Sunday, May 7, 2017

Japanese Internment Camps in the United States

My friend Stan invited me to a talk at the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center in Glen Cove this afternoon.  The talk was by two women who as children, with their families, lived on the west coast, and were taken from their homes and moved hundreds of miles inland to hastily constructed barracks covered with tar paper.  The government was afraid that these American citizens might be spying for the Japanese!  120,000 people were ultimately imprisoned in these centers.  There were about 10 such centers, with up to 15,000 people in each facility.  Most people were held from 1942 to 1946.  Here's the thing - the majority of these people were American citizens!  The whole program was a travesty of justice, and as someone said today,  "It was one of the darker chapters in American history," and "It was a failure of political leadership."  The stories these two women told were very moving.  And their hope is that if our government even STARTS thinking about some illegal program involving people of other religious faiths being singled out because of their religion, then people will be reminded of this terrible program which began 74 years ago.  (REVISED) Stan wrote me after I posted this, with this comment, correcting what I had originally posted:  "My father was 24 and you can say both sides of my family were incarcerated (parents, their brothers/sisters and their parents.)" Such a shameful act by the United States government.


Anonymous said...

Ken, thanks for posting this along with the history. Nice photo of the two women.-- Stan

Anonymous said...

This was one of our country's darkest acts in the name of wartime safety. It was fueled by our war with people who looked different from the average person on the street - Japanese who were easy to spot in a crowd. No matter that they were citizens, owned property and worked hard to get ahead. They looked like the enemy and so were treated like the enemy. President Franklin Roosevelt, a hero to so many for creating the WPA and other programs to help Americans crawl out of despair and poverty after the Great Depression, approved the internment camps without protest from non-Japanese, some of whom profited when families that were taken to camps had to relinquish their property. Decades later, we, as a country, said that injustice wouldn't happen again, and yet here we have elected a president who has declared Muslims a sect that deserves to be excluded from living here. Mexicans are the public enemy. Who's next on his list? Your picture and essay are reminders that discrimination is alive and well and thriving in this country and those of us who know its wrong need to speak out against it, as many times and as long as it takes for everyone to live equally here. That's what living in America is supposed to be about. Thank you for letting me post this on your blog.

Ken Spencer said...

Thank you so much for your very moving comments. You have said it better than I ever could. Thanks.