75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

Following evacuation orders, this store was closed. The owner, a University of California graduate of Japanese descent, placed the "I AM AN AMERICAN" sign on the store front the day after Pearl Harbor. Oakland, CA, April 1942. Dorothea Lange. (WRA) Exact Date Shot unknown NARA FILE #: 210-G-2A-35 WAR & CONFLICT #: 772

By Hana Morita

On February 19th, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the incarceration of all people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. On January 27, 2017, the year of Executive Order 9066 ‘s 75th anniversary, President Donald J Trump issued a ban on seven Muslim countries. The ban on the seven Muslim countries halted travelers and workers, including people with American visas. In the 75 years that have passed since Executive Order 9066, we have returned to vilifying people not based on actions, but by heritage and looks. They don’t look “American.”

Executive Order 9066 did not imprison the Japanese soldiers who attacked Pearl Harbor. It did not imprison the soldiers who tortured and captured American soldiers;or the ones  who massacred Chinese men, women, and children in horrific ways. The executive order imprisoned people like my grandmother, Flora Yasui, a senior in high school, her two sisters in middle school and her brother in elementary school. Her father was a gardener in LA who had come from Japan to the land of freedom and opportunity to pick oranges in Fresno. The executive order even imprisoned orphans of Japanese descent. As long as they had a drop of Japanese blood they were incarcerated. Caucasian families who adopted Japanese children were forced to give their children up, or else be charged and jailed. Of the people incarcerated there were 17,000 children under 10 years old, 2,000 people over 65 years old, and 1,000 handicapped or infirmed persons. My grandmother’s family, like the orphans and all the other 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans, were not spies with malicious intent.

They were not the enemy.

 In the 75 years that have passed since Executive Order 9066, we have returned to vilifying people not based on actions, but by heritage and looks. They don’t look “American.”

Today, the Japanese experience, long hidden by the US, bubbles back to the surface in the news as Islamophobia heats up. We cannot fix the past; my grandmother will never be able to graduate with her class, nor will the pain and trauma felt by the Japanese community be fully erased. However, we can work to recognize our past mistakes. Like the motto of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 says, never again.

To learn more about the incarceration of Japanese Americans visit the Japanese American Museum San Jose; http://jamsj.org