Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During WWII


"If  you hear the song I sing
You  will understand
You  hold the key to love and fear
In  your trembling hand.
Just  one key unlocks them both
It's  there at your command"
--  Chet Powers "Get Together"
During  WWII, the fear of everyday Americans whose appearance was
"different" led  to a massive hate crime perpetuated by the United States against
more than  120,000 of its own people, revealing that our "more perfect  union"
operates far from perfectly when the country is  overrun with racists.
excellent and  horrific account of this dark chapter in American history, and
a  book that I wish I'd encountered as an adolescent.
"The  idea of hastily rounding  up all Japanese Americans and placing them
in  what amounted to prison camps was a direct and outrageous violation of
the  supreme law of the United States, as set out in the US Constitution.
More  specifically, it was a violation of vital personal rights guaranteed by
the  first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights,
which  among other liberties, provides that:
'Any  person accused of committing a crime has the right to be told what
crime he or  she is being charged with having committed.'
'Any  person accused of committing a crime has the right to a speedy, fair,
and public  trial to determine whether a crime has been committed.'
'At  this trial, the person charged with the crime has the right to have
the  assistance of a lawyer to defend him or her, and the right to have
witnesses  testify on his or her behalf.'
"It  was these and other guarantees that had earned America the title 'Land
of the  Free.'  Yet those who wanted the Japanese Americans -- the majority
of whom  were US citizens -- removed were willing to ignore these cherished
This questions  that must be asked all these years later are: What caused
Americans to  behave in this manner?  When else has our country behaved in
such a  hatefully prejudiced, immoral, and illegal manner?  What can we do to
better educate our children so that they forcefully stand against such
behavior  when it next arises in their lifetimes?  This book provides a lot  of
information that is really useful in answering these  questions.
There  were, indeed, some who opposed  the Japanese internment:
"Lieutenant  Commander K. D. Ringle of the Office of Naval Intelligence had
searched  diligently for instances of the sabotage or espionage allegedly
carried out by  Japanese Americans.  He had failed to find a single example.
In a  memorandum intended for top government leaders, he wrote, 'The entire
Japanese  problem has been magnified out of its true proportion largely due
to the  physical characteristics of the people.'  The memo was never
"James  J. Martin, one of the nation's leading historians, was truly
alarmed.  The  intention to deprive Japanese Americans of their liberties by
removing them from  their homes and means of livelihood was, he would write
later, 'a breach of the  Bill of Rights on a scale so large as to [be worse than]
all such violations  from the beginning of the United States.
"The  FBI, the first government agency given the task of identifying
disloyal Japanese  Americans, testified at government hearings that those of
Japanese ancestry  'were fundamentally loyal and, as a group, posed no threat to
the nation's  security.'  In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Francis
Biddle, Hoover  wrote that the cries for removal were 'based primarily upon
public and political  pressure rather than factual data.'"
We  also learn that Quaker groups such as the American Friends Service
Committee  protested the planned internment and then, during evacuation, tried
to  mitigate some of the damage being done.
But  the reality is that the failure of the vast majority of Americans to
oppose this  radical, unconstitutional, and immoral course of action, this
giving in to  prejudice and hatred and fear, makes most adult Americans living
in those  days co-conspirators in this crime.
And  the crime was compounded over successive decades by those  who
participated in successfully hiding it from school children of my  generation,
stealing from us the benefits of learning from that generation's  stupidity.  (I
spent last night contacting a bunch of old friends.   Not a one of us had
learned about the Japanese American internment in high  school.)
In  the process of providing visual depictions of what Japanese Americans
had  to endure in those years, author Martin W. Sandler also introduces
readers  to photographer icons Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams.
So,  how do we prevent more such crimes from being committed by the
majority against  a minority?
I  think that we have to begin early.  Several years after its publication,
I  am still feeling that far too many missed the boat on the brilliance and
 importance of Mo Willems' CAT THE CAT, WHO IS THAT?, an oh, so perfect and
 simple story about how we should assume that, no matter how different from
you  someone looks, they are a friend.  Start there and gradually and
honestly teach the many examples of America gone wrong, including that  of the
Japanese American internment.
C'mon  people now, smile on your brother.  As I was reminding a bunch of
seventh graders to whom I was book talking this one yesterday, down inside
where  it counts, we're a million times more similar than we are  different.
It was a crime that Americans didn't stand up for one  another and stand
against hatred in 1942.
Seventy-one  years later, at a time when we are debating the possibility of
bombing some  homicidal tyrant (and a bunch of innocent bystanders) in
retaliation for  his gassing his countryman, we best be sure we've first learned
 and are adequately teaching our kids the lessons of America's  own past
transgressions, beginning with the Japanese  American internment, before we go
deciding that we are  the revengers of the world.

176 pages  978-0-8027-2277-5

Recommended by:  Richie  Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA
Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_ (

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