanese in this country, and politicians who are trying to placate their political base and use fear, to win elections.”

Japanese-American activists are hosting a rally in front of the ICE Headquarters on Feb. 14 and a procession through Japantown and a reception on Feb. 16 at AMC Kabuki Theaters.

Source: Camp survivors call on Japanese Americans to oppose immigrant detainment

What Japanese American history can teach us about diversity and immigrants in the workplace

Good long interview with U.S. GuideSpark CEO Keith Kitani given how his family was affected by World War II measures against Japanese Americans:


VentureBeat: What’s interesting about Japanese American history is that so many more people than Japanese Americans know about it. They look at the internment and see lessons in it — the constitutional issues, the diversity issues, the human rights issues. The legal history as well. In some ways it surprises me that it’s part of a liberal education about what it means to be an American.

Kitani: It’s interesting to see and think about that. I’ve often started to think about the impact it had, and the people who had to go through it, like my dad. How did it impact me? How did it impact you? It certainly did have an impact on our lives and how things have evolved. I’ve not seen anybody who’s done a study on it, but I know it has. I think about hearing these stories and seeing how my dad acted. It made it a bit clearer. We are the result of our upbringings and our experiences.

VentureBeat: You mentioned your dad didn’t really talk about it. How did you learn about it? Was that from someone else in your family, or did you eventually have conversations with him?

Kitani: I sat down with him and said, “Hey, dad, you’re getting old. It would be great to start writing about this, documenting the things you’ve done through your life.” That’s when he started to really share about it. I don’t know how your dad was, but my dad kept a lot of that stuff to himself. He wasn’t an emotional kind of guy. He kept it all to himself. It took a while to get it out. “Okay, now I understand you better. I wish I’d had this conversation 20 or 30 years earlier.”

VentureBeat: My dad was a little more open. He’d tell me some things that he didn’t mind talking about. There were other things where I got more out of him when I was an adult as well. He would talk about playing baseball in the camp. He was 10 to 15 years old at the time. He said that for a while he hated the U.S. government because they fed him macaroni 30 days in a row. He’d talk about some of the funnier stories.

I went to the National Archives and dug some records out. I asked about some of those things as well. It was an interesting historical exercise. It’s interesting that the Japanese Americans who have dug out some of this history can relate to each other. Among our parents, they always knew each other by what camp your family was in.

Japanese Americans photographed by Paul Kitagaki.

Above: Japanese Americans photographed by Paul Kitagaki.

Image Credit: Paul Kitagaki

Kitani: It’s interesting how they — how different people handled it. For my mom it was a different experience than my dad. But it took a long time for me to get some of those things. He did talk about the sports that they played, some of those things. Only after a little while did he talk about how they weren’t living in the greatest conditions in the world, those kinds of things. That didn’t come out in the first conversation. It’s the stuff that comes out later.

VentureBeat: I don’t know about you, but for me it also helps me understand other people. If I probe a bit and I can learn something about them, I can place them, where they are in this history. If I talk to other people — say, a Vietnamese person, and they say their family came over in 1975 — if you know a bit of your history, you know that was a big year for them, that they probably came as refugees. Just a bit of someone’s history like that tells you a lot about them.

Kitani: Here, there are so many people who have come from other countries. I think everyone has — there are so many different stories that brought them here. Obviously, for us it was a bit different as far as the experiences we had here.

My dad passed away a few years ago, and that made me reflect on it a lot more. Obviously not the best time. It’s better to do it when they’re alive. But it did give me some things to think about. I don’t write a whole bunch of stuff around things like that, but I did write a post on LinkedIn that talked about it in relation to some of the immigration issues that have been happening recently.

VentureBeat: What is the lesson you draw as far as what’s relevant today about immigration?

Kitani: The way I want to think about it, I think a lot of people know about history, but how do you really think about and learn from history to apply it? It’s harder to draw straight lines from all these things, but if I think about some of the policies, it’s more a scenario of — it’s easy to go down a slippery slope of policy. Something happened 75 years ago, and it would be helpful for people to remember about that as policies are being made today. That’s more how I think about it, rather than having strong opinions about what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. It’s important for us as we look at these things to look back at some of the scenarios that happened and try to learn from them.

People learn about history, but they don’t necessarily understand the impact it has on the people that were involved. Until my dad started telling me his stories, it was just visiting Manzanar, as opposed to understanding the impact it had on his life and the carry-over to me and my family’s lives. Those are things that, as you get older and learn more — that was what caused me to think about and comment on it.

VentureBeat: It seems like basic studies can lead you to some strong opinions, strong conclusions about what’s going on today.

Kitani: Yeah. The piece that can sometimes get lost — the people who were impacted, there aren’t as many of them around. We’re the people that need to carry on and think about the actual impact. It’s harder to truly understand that until you can get a few levels below, like you did with your dad and I was able to do with my dad.

VentureBeat: There are people with strong opinions about it who don’t have a grasp of what it means for the people who are directly affected. How you change the course of families for generations. Once they hear some real stories about what happens to people — you can understand where you stand on some things. What is an American? Who deserves these rights?

Kitani: Exactly. There’s reading about it, and then there’s personally experiencing, or feeling like you personally experienced through the people that you know. That’s often the disconnect. We all read about history. But the impact on people is hard to measure on an emotional level, unless you get it from a specific point of view.

VentureBeat: As far as communicating that, I don’t know if there are things you tell your employees, or somehow you carry this on in the management of the company, or your work style?

Kitani: As I’ve thought more about my background and the impact that I had with my family, through my educational background, growing up in a very diverse environment — I only started thinking about it more recently, and I reflected about the company we’ve built. As I prepare for these things — the next thing I do is I look at a set of stats to make sure of where we’re at in terms of a lot of these things. For us, on almost every scale we’re a pretty diverse organization. Our numbers, whether it’s gender or race, match close to the U.S. workforce. Whereas, as you probably know, a lot of Silicon Valley companies and technology companies don’t match that well.

I was trying to reflect on how my upbringing and my philosophies around it — one of our things around here is a value about being yourself. It’s really about appreciating the individual and the diversity of the experience that they bring to the company. That was something we created a number of year ago, when we weren’t really thinking about diversity and inclusion, but really just about individual.

One thing that’s happened, and it’s tied to communication — our team here started to create a program called Humans of GuideSpark. There’s that blog called Humans of New York. Twice a month they come up with a little profile with a personal story of different employees. For one, her parents came over from Vietnam around 1975, like you were talking about. You heard that story about her parents.

What we realized is that with communications and stories, you can really share and appreciate the diversity. It goes deeper than just looking at numbers or a set of people. It’s not just the specific gender or race. It’s also the stories that go behind it. Maybe that’s tied to the discussion we had about the impact of the internment on Japanese Americans, but it’s more than that. It’s the stories behind that and the impact they have.

I certainly feel, as I think about the cultural values we’ve built — we’re pretty diverse. We like to share stories about individuals and where they come from. That’s just happened organically. At our size of company, we don’t have programs. We don’t have any of that stuff. But it happens organically. I think that has a lot to do with who I am, how I was brought up, and the experience I had that shaped that.

That obviously leads into what I talked about earlier. One of the core things we’re trying to do is help organizations communicate better. Whether it’s a program around performance management, or diversity and inclusion, or any number of communications that companies do, the premise is that one-size-fits-all is just not going to work. Companies need to think about how they interact and connect with their employees in a way that starts to appreciate the diversity of that work force.

Again, none of these things were thought of 10 years ago when I started the company, as far as the culture and the products, but they’ve evolved as part of who we are and what we’re trying to do as an organization. It feels a little like it’s come all together somehow, without it being intentional, from what I was thinking. That’s why I think these things have had an impact on who I am and the kind of company and solutions I’m building.

VentureBeat: I think if you understand your people and your history, you’re able to work with them better.

Kitani: Yeah. And we’re obviously — one of the things I think are really powerful as the stories. You do that every day, so you know that. For us, so much of it is business communications, and then the team — we do a lot around sharing stories and their backgrounds. We have something called Our Values, Our Voices, which is a podcast the internal team has created where they tell stories about how people interpret the values of the company. It’s a lot of interesting organic stuff, but you can really see the power of it when it comes to life.

VentureBeat: When Japanese American history comes up, do you find that there’s some division of opinion about it? Is your interpretation different from some people growing up today? Do you find that there are different kinds of opinions about it?

Kitani: I wouldn’t say there are different kinds of opinions? I think I see the differences in the same way that I saw the differences 10 or 15 years ago, when I talked to my dad. I think the difference is, when most people that I know read about it, they don’t talk about it as a positive thing that this country did. Certainly some people understand why it was, and there are slight differences of opinion.

But the difference for me is understanding what it was and how it impacted those people and their families. When my mom’s family had a grocery store and then went through their struggles and ended up moving to California, that’s a pretty big impact on a family. People don’t think about that when they just read about this.

Or my dad, who essentially had to start over, he and his guardian. It shaped how we interacted and what he valued. He would tell me stories of family and the noise of family, how that was something that he treasured in our house, because he didn’t have that. Those are the things that, for me — I wouldn’t say it’s a difference of opinion, but it’s a different perspective that even I didn’t really have.

Source: What Japanese American history can teach us about diversity and immigrants in the workplace

The Supreme Court Overturned a Ruling That Enabled Internment of Japanese-Americans During World War II

The one bit of good news in the SCOTUS travel ban ruling:

In Tuesday’s majority opinion upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the Supreme Court also overturned a long-criticized decision that had upheld the constitutionality of Japanese-American internment during World War II.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor had mentioned the 1944 case, Korematsu v. United States, in her dissent, arguing that the rationale behind the majority decision had “stark parallels” to Korematsu; in both cases, she argued, the government “invoked an ill-defined natiounal security threat to justify an exclusionary policy of sweeping proportion.”

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the case was not relevant to the travel ban, but went ahead and wrote that it is now overturned.

“The dissent’s reference to Korematsu … affords this Court the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and — to be clear — ‘has no place in law under the Constitution,’” he wrote.

Korematsu arose out of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1942 executive order mandating that Japanese Americans leave their homes and jobs for internment camps. Over 117,000 Japanese were ultimately removed from their homes. Civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, who died in 2005, challenged his interment, but the Supreme Court ruled that his detention was a military necessity.

Parallels between Japanese interment and the Muslim ban had been highlighted before Tuesday’s ruling. Fred Korematsu’s daughter Karen, who now runs a civil liberties institute in his name, had filed a friend of the court briefing against the travel ban, and argued in aWashington Post op-ed last December that the policy “just as unfair” as Japanese internment.

“Korematsu is a reminder that while we may sometimes be afraid during times of crisis, fear should not prevail over our fundamental freedoms.,” she wrote at the time.

Both liberal and conservative justices have criticized the Korematsu decision in the past, but it was never formally overturned.

In 1995, liberal Justice Ginsburg wrote in a dissent that “a Korematsu-type classification … will never again survive scrutiny,” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in a speech that it was wrong but warned that it could happen again. “In times of war, the laws fall silent,” he said.

In the majority opinion Tuesday, Roberts quoted from Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson’s famous dissent in Korematsu.

Jackson, who later served as a chief prosecutor for the U.S. in the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, argued that the majority decision upholding internment would set a bad precedent.

He noted that a military order would eventually lapse, but a judicial opinion would validate racial discrimination by creating new principles to justify it.

“The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need,” he wrote.

After a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., during the 2016 campaign, Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, comparing it to Roosevelt’s executive order authorizing internment. In a later interview with TIME, he would not unequivocally repudiate the internment camps.

“I certainly hate the concept of it. But I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer,” he said.

Recently, Trump Administration attorneys favorably invoked Hirabayashi v. United Statesin a legal briefing on a case involving Guantanamo Bay detainees, a World War II-era decision which was a basis for Korematsu.

Source: The Supreme Court Overturned a Ruling That Enabled Internment of Japanese-Americans During World War II

Trump Copies the Worst Mistake of FDR – Scott McGaugh, The Daily Beast

Another example of those who forget history …:

Fear and vengeance have again gripped our nation. It’s not the first time that Americans have acted in a most un-American manner when we have been attacked or feel threatened. Throughout our history, we have branded entire ethnic groups as vague-but-dangerous threats. American communities have been forcibly unrooted without due process. Immigrants from China to the Middle East have been banned from our shore, in a passion first captured by Cicero when he wrote, “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”

February 19 marks the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that ordered the removal of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast in 1942, solely because of their ethnicity. There was no due process. No formal charges. Families were given only a few weeks’ notice to sell their businesses, homes, personal belongings, and even family heirlooms. “Japantowns” from San Diego to Seattle were gutted within a few months.

In this century, the 9/11 attack and jihadist-inspired domestic violence have spawned speculative calls for databases of Muslim Americans and mosque closures. Now President Donald Trump has tried to chaotically banish wide swaths of ethnic immigrants, for fear of unknown enemy combatants who may be among them. Out of fear of the invisible few, President Roosevelt authorized the equivalent 75 years ago this month, in what now is considered one of the darkest chapters of American history. President Trump has stopped short of condemning internment camps, despite national apologies by Presidents Reagan and Bush.

Shamefully, Trump is continuing an American tradition of retribution and vengeance against ethnic groups. When Native Americans were viewed as a threat to white settlement and expansion, tens of thousands were forcibly moved onto more than 300 reservations. Indeed, Cicero proved prescient when our Japanese-American neighbors were sent to internment camps about 65 years later in some of the same desolate regions that had been forced upon Native Americans.

It would serve President Trump and his allies well to reflect on Americans’ treatment of their Japanese-American neighbors in World War II. It was euphemistically called “relocation” and “evacuation” at the time. But the reality was far different. It was hysterical payback. Most victims endured nearly two years in a prison-camp environment of barracks where families lived in a single room. They were surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by armed soldiers, weapons turned inward.

Were they truly the American enemies that some feared—just as President Trump views large swaths of Muslims today?

In 1943, President Roosevelt authorized the segregated Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He asked the sons of those incarcerated and others to volunteer for an army commanded by white officers and to possibly die for their country in Europe and the Pacific. Remarkably, 10,000 volunteers from Hawaii stepped forward. Together with about 1,300 volunteers from the internment camps and draftees, army recruiters were overwhelmed by the response.

The 442nd suffered horrendous casualties on near-suicide missions as it compiled a remarkable war record. Ultimately the 442nd became the most-decorated unit of its size in World War II. One of its battalions, the 100th from Hawaii, brutally earned the moniker “Purple Heart Battalion.” The 442nd ultimately earned more than 18,000 awards for valor, more than one for every man. (Yet Japanese-American soldiers were denied Medals of Honor until President Clinton issued 21 in 2000. Only seven were alive to receive them personally.)

They returned home after the war and some suffered continuing hatred from their neighbors. Yet they endured and rebuilt their lives as parents, teachers, merchants, church leaders, and mechanics. Even though their families had been treated as a faceless, homogenous, and undefined internal threat against America, for the most part Japanese Americans suffered silently as they rose above America’s fear and vengeance.

Today their legacy sounds a cautionary note against partisan political talk of Muslim-American databases, muddled policy statements about Muslim Americans abroad, Muslim immigrant banishment, and the dangers of American mosques.

Today’s sweeping characterizations of Muslim Americans and Middle Eastern immigrants are a dangerous echo of America’s World War II treatment of Japanese Americans, as articulated by Oregon Governor Walter Pierce: “Their [Japanese American] ideals, their racial characteristics, social customs, and their way of life are such that they cannot be assimilated into American communities. They will always remain a people apart, a cause of friction and resentment, and a possible peril to our national safety.”

His statement sounds eerily familiar today. It is a sentiment that continues to sully the American spirit. Fear and vengeance must be stifled if thoughtful and constructive decisions are to be made that intelligently protect America’s national security.

Source: Trump Copies the Worst Mistake of FDR – The Daily Beast