Today marks the 70th anniversary of #EO9066, the executive order signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt that authorized the deportation and eventual detainment of Japanese Americans from the west coast during World War II. Here is a great rundown of some of the essential facts related to internment, a particularly dark spot on our nation’s history and one glossed over by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans imprisoned, 2/3 were American citizens making the number of Japanese-Americans interned without cause greater then the population of Wichita, Kansas. Americans with as little as 1/8 Japanese ancestry were interned, including orphan infants and Americans of Taiwanese and Korean descent.
In 1988 the US government made an awkward and inadequate attempt at reparations for those interned. Surviving internees received $20,000 each though families of internees who died got nothing.
Despite a rich tradition of value for the rule of law and equality as a fundamental right, this country has time and time again turned away from those values and instead embraced fear and jingoistic patriotism in times of economic uncertainty. The lessons of the Japanese internments should sit fresh in our minds as we demonize Muslims, Latinos, and women.
Each step our elected leaders take toward criminalizing the status of being an other, whether through attempts to outlaw religious practices as with the anti-sharia zeal or to criminalize women’s bodies is another step we take toward reliving the days of Korematsu, Japanese internments, and of course our most horrific legacy of all, slavery. To mark this anniversary let’s stand up against these efforts in opposition to the idea that fear-mongering based on race, gender, religion or any other characteristic that is not white and male and show the world, and remind ourselves, that we are better than this.
Photo from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff via flickr.