The Los Angeles Times recently featured this front page article recounting the experience of the Japanese Americans who were first relocated to the horse stables of Santa Anita Park on April 29th, 1942, prior to being moved to their final incarceration site at Heart Mountain, WY. From Santa Anita in Southern California, to the Tanforan Assembly Center in the San Francisco Bay Area, to the Puyallup Fairgrounds in Washington State, many Japanese Americans were temporarily housed in horse stalls as the government’s incarceration sites were still being constructed. In that regard, Bainbridge Islanders, the first to be taken from their homes in compliance with Exclusion Order No. 1 during World War II, were the “lucky” ones who were moved directly to the unfinished barracks in Manzanar, CA.
On the eve of the March 30th commemoration of the 81st Anniversary of the Exclusion of the Japanese Americans of Bainbridge Island, we received correspondence from a person pointing out that the Exclusion Memorial website “Mistakenly referred to [Manzanar?] as concentration camp.” “People were not starved, tortured, murdered. They were interned, which seems an anathema to US sensibilities; however, there is evidence that people of Japanese descent were seen photographing sensitive sites. It would be honorable to show transparency and clarity about these events,” it read.
The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.
Stories like the one featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times help to show transparency and clarity about the events occurring during the Japanese American Exclusion. With more than 120,000 Japanese Americans affected–more than two-thirds of whom were American citizens–there are more than 120,000 such personal stories. Few, if any, stories have been published citing evidence of Japanese Americans photographing sensitive sites and being convicted of crimes against the United States after due process. For the sake of transparency, it would require many, many such documented events to justify mass detention in the United States solely on the basis of race.