Robert Matsui RIP

Some news from Sacramento that doesn't involve the NBA and my Kings (who squeaked by the Knicks, thanks to a Bobby Jackson impersonation from Maurice Evans), from a talk by the recently departed Robert Matsui.

We forget sometimes, in our national arrogance, that the U.S. is not necessarily a benevolent nation; ask the Cherokee, ask the Nisei, ask the Nicaraguans. Events like the internment of Japanese citizens are scars upon our public flesh, and as liberals, we are still ashamed to discuss the lingering effects.

Matsui speech at the JFK Library ....

...But as I was in Sacramento and I went on to school to the University of California at Berkeley, I was a student there in 1959 and 1960, and graduated in 1963. I was inspired to become a lawyer by reading when I was a young person an autobiography written by Clarence Darrell (?). That was my goal in life, and I did become a lawyer.

I'd like, if I may, to take a moment to read something that I was able to get through the Freedom of Information Act in 1992. Individual number, 25261C. File number 405986. Your birth, '41, relocation center Tule (?) Lake, assembly center Pinedale. Home address, Sacramento, California.

Country of birth of father U.S. mainland, country of birth of mother, U.S. mainland. Birthplace, California. Year or arrival, American born, never in Japan. Marital status, single. Languages, not applicable.

Race, Japanese and no spouse. Highest grade, no schooling or kindergarten. Military service, no military nor naval service and no physical defects, and no public assistance or pension program.

Alien registration and Social Security number, none. Did not attend Japanese language school. Has neither alien registration number, nor the Social Security number.

Length of time in Japan, none. Age in Japan, never in Japan. Schooling in Japan, and number of years, none.

That happened to be my file that is still in the defense Department of the United States government. I was six months old at the time that I was taken, with my mother and father, from Sacramento, California, and placed in internment camps in the United States.

I was never given a trial. I never went before any magistrate, nor did my parents. To this day, I do not know what the charges that were lodged against me or my deceased parents at this time.

I spent approximately three and a half years of my life there, although I have no personal memory of it. I do know that many of my friends of Japanese ancestry suffered a great deal.

My mother and father refused to talk about it with me until they were nearing their death, separately, obviously. I remember when I was in the fourth grade at William Bland School in Sacramento, California, I was asked by a very well intentioned teacher, because we were studying American history and World War II. She said, "Bob, weren't you in one of those camps, those camps for Japanese during the war? And maybe you can describe this to the classmates."

I'll never forget it. I shuddered. I must have turned color and I said "I don't know what you're talking about." She says, "Are you sure? You were in one of those camps. I know your mother and father were." I said "I don't know what you mean."

Then we went out later in the playground and I remember one of my friends, a very good friend, going like this to me as if it were a gun or something, and saying, "Were you a spy? Was that why you were in jail?"

What our problem was was that there was this specter of disloyalty that hung over us as Americans of Japanese ancestry, those of us that were interned during World War II, 115,000, Americans, basically, of Japanese ancestry.

quotes continue here


I think what's very interesting in telling about this is that Edison Uno who was a scholar at Cal State University San Francisco in the 60's probably described it best. He said that a victim of a rape in the 60's could not talk about the experience because the mere articulation of what had happened to her would bring out a question about whether she was responsible for the act.

And that is exactly what happened to me and my parents, and 115,000 other Americans. We could not talk about it because the mere raising of the issue brought into question our loyalty to our own government.

Over the years I've had an opportunity to think about this and talk with a lot of people who were in the camps. I have come to the conclusion that there is not much more in terms of charges that can be lodged against an individual, than to be accused of being disloyal to one's country.

Think about it for a minute. If you are disloyal to your country, that means you're disloyal to your state, your local government, and your neighbors, and perhaps even those relatives and loved ones of yours. It's probably one of the most heinous accusations one can make against an individual.

I think that's why McCarthyism has been so imbedded in the American psyche because charges were lodged about the patriotism of many people; some in the State Department, some in Hollywood, many throughout the United States.

Now, many people have said, "Why did this happen, Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the day of infamy?"

When I came to Congress I went to the Library of Congress and I had the opportunity to go through some of the newspapers and records throughout a one hundred year period. And I have to say that I would take issue with anyone who would say that Pearl Harbor was the triggering event of what happened to Americans of Japanese ancestry.

Let me quote the San Francisco Mayor, James Phalen, who later became a U.S. senator, at a labor union rally in San Francisco in 1920. Quote: The Chinese and Japanese are not bona fide citizens. They are not the stuff of which American citizens can be made. Personally, we have nothing against the Japanese, but as they will not assimilate with us and their social life is so different from ours, let's keep them at a respectful distance.

An east coast author, Madison Grant in 1920, the same year, said "There is no immediate danger of the world being swamped by black blood, but there is a very immediate danger that the white stocks may be swamped by Asiatic blood, unless the white man erects and maintains artificial barriers."

Virgil Stuart McLashy (?), V.S. McLashy, who was the owner then of the McLashy newspapers in Sacramento, California, made a statement to the United States Senate on July 21, 1921, a statement that was endorsed by senators Hyram Johnson and Samuel Shortage (?) and the entire California congressional delegation, democrats and republicans alike.

He stated "Japanese immigration is a steady growing menace that is no longer a state problem but a national one. The immigration of Japanese is not only undesirable but dangerous to American interests, because the Japanese are not assimilable, and even were born here, they are unfit for responsible duties of American citizenship.

The extraordinary birth rates of such aliens would cause inundation of the white population in this country by the yellow race. Whites would be speedily driven out of their communities.

Then in 1935, some 14 years later, in the Committee of a Thousand, which became a very powerful kind of anti-immigration group in the United States, stated "Wherever the Japanese have settled, their nests pollute the communities like running sores of leprosy. They exist like yellowed, smoldering, discarded butts and over-filled ashtrays, vilifying the air with their loathsome smell, filling all who have the misfortune to look upon them with wholesome disgust and desire to wash."

And of course, after December 7, it changed. The attorney general of California, then Earl Warren, who later became a great Chief Justice, he stated "On February 21, 1942, some three months after Pearl Harbor, I want to say that the consensus of opinion among the law enforcement officers in this state is that there are more potential dangers among a group of Japanese who were born in this country than from alien Japanese who are born in Japan."

And the U.S. general, John L. DeWitt, who was in charge of the internment and incarceration of the Japanese Americans, stated a few months later "The Japanese race is an enemy race, and while many second and third Japanese born in the United States soil possessed of U.S. citizenship have become Americanized, the racial strains are undiluted. It therefore follows that along the virtual Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies of Japanese extraction are at large today."

And the reason I call your attention to this, and what happened in the comments and before December 7, is because there was an anti-Asian sentiment. There was a strain throughout the West Coast, and particularly the state of California. Pearl Harbor merely triggered the sentiment to become a sign of action. It is my believe that the internment was for that reason. It was the triggering event of deep seated feelings that existed in the state of California, and Washington, and the entire west coast of the United States.

original link via Atrios

but the whole speech is here

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on January 4, 2005 11:04 PM.

RSS feed alteration was the previous entry in this blog.

Audiovox announces iPod Mobile Interface Kit is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.37