‘A Failure of Political Leadership’

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The following statement was issued Tuesday by Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress and Nikkei Progressives.

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After the violence in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, we needed to hear our president immediately condemn racism and the white supremacist groups, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, who were responsible for promoting hate and causing the death of a young woman and injuries to dozens more.

We needed assurance from the leader of our country that the views of these groups have no place in America and that he holds them responsible for the destruction and deaths of that day.

Trump did not do this and it is a failure of political leadership at a time when the country needs leadership.

As Japanese Americans, we needed to hear this and be assured that there would not be another failure of political leadership as there had been during World War II. In 1982, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), after hearing the testimonies of hundreds of Japanese Americans, published its conclusions in “Personal Justice Denied” that “Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity” and that “the broad historical causes that shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”

President Franklin Roosevelt allowed racism to guide his policies of registration, curfews and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in 1942.

Trump already has these kinds of policies in place. He has already made known his views toward immigrants and Muslims. He called for keeping out all Muslims and for building a wall to keep immigrants out. More deaths have been caused by white supremacists yet he does not call them what they are – “domestic terrorists.”

Trump has close advisors who hold the same views as the white supremacists who spewed hate and violence in Charlottesville and who believe that America is a white man’s country. Should we really be surprised that he was reluctant to condemn the KKK and the neo-Nazis? We desperately need a leader who can bring this country together and not allow these groups to tear us apart. Trump is not that leader.

Japanese Americans understand how critical the role of political leadership is, especially from the president, at a time of national crisis. This country has a history of racism and much work needs to be done to bring about unity and understanding.

We mourn the deaths of countless black lives and other people of color at the hands of white supremacy. We mourn the deaths of all the victims, including Heather Heyer, and can take to heart the words of her mother, Susan Bro: “I want her death to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion.”

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