The Missing Document from the Power of Words Handbook

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BY STANLEY N. KANZAKI

In The Rafu Shimpo (July 17, 2012), Andy Noguchi, a leading member of the Power of Words II Committee, gave an excellent report and review of the revised Power of Words Handbook, which was unanimously voted for and approved by the National JACL Council during the recent national convention.

I have read both of the drafts of the handbook and highly recommended that it include a most important historic document. For some unknown reason(s) it was not.

An image from the Power of Words Handbook shows exclusion orders being posted. (Dorothea Lange/National Archives)

The document I refer to is the exclusion order posted all over Japantowns located in the states of Washington, Oregon and California.  It was in April 1942 that the Japanese — including those who were 1/32 of Japanese blood — were ordered on six days’ notice to be forcibly removed and incarcerated initially into “assembly centers.” The order ended up incarcerating 120,313 Japanese, of which two-thirds were American citizens, into ten concentration camps.

What is this document and what does it mean? This was the first time in history that the U.S. government officially posted a written document that specifically ordered an ethnic people, the Japanese, to be forcibly incarcerated. This was indeed an injustice. There was no due process and the writ of habeas corpus ignored.

It was also the first time the U.S. government used in print euphemisms such as “alien and non-alien,” “evacuated,” “evacuation,” “evacuees,” and “reception center.” This last term was later changed to “assembly center.” Even to the “euphemisers” it may have been just too much of a euphemism. Regardless, they are still euphemisms.

Since the handbook is about euphemisms, this document is the beginning of their use in print by the U.S. government and becomes most important to be included in the handbook.

The question arises: How many people in America since 1942 have read or even know of this exclusion order? Upon reading it, the people will be shocked that this injustice did happen in America and be aware that it must not happen again, especially in light of what is happening in the current world.

A companion question arises then: How many Nikkei have read or even know of this historic document? Imagine the shock the Nisei felt upon first reading the exclusion order back in April 1942, then having to into Japanese for their Issei parents. It becomes more than a historic document to the Nikkei with its negative psychological and emotional impact on an ethnic people.

Having said it all, how must this important historic document be included in the handbook? It’s very simple. Let me explain. Refer to Page 5 of the handbook, third paragraph, first sentence, where it ends in parentheses, “(see fig. at right).” It refers to a photo of someone hammering the exclusion order, which cannot be read, on a wall. Delete the item in parentheses. Then in the same paragraph, at the end of the third sentence, which describes the exclusion order, add “(see copy of attached exclusion order),” referring to a copy to be included in the reference section of the handbook.

When people read this historic document, it will bring a deeper meaning and better understanding of what it’s all about.

It is hard to understand why this historic document was not included. Perhaps someone from the POW Committee II can tell us why. Once again, it is highly recommended that the exclusion order, which is a most important historic document in this regard, be included in the Power of Words Handbook. It will indeed be incomplete without it.

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Stanley Kanzaki writes from New York. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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