Rafu Staff Report
SACRAMENTO — California State Grange President Bob McFarland apologized for his organization’s treatment of Japanese Americans before and during World War II in a March 25 letter to David Lin, national president of the Japanese American Citizens League.
“On behalf of the members of the California State Grange, please accept this letter of apology to the Japanese American community for a discriminatory period in our history, of which we are not proud,” McFarland wrote.
“The California State Grange started in 1873 and continues today as a fraternal organization supporting agriculture and communities. We have over 9,700 members serving 185 communities in the state.
“Examining our past, we recognize that the Grange was a leader in organizing opposition to Japanese immigration, beginning in 1907. Along with the American Legion, the California State Federation of Labor, and the Native Sons of the Golden West, the Grange was active in the Asiatic Exclusion League.
“The California Grange passed a resolution in 1907 which stated that aliens living in the United States should be barred from buying and owning land. The California Grange was instrumental in passage of the Alien Land Law of 1920, and the 1924 law ending Japanese immigration to the United States.
“In 1922, the California Grange passed a resolution supporting federal legislation that resulted in the 1924 law that expressed ‘… the intense feeling of our people of the West in this matter, so absolutely vital to Christian civilization and the white races of our country.’
“These early seeds of racism sprouted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Grange supported the incarceration of Japanese Americans. In 1943, the Grange called for the deportation of all people of Japanese ancestry, aliens and American citizens alike.
“In view of this history of discrimination, an apology is long overdue. The California State Grange, by unanimous vote of its member delegates, recently passed a resolution calling for an apology to the Japanese American community. As president of the California State Grange, I present this letter of apology to the Japanese American Citizens League, with the request that it be shared with Japanese Americans across the country.
“No words can compensate for the past injustice and loss of property, freedom and dignity, but I hope that this is a small step toward preventing a recurrence of racism and toward promoting equality for all people.”
Sandy Lydon, historian emeritus at Cabrillo College, alerted the current Grange leadership to their organization’s past history of discrimination. A resolution of apology was written and approved unanimously at the October 2012 California State Grange convention.
Titled “Affirmation of Diversity,” the resolution was authored by Takashi Yogi of Garden Valley (El Dorado County), a member of Marshall Grange and the California State Grange Executive Committee, and co-host of “Home on the Grange” on KFOK Community Radio. It read as follows:
“Whereas, the California Grange encouraged the removal and confinement of Japanese Americans in 1942 and opposed their return to their homes after World War II; and
“Whereas, the Japanese Americans were deprived of constitutional rights and suffered loss of property, freedom, and dignity; and
“Whereas, the United States formally apologized for the injustice and offered restitution in a bill signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988. Be it therefore
“Resolved: That the California State Grange apologize to the Japanese American community for the Grange’s participation in the injustices suffered by Japanese Americans during World War II and convey the apology via the Japanese American Citizens League and the Grange News. Let it be further
“Resolved: That the California State Grange declare that it will not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.”
The Grange was denounced in a Pacific Citizen editorial on Oct. 28,1944, Yogi noted. It read, in part: “In its latest resolution on Japanese Americans, the California State Grange has descended to the nadir of hypocrisy. It is impossible to believe that any group of men in this nation is so devoid of understanding of the basic principles of our democratic life and culture that they would advocate in sincerity the revocation of the citizenship of a body of fellow Americans on the grounds of ancestry.
“The latest action of the California Grange can only mean that this organization is shamelessly stooping to the use of hate, fear and the cry of race supremacy for purposes of economic advantage … This insistence on restrictions against Americans of Japanese ancestry, at a time when any military justification for such has evaporated, is proof that economic greed and racial hate, rather than any concern for the military security, were the underlying motives for the continuing campaign of the Grange, the Native Sons and similar organizations for the duration exclusion of the evacuees from the evacuated area.
“The Grange has exerted great influence, both nationally and locally, in political and legislative matters on behalf of the agrarian population. It is a pity then, that its West Coast leadership is in the hands of narrow, bigoted men whose ideas on matters of race and ancestry are no different from those of a little man with a moustache in Berlin.”
(The JACL newspaper was headquartered in Salt Lake City during the war.)
Yogi told The Rafu Shimpo that although his family was not interned, the issue is very meaningful to him: “Our family was in Okinawa during World War II and survived the last battle of the war, in which over 147,000 Okinawan civilians were killed. We emigrated to Hawaii in 1948. So I was not directly involved with the internment.
“But being a survivor of the war, I am keenly interested in the effects of the war on civilians. War seems to stir up patriotism as well as racism. One need only look at the propaganda posters of World War II to see the blatant racism, with Japanese depicted as rats and snakes. I am interested in the process where normally decent people consent to inhumane acts.
“I have studied both the Jewish Holocaust and the Japanese American internment to understand this process. What I see is: (1) The labeling of people as objects separate from us. (2) The creation of fear of those objects. (3) The persecution or extermination of those subhuman objects.”
Yogi wrote on his website, “It is our responsibility to keep the machinery of democracy oiled and repaired, and to ensure that the machine is operated correctly, as it was intended. Our responsibility is more than merely voting and watching the news on TV. Since we are the government, we need to be informed and take an active part in maintaining democracy. The challenge is to learn from the past and create a democracy that truly provides ‘liberty and justice for all.’”