A Day of Remembrance for Japanese Internment

A Day of Remembrance

Every year, I try to remember some of the most important historical days for people of my cultures and other backgrounds: Lā Kuʻokoʻa, Lā Hoʻihoʻi Eā, and the Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans are some of the few I never forget. Today is the Day of Remembrance, where we recognize the approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans who were forcibly sent to internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942. The Executive Order allowed the U.S. military to unconstitutionally imprison thousands of citizens simply because of their ethnic backgrounds. Japanese Americans were given six days to pack up all of the belongings they could hold in their hands and abandon everything they had worked hard for– homes, jobs, and schools were all left behind. Each family lived in a horse stall for the remainder of the war where they were isolated and suffered through numerous food shortages and health violations. The United States government, after sending its own citizens to prison camps under the presumption that Japanese Americans were conspiring with the government and military of Japan, forced these same detainees to pledge their allegiance to America or face retribution. After the government allowed Japanese American citizens to join the military, it allowed them to sacrifice their bodies, but kept their families in the camps. Japanese Americans were treated in a similar fashion as Black citizens who fought in the Civil War, but were forced back into slavery upon their return. Although the former wasn’t enslaved and held as property, they were still kept in barbaric living conditions and fought under the premise that they would be considered citizens with full rights if they paid their dues to the country. Those who resisted fighting in the military and would not swear their allegiance to the country that imprisoned them faced serious consequences for their actions. Members of my grandparents’ families were held in these internment camps, which is why this Day of Remembrance matters even more to me. Knowing that the U.S. government simply created an enemy out of its own people in 1942 and constantly repeats the brutality against every other nonwhite group is abhorrent. May we all use this Day of Remembrance to recognize the horrors in American history that aren’t always widely taught and may we never forget what America did to the Japanese American people.