The following letter was sent on Dec. 14 from Hiroshi Shimizu, president of the Tule Lake Committee, to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
I write on behalf of the Tule Lake Committee, the grassroots organization of survivors and their descendants of the Tule Lake concentration camp in Northern California, where over 24,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated without due process of law during World War II due to racism, fear, and economic greed.
Tule Lake and Manzanar are companion sites; they are the two World War II concentration camps within California that were used to strip Japanese Americans of their dignity and their freedom. They are civil rights sites and National Historic Landmarks of extraordinary significance in our nation’s history, for they tell a story of racial intolerance and the failure of our nation’s principle of equal justice under the law.
We recently learned of the plan by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to construct a massive solar panel “farm” adjacent to the Manzanar National Historic Site, a division of the National Park Service. That LADWP would choose to construct such a project so close to the Manzanar concentration camp site raises the question of whether LADWP is ignorant of the history of the site on which this project encroaches or is aware of the history but simply does not care.
In either case, to go ahead with the construction would signal a clear lack of respect for that history, those who lived through it, and those who come to learn about it.
Since the site’s designation as a State Historic Landmark and the 1973 placement of a bronze plaque to mark the site, vandals in the Owens Valley used the plaque for target practice, scarred the surface of the bronze marker with gashes, and bragged of urinating on the plaque to express their contempt for this historic site in their midst.
The current proposal of the LADWP to build an intrusive 1,200-acre industrial solar installation, while a less primitive form of expression, communicates the same racist disrespect for our history and would be even more distracting and disturbing to visitors than the defacement of the plaque.
The Owens Valley is a vast region, with ample open space. Surely LADWP can identify a more appropriate location to build a solar generation station and avoid encroaching on a unique and significant national historic site.
It would be as inappropriate and offensive to place such a facility next to Manzanar as it would be to place one next to the Gettysburg National Military Park. As a governmental entity that serves the large and diverse population of Los Angeles, we believe you should seek a more appropriate location for the proposed solar generating station.
This letter originally appeared on the Manzanar Committee’s blog. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee or The Rafu Shimpo.