The children of Minoru Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Fred Korematsu, and their coram nobis legal teams, support proposed Resolution R-3: Recognition of and Apology to the Tule Lake Resisters.
In moments of strife and national crisis, disagreements over the best strategies to resist unjust government policies can often be exacerbated by partisan conflicts that breed additional injustice. The Japanese American community fell victim to such destructive conflicts and divisions in response to the government’s forced removal and incarceration of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, both citizen and non-citizen, during World War II.
Our fathers/clients took the legal route, challenging in the courts the constitutionality of the military orders implementing the internment. Consistent with its policy of cooperation with the government, JACL initially opposed all constitutional test cases in very strong terms. But when the Hirabayashi, Yasui and Korematsu cases came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 and 1944, JACL did support their constitutional challenges with amicus briefs.
Likewise, in the 1980s, during the redress movement, JACL did not initially endorse the reopening of the legal cases through the coram nobis actions, but eventually did support their charge that the government, in order to secure favorable Supreme Court decisions, altered, suppressed and destroyed critical evidence showing that Japanese Americans posed no threat to national security.
That was not the case with the No-Nos and the draft resisters, who were also criticized and maligned by the JACL for their different, but principled, stands in opposition to the government’s incarceration program. But almost 60 years later, in 2000, the JACL’s national board voted to apologize to the draft resisters for its wartime stance and two years later, held a public “Nisei Resisters of Conscience of World War II Recognition and Reconciliation Ceremony” in San Francisco.
We applaud JACL for having done so, and feel it is appropriate, for the same reasons, to also apologize to the Tule Lake resisters, their families and descendants.
The so-called Loyalty Questionnaire was abominable, subjecting a people whose government had already incarcerated them solely because of their ethnicity to the humiliation of being baselessly accused of divided and therefore questionable loyalty to America. Resistance to the questionnaire resulted in thousands of Japanese Americans being unjustly branded as “disloyal” and the creation of the brutal Tule Lake Segregation Center, a monstrous miscarriage of justice.
Today, as a community, we must recognize these resisters’ courage and principled conviction in refusing to answer “yes” to Questions 27 and 28, or to qualify their answers, knowing that their actions would likely subject them to further governmental retaliation and oppression.
We did not live through the wartime hysteria, the culmination of years of bigotry and hostility toward Japanese and other Asian Americans, nor did we have to make the excruciatingly difficult decisions that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents faced during World War II. From the perspective of time, however, we acknowledge the many valid responses to that turmoil, recognizing that those resisting and enduring the government’s oppressive policies did what they felt was best for their own, their families’ and ultimately their community’s survival.
We commend JACL for its openness and ability to evolve and change over the years, as the Nisei, who were mostly in their 20s during the war, grew older; as Sansei came of age during the tumultuous 60s; and today as Yonsei and Gosei emerge as leaders in our community.
We also recognize that today, other individuals and families are facing virulent racism and bigotry, unjust detention, travel restrictions and other oppressive government policies designed to suppress disfavored minorities based on ancestry, national origin and religion – and that it is of utmost importance that we forge common bonds both within our community as well as with other marginalized communities and with allied communities of conscience, in opposition to such oppressive government policies.
We support thoughtful, searching and respectful efforts to educate the public, especially young people, about the complexities of the challenges Japanese Americans faced during World War II and its extended aftermath, as the community sought for decades to overcome the resulting stigmatization and marginalization of the camps.
We recognize the value in acknowledging and preserving for posterity all aspects of the struggle – good and bad – and the importance of publicly recognizing and honoring the different ways the community opposed the government actions, including the protest by the Tule Lake resisters.
Public apologies, as embodied in the proposed resolution, are meaningful, both as a means of healing the persisting wounds within our community and as a guide to our resistance to today’s grave violations of civil and human rights.
For these reasons, we fully support the proposed resolution for recognizing the importance of the Tule Lake resisters’ opposition to the government’s actions against Japanese Americans during World War II and for publicly apologizing for the wartime JACL’s condemnation of that resistance.
Jay Hirabayashi, Rod Kawakami, Kathryn Bannai, Daniel Ichinaga, Michael Leong,
Robert Rusky, Donald Tamaki
Holly Yasui, Peggy Nagae, Lorraine Bannai, Gary Iwamoto, Leigh-Ann Miyasato,
Sharon Sakamoto, Benson Wong
Karen Korematsu, Dale Minami, Jeffrey Beaver, Karen Kai, Diane Narasaki,
Roger Shimizu, Eric Yamamoto
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.