February 19, 2015

The day Japanese Americans lost their rights

Posted in Day of Remembrance, Friends of Minidoka, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, News tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:15 pm by rkozu


Originally published February 18, 2015 at 6:02 PM | Page modified February 19, 2015 at 12:52 PM

Guest: The day Japanese Americans lost their rights

Gordon Hirabayashi believed the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans was unconstitutional — and he went to prison for his belief, writes guest columnist Esther Toshiko Hirabayashi Furugori.

By Esther Toshiko Hirabayashi Furugori

Special to The Times

Thursday marks the 73rd anniversary of an American day of infamy. On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which set in motion the forced removal of my family from our Auburn-area home, joining the exile of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast to American concentration camps.

My family was first forcibly removed in crowded, hot trains to Fresno, Calif., arriving at a stark place surrounded by barbed wire fences called Pinedale Assembly Center. A month later, we were transported by bus to the Tule Lake Relocation Center in Northern California.

Conditions were harsh at both locations. Crammed into open ceiling “apartments” no larger than 20 by 25 feet, no conversation or movement was private. Everyone was forced to adjust to a culturally uncomfortable reality of sharing everything from meals in mess halls to humiliating communal showers and latrines with no privacy dividers.

I was just 13, and my family kept me busy playing softball, reading Nancy Drew novels and enjoying music. Looking back, perhaps they wanted to distract me from thinking about my brother, Gordon Hirabayashi, who wasn’t with us. He was in prison.

Before our forced removal, the entire Pacific Coast was under a federally imposed curfew for Japanese Americans. Gordon was attending the University of Washington and he strongly believed that this curfew and Executive Order 9066 were unconstitutional.

Deliberately staying out past the curfew, Gordon turned himself in to police and demanded that he be arrested. The police officers knew Gordon and told him to go home, but he persisted and was arrested by the FBI, tried and found guilty of violating the curfew. With no transportation paid for by the government, Gordon refused to pay his own way to go to prison in Arizona, so he decided to hitchhike.

Gordon also refused to be sent to the concentration camps or serve in the military, spending nearly two years in different prisons while appealing his curfew verdict. Eventually in 1943, his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled against him.

Gordon’s principled stand was both unusual and lonely. Hardly anyone stood up for civil rights in the 1940s like they did in the 1960s, and most people in the Japanese-American community — let alone the nation at large — disagreed with his views as being unpatriotic and criticized him for making things harder by “rocking the boat.”

Forty years after his Supreme Court verdict, the U.S. District Court in Seattle overturned Gordon’s conviction. Blockbuster evidence was uncovered that the federal government deliberately withheld important military documents from his Supreme Court case, disclosing that racial reasons and not military necessity were used to justify the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans.

After the war, Gordon earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology from the University of Washington, enjoyed a successful academic career and received many awards including our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Among all of his accomplishments, I’m most proud of my brother for his courage to protest the unbridled use of power by our government during times of fear, war hysteria and racial prejudice, and, since Sept. 11, 2001, I suspect that Gordon wouldn’t mind if I added religious intolerance to that list.

Gordon died on Jan. 2, 2012. To ensure that his story lives on and inspires generations to come, our family is honored that the permanent Legacy of Justice installations of public art and interpretive elements will be the cornerstone of the mixed-use Hirabayashi Place project currently under construction in Seattle’s Chinatown International District.

“I never looked at my case as my own, or just as a Japanese-American case,” Gordon said in reference to his overturned conviction. “It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”

Esther Toshiko Hirabayashi Furugori is a charter member of the Hirabayashi Place Legacy of Justice Committee.

March 7, 2013

JACL Statement on the Power of Words

Posted in Japanese American Incarceration, News tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:20 pm by minidokapilgrimage


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The following is a press release from the Japanese American Citizens League, dated March 5, 2013.

Contact: Priscilla Ouchida, Executive Director,pouchida@jacl.org
Craig Tomiyoshi, VP – Public Affairs,vppublicaffairs@jacl.org

WASHINGTON D.C. — During the past several weeks, the Japanese American Citizens League has received numerous questions and comments from members and external partners within the Japanese American communityabout the organization’s position and plans regarding implementation of the Power of Words handbook.

JACL remains committed to fully implementing the Power of Words resolution and terminology handbook, as approved by the National Council, without removal of any terminology or edits to their recommended use.

While some internal briefings and opinions on our web site have circulated and raised concerns in the community, no proposal or resolution to remove or redefine terminology has been developed or brought before the JACL National Board for consideration.

At the last JACL National Board Meeting in February 2013, the board reaffirmed its support for the Power of Words handbook and implementation as approved at the 2012 National Convention.

JACL staff has been engaging in conversations with its partners outside of the Japanese American community to listen to their feedback and explore partnership opportunities that may help the handbook receive broader support and visibility. Some groups have indicated that their constituents may have difficulty supporting a term in the handbook, but acknowledged the Japanese American community’s right to define its own experience.

No official partnership or coalition currently exists. Moreover, JACL will not recommend or propose the removal of, or edits to, the terminology handbook as a condition of participation in a broader coalition.

JACL, its leadership, staff and individual committees have been actively promoting and distributing the handbook to elected officials, members of Congress, federal agencies and organizations, without reservation. As part of the implementation strategy, the Education Committee of JACL has also been developing a broader outreach and distribution plan for the Power of Words handbook.


Taken from: http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org/2013/03/07/jacl-statement-on-the-power-of-words/