Sacramento City Council Repeals Wartime Resolution

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Members of the Japanese American community who attended the Sacramento City Council meeting. Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada is second from left.

Members of the Japanese American community and their supporters who attended the Sacramento City Council meeting. Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada is second from left.

Rafu Staff Report

SACRAMENTO — On the evening of May 27, the Sacramento City Council unanimously repealed Resolution 43-207.

The resolution, which has been on the books for over 70 years, labeled Japanese Americans as “pagan” and full of “treachery, faithlessness, and untrustworthiness,” and explicating urged that “all Japanese be confined in concentration camps, and that they not be returned to any Pacific Coast state.”

The repeal resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Steven Hansen, reads as follows:

“A. On Dec. 8, 1941, at President Roosevelt’s request, Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan and the United States entered World War II.

“B. On Feb. 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Two-thirds of them were native-born American citizens and 70 percent were from California. They were forced to sell their belongings, leave their homes, and enter incarceration at 10 War Relocation Authority Camps in remote locales.

“C. On May 28, 1943, the Sacramento City Council adopted Resolution 43-207 that regretfully supported the imprisonment of people of Japanese heritage and endorsed the orders of General John L. DeWitt to intern people of Japanese heritage and prohibit their return to Sacramento.

“D. Despite forced imprisonment and pervasive prejudice, more than 33,000 Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans, volunteered and were drafted to serve in the United States armed services during the war. Of these, 19,000 served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, among the most decorated American units in World War II. In 2010, a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the three units was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

“E. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians to investigate whether the incarceration of people of Japanese heritage was justified. The commission’s report, entitled ‘Personal Justice Denied,’ found little evidence of Japanese disloyalty and recommended the payment of reparations to WWII camp survivors.

“F. In 1988, President Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (Pub.L. 100-383 Title I, Aug. 10, 1988, 102 Stat. 904, 50a U.S.C. §1989b) that officially apologized for the imprisonment on behalf of the United States, concluding that the government’s actions were based on ‘race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.’

“G. Consistent with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the incarceration of people of Japanese heritage during the Second World War, and local enactments supporting such imprisonment, were the result of wartime hysteria, race prejudice, and lack of political leadership. However, through oversight, the Sacramento City Council failed to repeal Resolution 43-207.

“Based on the facts set forth in the background, the City Council resolves as follows:

“Section 1. Resolution 43-207 is hereby repealed.”

Hansen said the issue was brought to his attention by community members and the recent publication of “Sacramento’s Historic Japantown: Legacy of a Lost Neighborhood.” He added that as a member of the LGBT community, he is sensitive to issues of prejudice.

Erin Komatsubara, statewide media spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol and former TV producer and writer, shared her impressions of the council meeting: “My emotions welled up and overflowed while listening to the testimonials, discussion and final vote to repeal the 71-year-old resolution still on the books.

“Then there were the heartfelt apologies from a few of the City Council members and Mayor Kevin Johnson. Councilmember Darrell Fong, who is half Japanese American, recounted a family story that had occurred a few years ago. Councilmember Fong took his mom and aunt back to Amache (Colo.) at their request because they wanted to visit their childhood, wartime ‘home.’ He was appalled when he saw the desolate conditions.

“Mayor Johnson said that repealing this resolution would be one of the most important votes that this city council did.

“Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby recounted how she had recently joined the Sacramento Senator Lions Club, a mostly Japanese American service organization of which I am a proud member. Vice Mayor Ashby looked right at me as she sincerely apologized for it taking so long for Sacramento City to repeal the reprehensible resolution, which was crafted in the throes of wartime hysteria after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1943. She almost made me cry …

“As the City Council members’ heartfelt testimonials and apologies continued … the only thing that I could think of were my aunties and uncles, and especially my grandparents. They would be so happy to hear the Sacramento City Council speak. How vindicated they would feel, especially my bachan; maybe even incredulous at all of this fuss. Seventy one years after their hell was over …

“My family members didn’t get to hear the sincerity in all of the politicians’ voices; my family didn’t get the opportunity to hear all of the remorse, all of the regret at how they were mistreated. Sacramento Issei and Nisei deserved to hear the kind words, much more than any of us Sansei and Yonsei sitting in the chambers of the Sacramento City Council.

“My generation was handed life on a silver platter. There is no excuse for us to fail. Whether we have our MBA or our GED; whether we are the CEO of a Fortune 500 or we flip burgers in the local greasy spoon. No monku, Sansei and Yonsei.”

Speakers at the meeting included Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), who noted that the Davis City Council rescinded a similar resolution in 2006.

Andy Noguchi, civil rights co-chair of Florin JACL, introduced former incarcerees in the audience, including Lois Yuki, Roy Imura, Mary Miyao, Ralph Sugimoto, Jane Okubo, Marielle Tsukamoto, Al Hida, and Hach Yasumura.

Noguchi also introduced representatives of the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities, which have been targets of discrimination in recent years. They came to express gratitude for support from Japanese Americans during times of crisis, such as the aftermath of 9/11.

Georgette Imura, an appointee to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and a longtime civil rights advocate, said she was born in Manzanar and that her father had difficulty finding work upon returning to the Sacramento area. She said she was saddened that the pro-internment resolution was still on the books as Japanese Americans were trying to rebuild their lives and communities, and thanked the council for taking action.

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