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Never forget, never again
April 29, 2012 11:36 AM   Subscribe

We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment - George Takei on the the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII and Allegiance, his new musical. Previously.
posted by Artw (45 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
George Takei is awesome in general. He is right too. Internment of Japanese-Americans was totally wrong.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:48 AM on April 29, 2012


An Introduction to George Takei
aka
Happy Dance
posted by Winnemac at 11:51 AM on April 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Let's also not forgot that no halfhearted excuses such as "well, there was a war on" are possible: There was also a war on with Germany, but Americans of German descent weren't rounded up. This was racism, plain and simple.
posted by jcreigh at 12:00 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


George Takei is awesome. The mention of Tule Lake reminded me of The cats of Mirikatani, a haunting documentary (available streaming on Netflix) well worth watching.
posted by Anitanola at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whiule I agree that there was racism, nonetheless, the Japanese were in theory a threat to our West Coast whereas at that time the Germans had all they could handle in Europe and clearly were not liable to invade our East coast.
...and yes, Germans and Italians who were citizens were in fact interned, though in much smaller numbers

CLICK
posted by Postroad at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I admire about Takei is that he very obviously recognizes the opportunities which being a US citizen has afforded him, and that he also knows that the US government can do horrible things to its citizens. And that he's working hard to make sure that knowledge of horrible things done to citizens remains public knowledge so that it is less likely to happen in the future.

He's playing the long game, and I really love that about him.
posted by hippybear at 12:07 PM on April 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


...and yes, Germans and Italians who were citizens were in fact interned, though in much smaller numbers

Ah, I (obviously) didn't know that, thanks for correcting my mistake. Well, that just sucked all around, then.
posted by jcreigh at 12:15 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My grandparents used to tell stories about a Japanese grocery store owner who had a big cache of guns in the basement of his store, and that's why they had to round them all up. When I got old enough to actually think about it, I asked my grandmother whether she or anyone in her family had actually seen those guns, or even a photo of them, and she said no, they were told that there were guns (by whom, I didn't ask).

the Japanese were in theory a threat to our West Coast

The people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast were a threat?

From the War Relocation Authority's 1943 publication "Relocation of Japanese Americans"

In the interest of both accuracy and fairness, it is important to distinguish sharply between the residents of relocation centers and the militarists of Imperial Japan. Two-thirds of the people in the centers are American citizens, born in this country and educated, for the most part, in American public schools. At all centers, the residents have bought thousands of dollars worth of war bonds and have made significant contributions to the American Red Cross. Many of them have sons, husbands, and brothers in the United States Army. Even the aliens among them have nearly all lived in the United States for two decades or longer. And it is important to remember that these particular aliens have been denied the privilege of gaining American citizenship under our laws.

It is also important to distinguish between residents of relocation centers and civilian internees. Under our laws, aliens of enemy nationality who are found guilty of acts or intentions against the security of the Nation are being confined in internment camps which are administered not by the War Relocation Authority but the Department of Justice. American citizens suspected of subversive activities are being handled through the ordinary courts. The residents of the relocation centers, however, have never been found guilty–either individually or collectively–of any such acts or intentions. They are merely a group of American residents who happen to have Japanese ancestors and who happened to be living in a potential combat zone shortly after the outbreak of war. All evidences available to the War Relocation Authority indicates that the great majority of them are completely loyal to the United States.

posted by Huck500 at 12:16 PM on April 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


whereas at that time the Germans had all they could handle in Europe and clearly were not liable to invade our East coast.

Americans with German heritage/sympathies could still spy, cause civil unrest, sabotage, etc, etc, so this line of reasoning doesn't really make sense.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:16 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Manzanar.
posted by timsteil at 12:17 PM on April 29, 2012


The Rewick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian and across the street from the White House, recently had an exhibition of art created in the internment camps. There are some stories of the camps in the comment section. The idea that somehow it was "okay" to forcibly detain American families, causing emotional and fiscal trauma to them, keeps popping up in the Guardian's commentariat and it is mind-boggling to me, as if somehow apologizing for terrible acts makes contemporary America weaker, and not a better country for having acknowledged it.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:20 PM on April 29, 2012


But, but, they secretly rained in deadly balloons...
posted by clavdivs at 12:21 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first time we went to Tule Lake, for a birding trip (I think it was 2004), our local guide started our trip by asking us to please not talk to any local residents about the Japanese internment camp. All or nearly all of the building materials had been recycled over the years to become barns or sheds, but he pointed out places where they had once been. He also talked about the German POWs (not U.S. citizens - actual captured German soldiers), and how the officers had great freedom to move around the area nearly at will, and the enlisted men worked unguarded on farms before returning to their barracks each night. Unless they'd been invited to dinner by local families, in which case they could go to those.

One of our great national shames.
posted by rtha at 12:22 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thankfully it's unthinkable in this new millennium - - for example, can you imagine if the US was at war with a Muslim country, that US Muslims would be targeted for suspicion?
posted by fairmettle at 12:35 PM on April 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


While I agree that there was racism, nonetheless, the Japanese were in theory a threat to our West Coast whereas at that time the Germans had all they could handle in Europe and clearly were not liable to invade our East coast.

This would be more convincing if any citizen of Japanese origin was actually convicted of treason or crimes that undermined the war effort. And then only if those (if they existed) who actually did something wrong were imprisoned, rather than a raced based internment policy.

I know more about the Canadian experience. According to the Canadian Enclyclopedia internment of Japanese Canadians was opposed by the Canadian military and RCMP who did not think there was a threat.

So in the Canadian context, it seems more like a political strategy fueled by racism than anything else. I would be surprised if it was different in the US.
posted by chapps at 12:49 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Definitely one of the most horrific things America has done to its people. A very shameful event in history that none of us should ever forget.

Sure they were of Japanese ancestry, but the majority were American citizens.

As the famous quote from Farewell to Manzanar goes in reply to who the father would want to win the war:

When your mother and your father are having a fight, do you want them to kill each other? Or do you just want them to stop fighting?”
posted by 2manyusernames at 12:50 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't want to deviate too much from the more serious discussion, but I was in NYC last July to shoot a promo video for Lea Salonga's latest CD and was fortunate enough to attend the workshop of Allegiance in New York. It was a fully choreographed and staged workshop so I got a fairly good sense of the show... and it has a lot of potential.

The way it approaches the story is fascinating, and I definitely felt sick to my stomach through certain parts... at times it really packed an emotional punch. It mixed a very serious plot with a lot of musical theatre flash, but when it gets flashy it does it in a very ironic, Brechtian way. I would say it sits in a place between Ahrens & Flaherty's Ragtime and Kander & Ebb's The Scottsboro Boys (perhaps a bit closer to the latter, especially at the workshop I saw given the very minimal set design).

The main criticism I left with was that the lyrics were abysmal... really, really corny stuff with very simplistic rhymes. There were a few points in the show where the lyrics kicked me out of my suspension of disbelief, and I started (often successfully) guessing upcoming rhymes. I am especially curious to see if they've made any changes to the lyrics; I think it's enough of a weakness to hamper the production's chances at future success.

Takei actually has a fairly small part–the show is essentially staged as his flashback–but he was great nonetheless. Telly Leung was the focus of the show, playing Takei's character as a teen. He was incredible, as was Lea playing his tutor and would-be in-law. I was especially impressed by Allie Trimm, who played Telly's love interest... she's one to watch.

I think with some changes, to the lyrics in particular, this has a lot of potential to tell a really important story. I can't recall any major Broadway musicals dealing with Asian American history and experiences, and I think this could be a really good way to dive in for all audiences.
posted by cvp at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is going to be a tricky line to walk so I'll put it in front that I actually do not support, nor think most post-9/11 actions where warranted or fair or ethical.

Now, I do find it interesting that as time moves on and we look at, say, the three most distinct incidents in American History where Habeas Corpus had been suspended that each time that suspension has become smaller and more narrow than previous.

Lincoln, that bastion of American-ality, not only outright suspended Habeas Corpus for Maryland and parts of other states, but he also defied and ignored the SCOTUS' ruling that his actions where unconstitutional. I mean... that's pretty heavy and seems to veer into legitimate impeachment territory if Congress had had the desire to do so.

The interment of Japanese American by that other bastion of America, FDR, was pretty horrible and the SCOTUS ruled the genral exclusion order was constitutional, but seemed to avoid ruling on the use of FDR's exclusion order as applied to persons of Japanese decent by saying that lay outside the scope of the case they where hearing. [seems like a dodge to me, and the SCOTUS just didn't want another case where the Executive branch ignored them altogether]. Pretty nasty stuff, especially to those directly affected. But historically, not imo, quite as egregious as Lincoln's declaration and ignoring of the SCOTUS. As far as I know Congress and the Executive branch never apologized for Lincoln's actions, whereas in 1988 there was a fairly strong apology issued for the Japanese internment camps issued with about 1.5 billion issued as reparations. Not, that that should mean we no longer think and morally atone for those camps, but that by modern thinking they are not seen as justified and where a big mistake.

Likewise, the post 9/11 treatment of people who where or appeared to be Muslim is pretty rotten and stands on pretty shaky defensible grounds. But, again, it was not to the level of rounding up over 100,000 folks and imprisoning them. How history judges it is still an open question, but again, I would not be shocked if 50 years down the road three is, as well, an official apology. At least I hope so, and hope it would not take that long either.
posted by edgeways at 1:13 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The worst thing about internment based on skin colour (these were all American and Canadian citizens after all) was that the property of internees was confiscated and sold off at a discount. Everything was taken away for no good reason.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:21 PM on April 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Now we like to think that we're so much more reasonable and even-keeled, but the response to 9-11 showed us how much bunk that is. I shudder to think how we'll react when we finally make contact with aliens, provided we survive that long.
posted by JHarris at 1:48 PM on April 29, 2012


The worst thing about internment based on skin colour (these were all American and Canadian citizens after all) was that the property of internees was confiscated and sold off at a discount. Everything was taken away for no good reason.

I used to live in a neighborhood in Oakland, CA, that was 90% Japanese in 1935. It was its own separate town at the time, called Lorin. Of the 20 or so Japanese families from my street that were interned in WWII, only one family was able to get their house back, and I think that may have been because they were actually Ainu (a native culture from the north of Japan) and not ethnically Japanese.

My understanding is that Japanese farmers did really well in California in the 20s and 30s, especially in the Central Valley, and land seizure was a huge motive behind internment.

And damn, I love George Takei. I am Facebook "friends" with exactly one celebrity, and guess who it is.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 2:01 PM on April 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


A few days ago I finally stopped to read the plaque under a kind of ugly and very big horse sculpture outside a shopping mall in San Bruno that I ride by on my way to work. It is a statue of Seabiscuit the horse, the shopping mall is built on the grounds of a former racetrack. Seabiscuit was stabled there after an injury and recovered there. A race horse spent a couple weeks there and gets a giant statue.

Around the corner, out of the way, is a small bronze plaque that mentions that the racetrack was used as a temporary internment camp for Japanese people before they were sent to more permanent and remote locations. It fails to mention that the families were "housed" in the stables, 2 or 3 to a stall.

I live in a neighborhood that is a living reminder of the institutional racism of the US Government [of the time].

Right now I am in my apartment, looking out the window at the Peace Plaza in Japantown. I can see some old people housing built for the Issei an now housing Nisei and Sansei, many of whom went to the camps.

After the 1906 earthquake the Japanese population of San Francisco moved from Chinatown and South Park t the Western Addition, the only other place they could rent. No one would rent to Asians (or any other non-whites) in other parts of the city.

By 1940 Japantown was amazing. There are a lot of pictures from the time, and this corner of San Francisco looked just like a chunk of the Ginza district of Tokyo had been taken over by Victorian architects. This place had a unique architecture and culture, the way Chinatown does.

When the Japanese got interned, a bunch of influential white San Franciscans ended up with ownership of most of the housing and commercial properties. The building were vacan for a couple of years, then were used to house mostly black poor people from the South who came here to work in factories for the war.

When the Japanese came back they started rebuilding their community, but it was even harder than before. The Japanese had become double plus bad, and 100 years of community building had been almost destroyed.

So now it is the early 60s, and you have this multicultural neighborhood, with Japantown to the north and the Jazz District to the south (black musicians were not allowed to work east of Van Ness Street, white musicians could be fired from the unions if they played west of Van Ness). This was a safe interesting part of the city, were black, asian and other immigrant working and middle class families lived together. Pretty cool right?

But then comes round two. The city decides that the hood is blighted (could it have anything to do with the fact that both the Black Panthers and 2 leftists newspapers, one Japanese, where located on Fillmore street?), and starting in the 60s and ending in the 80s urban renovation happens. Geary boulevard is built to separate the working class people on the south from the richer people on the north (Geary at Fillmore is one of the ugliest intersections in the city, looks like it was intentionally designed to break the flow of the city, to make the surrounding blocks unlivable). The Japanese and the blacks are once again kicked out of their houses, the city acquires everything using eminent domain, tears down hundreds of perfectly fine Victorian buildings and builds ugly blocky housing projects.

Japantown is now centered around an ugly decaying shopping mall, and the Western addition is now a bunch of projects with some expensive high rises in the middle.

It makes me nostalgic for a past I never knew every time I walk down Fillmore Street and see the crappy strip malls, the uninspired blocky buildings, the million dollar condos built on the site of historical bars and restaurants. The city literally took a hundred years of unique culture, razed it and sold the land to McDonalds.

But I guess it made life more comfortable and less scary to the people in power to keep all this asians and blacks and latinos from forgetting were they belong.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2012 [43 favorites]


(text removed on preview)

On preview, Ayn Rand and God has what I was trying to type up.
posted by R343L at 2:09 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


These were "concentration camps" using the terminology of the time.
Because of these negative connotations [of the Nazi camps], the term "concentration camp", originally itself a euphemism, has been replaced by newer euphemisms such as internment camp, resettlement camp, and detention facility, regardless of the actual circumstances of these camps, which vary a great deal.
FDR referred to the American camps as "concentration camps" during a press conference in 1944.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:09 PM on April 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nibbly Fang, I forgot about the land seizures. Last time I visited the Google campus in Mountain View I wondered aloud why such beautiful land, with rolling hills and huge pastures, all that arable land with access to water, was vacant or taken over by office parks. My friend there showed me some pictures from the 30s and 40s where all you could see were Japanese owned farms. In pictures from the 50s most of the farms are abandoned and the fields ovrgrown with weeds.

Someone made a lot of money from the internment.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 2:09 PM on April 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


On my last trip to Mammoth, I stopped at Manzanar. It is, today, the definition of "the middle of nowhere." I can't imagine how remote it must have been in WWII.

It's not a terrible place. I remember following bird and lizard trails through the quiet, dusty emptiness, and relishing the silence. It is great to stand under the bright, blue arch of the world, look around and see no fence, no wall, no work of Man.

But then I would stop and reflect on the history of the place, and the ghosts followed me everywhere. They follow me still.

Please, let's not do this again. Please.
posted by SPrintF at 2:14 PM on April 29, 2012


My understanding is that Japanese farmers did really well in California in the 20s and 30s, especially in the Central Valley, and land seizure was a huge motive behind internment.

On the British Columbia coast it was fishing boats.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:20 PM on April 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


On my last trip to Mammoth, I stopped at Manzanar. It is, today, the definition of "the middle of nowhere." I can't imagine how remote it must have been in WWII

Tule Lake is like this, too. High, dry, dusty. As a bonus, just to the south are the lava fields where Captain Jack of the Modoc tribe made is last stand. The whole country there is haunted.
posted by rtha at 2:34 PM on April 29, 2012


If you hate musical theater you should see the Academy Award winning short documentary "Days of Waiting" by Steven Okazaki. It's a very unique perspective of the camps, that of a white woman who was interned along with her Japanese husband. It's the most vivid account I've seen of that time and place.
posted by cazoo at 2:42 PM on April 29, 2012


George Takei just keeps getting more awesome.

The internment of American citizens for no goddamned good reason just keeps sucking, though.

(Note: the Germans certainly spent a lot more time sniffing around the East Coast than the Japanese did the West Coast. There are U-Boats sitting on the ocean floor up and down the US East Coast.)
posted by rmd1023 at 2:52 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whiule I agree that there was racism, nonetheless, the Japanese were in theory a threat to our West Coast whereas at that time the Germans had all they could handle in Europe and clearly were not liable to invade our East coast.

Ridiculous; Japan could never have invaded the West Coast, and this was well known by the military at the time. By the third week of December, 1941, General DeWitt's request for additional cavalry and infantry were denied, and on the last day of December, 1941, General DeWitt informed his command that there was no danger of mass invasion. There was a possibility of an aircraft carrier strike until, of course 4 June 1942, when US Naval forces defeated the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. Internment camps were still being opened even after this victory. Internment, of course, did not end until the end of 1944/the beginning of 1945.

The US military had concluded that there was no threat of mass invasion from Germany, either, but that there was the possibility of a nuisance raid or sabotage. This, of course, actually happened.

Because of they formed a high percentage of the population, people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii were never detained or deported, despite the fact that Hawaii was at much more of a danger from any raid than the West coast.

Nor does any of that at all excuse the detainment of loyal American citizens, many of whom went on to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in the US Military for its size and time in service. Its initial 4,000 men were replaced 3.5 times, and were awarded 21 Medals of Honor.
posted by Comrade_robot at 3:43 PM on April 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


the Japanese were in theory a threat to our West Coast

When you say "our West Coast", what do you mean by "our"? Whites? You're getting Americans and Canadians of Japanese descent confused with Japan the country.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:45 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I see images of these concentration camps I get the willies, because I really think that the USA might have gone down the path of Nazi Germany. The Stanford Prison Experiment showed how jailors can end up in a spiral of brutality. There's also an element of out of sight, out of mind: who was to say or even really care how the Japanese Americans were treated once they had been excised from society?

You might think "Oh, but the USA could never do something like that. Round people up, yes, strip them of most of their wealth, yes, imprison them behind barbed wire fences under the gaze of armed guards, yes, but not exterminate them!" But the thing is, that's mostly how it happened with the Nazis: the original idea was to turn Jews into refugees, and then into a captive labor force; the actual extermination program started long after it had become accepted that Jews had no civil liberties. If WW2 had been going badly for long enough I have no doubt that the interned Japanese Americans would have been a slave labor force; and the corollary of "you work, you live" has always been the death of the weak and helpless.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:30 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


A good resource for information and links on the internment can be found at darkchilde.
posted by unliteral at 6:28 PM on April 29, 2012


George, you keep doing what you're doing. 'Cuz what you're doing is doing it for me.

And yes, as George Carlin noted not long before his death, the internment of Japanese Americans should disabuse anyone of the notion that the government cares in the slightest about the rights of its citizens.
posted by dry white toast at 8:20 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good for George Takei. You can 'friend' him on Facebook. Most of his posts are just silly and fun, but it's advocacy like this that really makes you love him as a human being.

---------------------------------------------------------------

The Los Angeles Times posted 34 photos of the internment at the Santa Anita race track. The photos are surreal and chilling, in part because many appear contrived to appear as though everyone was going on a camping trip or receiving friendly government help.

Photo #11is an elevated, wide angle shot that gives a feeling for the extent of the internment there.

I grew up about a mile the race track and always associated it with the internment. My family's accounts of the internment were pretty cut and dry and tended to focus on the racism and greed.

Remember, America was a much more racist country in the 1940s. After Pear Harbor a switch was flipped that transformed neighbors and even friends into enemy "Japs".

As for the greed, many of these families lost their careers, homes, businesses, and farms in the process. They were forced to sell their property with almost no warning and at huge losses, e.g. receiving $0.05 on the dollar. That just smacks of community-wide collusion.
Banks froze Japanese-American assets, stores refused service, and loyal citizens vandalized Nisei and Issei homes and businesses.

(836) The orders to relocate gave Japanese Americans almost no time to prepare. Families had to pack the few personal possessions they were allowed to take and to store or try and sell the rest of their property, including homes and businesses. Some had two weeks, others had two days, but it did not matter. Finding storage facilities was nearly impossible, and most families had to sell their possessions at ridiculously low prices.

"It is difficult to describe the feeling of despair and humiliation experienced," one man recalled, "as we watched the Caucasians coming to look over all our possessions and offering such nominal amounts knowing we had no recourse but to accept."

A twenty-six-room hotel was sold for $500; a pickup truck went for $25; farms sold for a fraction of what they were worth.

When denied a few additional days to harvest his strawberry crop, one bitter farmer plowed it under. The FBI promptly arrested him for sabotage.

Japanese-American families lost an estimated $810 million to $2 billion in property and possessions. As if having to dispose of a lifetime of possessions almost overnight was not bad enough, the process of internment produced a feeling of helplessness and isolation.
When the war was over, they weren't exactly welcomed home with ticker tape parades. And good luck starting your life over from scratch in a community that just spent the last 5 years watching propaganda videos depicting the 'Japanese race' as an evil, subhuman enemy.
posted by Davenhill at 1:28 AM on April 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Rewick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian and across the street from the White House, recently had an exhibition of art created in the internment camps.

There was an episode of the show History Detectives, in which a curator at a San Francisco museum asked for help tracing the history of a series of artworks from someone who may have been in one of the camps. Not only were they able to confirm that the patings were done in the camps, but they found the artist, who was still alive and living somewhere in Washington. The show concluded with the museum curator and the show host flying to Washington to talk to him; the look on that man's face as they showed him the sketches he'd done while inside the camp was indescribable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


At one point, there was a touring exhibition from the Baseball Hall of Fame that came to the Field Museum in Chicago (this was probably 2003/2004, as it was in Oakland in 2004/2005 or so). I've wanted to go to the Hall of Fame since I was little, but there's not much cause to go to anywhere near Cooperstown if you live in Chicago, so I never persuaded my family to make a special trip. So the exhibition at the Field Museum was pretty darn exciting. For some reason, the exhibition took a detour to Japanese internment, which was supposedly a neutral to positive experience for the internees because they could play baseball. That was the point where I lost my desire to go to Cooperstown.
posted by hoyland at 6:13 AM on April 30, 2012


Remember, America was a much more racist country in the 1940s. After Pear Harbor a switch was flipped that transformed neighbors and even friends into enemy 'Japs'.

As shown by Warner Brothers cartoons like "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" and "Tokio Jokio."
posted by kirkaracha at 6:57 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


University of British Columbia (Vancouver) just had a conference (March 21, 2012) looking into its own role in the internment. Apparently some US universities fought for their students, but UBC did not (with some exceptions among the faculty)

Interesting video here includes intereviews from former UBC students who were interned. Apparently some US universities, having failed to stop the internment, sent faculty to the camps to continue with the students complete their exams and graduate.

In the case of students who lost their education through internment, universities have been offering honourary degrees.
posted by chapps at 7:39 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


...and yes, Germans and Italians who were citizens were in fact interned, though in much smaller numbers

That link doesn't say anything about American citizens, does it? (Unless I'm missing it.) Wikipedia says, "However, unlike Japanese-Americans, who were rounded up whether citizens or not, only non-citizen Germans were rounded up, with the exception of American-born minor children of internees.[citation needed]"

The other crucial difference, if I'm understanding this right, is that German internments happened only after a hearing board determined that someone was a "potentially dangerous enemy alien," at a hearing where the individual had a chance to speak. Only something like 1 out of 30 eligible aliens were detained. So it wasn't that they interned everyone of German descent -- they interned current citizens of countries the US was at war with, after an individual determination that they might be dangerous. That's a huge difference from the treatment of American citizens from Japan.

(To be clear, it sounds like the whole "potentially dangerous enemy alien" process was also pretty terrible, and probably often racist in practice. I didn't know about it and I'm glad you linked to it. But it wasn't an explicitly racist program the way Japanese internment was.)
posted by Honorable John at 8:52 AM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ayn Rand and God: My Dad was working for SF DPW on-site at the city's housing projects during the 1960 - 70's. He said that there was never a question in his mind that urban renewal = ethnic cleansing. He bemoaned the fact that it was one of the truly socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods in the city and that they tore down blocks and blocks of beautiful, well-kept victorians because they wanted to drive black people out of the area. When we'd drive through, he'd remind me that the weedy vacant lots once held the homes of doctors, lawyers, business owners, nurses, bus drivers, construction workers, etc., - a vibrant functioning neighborhood had been reduced to rubble. People suck.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:51 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


echolalia67: I would have loved to talk to your father.

I like going through http://www.oldsf.org/, a mashup of Google maps and historical pictures of San Francisco. Japantown and the Western Addition were such great hoods.

In my hometown there was a similar thing in the 60s. The oldest neighborhood in the city was torn down to build a huge concrete plaza to honour the heroes of our Independence. The sad sad irony is that many of these heroes were mestizos or indiands, and the hood that was razed was an indian settlement that had been there since at least 1460.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 8:27 PM on April 30, 2012


Honorable John, many of the German people in the camps were prisoners of war. Some of them even stayed in the U.S. and started families after the war ended. But yes, there were recent legal German immigrants who were interned. I'm not making an equivalence -- the Japanese got screwed -- just noting the event.

The plot of the novel Snow Falling on Cedars turns on anti-Japanese sentiment in 1954, including a family who lives on a starwberry farm bought cheaply from a displaced Japanese family.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:26 AM on May 1, 2012


"As the number of conscientious objectors increased during the Revolutionary War, the colonies imposed new penalties on them. A penalty of four months in prison was imposed on COs who refused to serve. Some COs were forced to serve in the army against their will. Some resisters were humiliated by being forced to march with rifles strapped to their backs. COs who refused to eat army rations went hungry. George Washington personally released some of these COs when they were brought to him at his home"
posted by clavdivs at 8:02 AM on May 1, 2012


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