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A Day of Remembrance of Japanese Internment

Executive Order 9066 was signed on February 19, 1942, culminating in the internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans. This year marks the 80th anniversary of this Executive Order. John Tateishi, who leads the Japanese Americans Citizens League (JACL) Redress Campaign, spoke to Fullerton College students, faculty, and the community, on February 17. The event was conducted entirely over Zoom. You can watch a full video of the event on Fullerton College’s YouTube channel HERE.

John Tateishi, who leads the Japanese Americans Citizens League (JACL) Redress Campaign, spoke to Fullerton College students, faculty, and the community, on February 17. Photo courtesy of John Tateishi.

With more than 80 participants, John Tateishi examined Executive Order 9066 and the motivations behind it. He explained that EO 9066 is a perfectly legal document; it gave the military authority to secure the borders of the United States. But the racism and illegality of its effects stem from the fact that only Japanese Americans were put up for internment. The order did not affect Germans or Italians in the United States. If it truly was for security concerns, Tateishi said, immigrants/descendants of all the Axis powers, led by Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy, would have been affected.

A truly astonishing fact of the internment was that the entire population of Japanese Americans was to be removed—more than 120,000 innocent people. To put this into perspective, Fullerton’s population is more than 140,000 today.

Furthermore, EO 9066 was signed in February when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened in December. If Japanese Americans were not loyal to the United States, Tateishi emphasized, they could have done a lot of damage in a span of two months. But they did not because they were innocent. As a matter of fact, intelligence services had cleared Japanese Americans from any suspicion of espionage following the Pearl Harbor attack. Tateishi recommended the documentary ALTERNATIVE FACTS: The Lies of Executive Order 9066, which discusses this matter.

The real reason for EO 9066 was the pressure from California: “… politicians in California had been trying to push us out for years, but it was unconstitutional so they couldn’t do it… by 1942, Japanese American farmers had gained a strong foothold… [white farmers] had to take the land away, but couldn’t do it constitutionally,” according to Tateishi.

Essentially, EO 9066 was signed under pressure from California politicians who wanted to somehow get rid of the successful Japanese American farmers and small business owners.

Tateishi also discussed the impact of Japanese American internment on the families interned, many of whom did not talk about this experience for years to each other or the community. Even after the internment was over, they had to experience racism and start life all over, after having lost their economic assets.

The Redress Movement brought some remnants of justice to them.

Tateishi has written a book called Redress: The Inside Story of Japanese American Reparations about his involvement and the successful impacts of the Redress Movement, which granted $20,000 to each of the 80,000 surviving internees of the camps. Tateishi said that hopefully the success of the Redress campaign shows that change is possible and there is hope for betterment in this country.

Watch the full event below: