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article imageU.S. apologizes for Japanese incarceration 25 years ago

By Amanda Byas     Aug 10, 2013 in World
Twenty-five years ago this week, the Japanese-American community celebrated a revolutionary victory relating to its own struggles for equality.
However, there is another anniversary fast approaching:
In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act to reimburse more than 100,000 people of Japanese origin who were enslaved in camps during World War II. The legislation proposed a ceremonial apology and paid out around $20,000 payment to each living victim. The law won over congressional endorsement only after a decade-long fight with the Japanese-American community.
To mark the 25th anniversary, the Civil Liberties Act was put on presentation at the National Archives along with the original, which approved the confinement. Bruce Bustard, senior curator, it was a prevailing comparison of the journey from the wrong to a right.
To some people, it might have seemed like a certified government file, but according to Bustard, that is exactly what makes this display such a compelling reminder of what federal documents really mean.
The Japanese-American concentration camps were usually nothing more than improvised barracks, overcrowded with families and children behind barbed wires. Most of the prisoners were U.S. citizens from the West Coast who had to involuntary leave their businesses behind when war relocation authorities ushered them to these camps.
John Tateishi stated:
"We came out of these camps with a sense of shame and guilt, of having been considered betrayers of our country. There were no complaints, no big rallies or demands for justice because it was not the Japanese way."
Over 100,000 people of Japanese descent from the West Coast were ushered to these war relocation camps.
Decades later and stirred by the civil rights movement, Japanese-American Citizens League began a touchy campaign for redress. This had divided the community along generational lines; however, Tateishi became a leader of the civil rights movement.
Tateishi said:
"You have to sometimes bring your community dragging and screaming behind you, but you better have strong convictions that what you're doing is right."
In 1980, Congress replied by launching a commission to scrutinize the legacy of the camps. After thorough interviews and personal testimonies from victims, the commission came to the conclusion that the incarceration was “grave injustice” motivated by “racial prejudice.”
Robert Matsui and Norm Mineta, Japanese-Americans serving in Congress, helped turn that report into a legislative language, provided for nontaxed compensation and a ceremonial apology.
Tateishi says the redress campaign was less about compensation for those who suffered, but more for the next generations of Americans.
More about World war II, Japan, United States, Concentration camps, Injustice
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