Manzanar Committee Calls on JACL to Apologize to Tule Lake Resisters

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A scene from Konrad Aderer’s documentary “Resistance at Tule Lake.”

On July 15, the Manzanar Committee, sponsor of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with the annual Manzanar At Dusk program and the Katari youth education project, announced its support of the proposed Resolution R-3, “Recognition of and Apology to the Tule Lake Resisters,” that will be considered during the 2019 Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Convention.

“We applaud the JACL for the role it has played over the years in defending the civil rights and interests of the Japanese American community,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “We are encouraged by the active and leading role JACL continues to play in opposing the illegal detention of refugees and other immigrants, especially children, on our southern border.

“But the time has come — it is actually long overdue — for the JACL to make amends and begin a community healing process by adopting the resolution, apologizing to the Tule Lake resisters and their families.”

Embrey noted the devastating impact of the infamous loyalty questionnaire that is at the root of this issue.

“The so-called loyalty questionnaire was one of the most ill-conceived and egregious expressions of the national chauvinism guiding the War Relocation Authority during World War II,” he said. “The confusion, divisions and tensions created by the questionnaire resulted in more than 2,000 incarcerees at Manzanar being sent to Tule Lake. Indeed, Manzanar had the second-highest number of incarcerees who refused to answer ‘yes’ to both Questions 27 and 28 of any camp except Tule Lake.

“Branded as ‘disloyal’ and sent to Tule Lake, many families were torn apart, with children left behind as fathers had to care for their parents, or they chose to stay united with their parents. Families separated, many others forced to suffer additional hardships and oppression at Tule Lake — those were the real consequences of the loyalty questionnaire. In fact, the loyalty questionnaire served no real purpose and thousands of Japanese Americans were stigmatized, ostracized, and branded as ‘disloyal.’

“It is a travesty of justice that the consequences of this continues haunt our community to this day. Though it is important to note, it is increasingly common, within our community and among scholars, to acknowledge that it took great courage to refuse to answer ‘yes’ or to qualify their responses to Questions 27 and 28.”

Embrey stressed that the different forms of resistance to the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II have been accepted by many in the community.

“Overt resistance to the unconstitutional incarceration and to the oppressive conditions our families had to endure in camp, such as strikes, revolts, draft resisters at Heart Mountain, and clearly, the most well-known being the legal challenges by Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, have all been recognized by our community as valid and heroic,” he noted. “We believe, and have maintained for many years, the refusal to answer Questions 27 and 28 ranks as one of the most difficult and courageous acts of defiance to Executive Order 9066, on par with the many other forms of resistance that we acknowledge.”

Embrey urged the JACL to adopt the resolution and begin a much-needed healing process.

“We are both encouraged and pleased that the JACL has chosen to take on this most important and divisive issue,” he said. “Public apologies, such as the proposed resolution, are powerful, and are important to our continued efforts to both heal from and document the true social impact Executive Order 9066 had on the Japanese American community.

“The Manzanar Committee fully supports the proposed resolution. We call on the JACL to apologize to the remaining Tule Lake survivors and their families for its role in unjustly ostracizing and vilifying them over the past 76 years.”

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