LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Response to JACL’s Stance on ‘Allegiance’

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Dear Editor,

In the Sept. 25, 2012 issue, The Rafu Shimpo published the JACL statement about the musical “Allegiance.” It states that the “JACL shares the conviction that is central to “Allegiance” — that the circumvention of constitutional rights should never be repeated again.  JACL has pursued that conviction for the past 70 years.”

I contend that the JACL has not had that conviction for the past 70 years as they claim.

In 1945, Saburo Kido, the JACL president, was asked to help the renunciants restore their citizenship. He said he wanted to help, but because of the strong opposition by members of the Seattle chapter, he said that the JACL organization would not help them.

The JACL view was that those who answered Questions 27 and 28 with “no-no” were “disloyal” or “troublemakers.” It was a misguided view and, unfortunately, that view persists to this day by many individuals.

Left: Saburo Kido. Right: Wayne M. Collins.

There were many reasons why people answered “no-no” or renounced their citizenship. Some were told by their Issei parents to answer “no-no” so that the family could stay together. Some were angry and answered “no-no” as a sign of protest.

From the National Archives I found a U.S. District Court document that told the story of one particular family where the Issei father felt his future in the U.S. was uncertain and, in August of 1943, signed papers to return to Japan with others in his family. His 22-year-old Nisei son had no desire to go to Japan and refused to sign the papers to accompany his family. He writes:

“However, my father begged that I stay with the family since he could only get about on crutches and would be handicapped in looking after the welfare of my mother and two younger sisters who were then 14 and 10 years old. I began to realize how hard it would be for them and I did not want to bring on more grief and worry for them by being separated from the family.”

The son changed his mind and consented to go to Japan with the family.

Further in the court document, he indicated that he gave qualified answers to Questions 27 and 28 and then explained why:

“…[S]oon after having my renunciation hearing at Tule Lake Center, I was advised to change my answers to Questions 27 and 28 into definite ‘no and no.’ My father had just died a few months previously (Nov. 12, 1944), and the welfare of my mother and two younger sisters was of great concern to me  I thought that there might be a possibility that our family might be separated and believed that if my answers to Questions 27 and 28 were changed to negatives, we would all be sent to Japan together. It was then that I took steps to have the answers to the loyalty questions changed to no and no.”

It is evident that there was no disloyalty in this Nisei’s heart, but as a national organization, the JACL would brand this Nisei disloyal and a troublemaker. Also, because of that stigma, when he needed help in getting his citizenship restored, he could not count on the JACL. He (along with over 5,500 others) went to attorney Wayne M. Collins and the Tule Lake Defense Committee to seek assistance.

Although the JACL has made strides in the past few years, such as their apology in 2000 to the Nisei resisters, they cannot seem to own up to the fact that they did not advocate for the civil rights of many Japanese Americans during and after the war. Their characterization that they have promoted Japanese American civil rights for the past 70 years is disingenuous.

Respectfully,
Bruce Hatakeyama

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