C-SPAN Redress to Japanese-Americans is the public hearing of potential legislation to provide redress to Japanese-Americans forty years after their internment. The first two hours of the public hearing we hear seven senators with testimony on whether or not H.R. 442 should be passed. Of these seven, five were for redress and two were against it. The recording overall provided a variety of perspectives on redress and provided various compelling arguments for redress.
The first two testimonies were of senators Robert Matsui and Norman Mineta. For me, Senator Matsui’s testimony was heartbreaking, hearing how he still feels pain for his family during this time shows how these events still affect the victims even if it took place forty years ago. It is also notable how Matsui’s family suffered from losing all of their position for very little money and how they can never get back their homes or their possessions and that many other families have faced similar struggles. Mineta’s testimony highlights how many people had their lives interrupted to be interned and how many could not get back the time that was lost. Both testimonies to me represent the many victims of internment and how these events still carried consequences forty years later and should be adressed.
The next two testimonies were from senators for redress and acknowledged how internment was not necessary and was morally incorrect of the government to do so. While there is an acknowledgment that these events were not recent, they still recognize that internment was a wrong that affected Japanese-Americans that should be rectified. One argument that I noted was by Senator Lowery acknowledging how in wartime people of German descent were not given the same treatment and while neither groups should be treated as such, the different treatment highlights a racial bias against people of Japanese descent. This argument gets to the center of why these actions from the government were fueled by racial intolerance and fear of wartime. Senator Dymally emphasized how the redress was less of a cost for the U.S. government but repayment of a debt where the government economically affected Japanese-Americans and need to right that wrong. Both testimonies acknowledge the economic arguments of redress and emphasize how internment was fuelled by racial bias.
The following two testimonies were from two senators who were firmly against redress. Senator Straton used an argument that while internment was a moral wrong that we cannot pass judgment on the actions of the past government because the fear of war was far greater and that it affected their decision-making. Despite having evidence that there was no knowledge of espionage among Japanese-Americans, Straton argues that the safety of the nation also required sacrifice from everyone like the soldiers that would fight in the war. Senator Lungren’s testimony understood that internment was wrong and that education on it should be made and an apology to the Japanese-American community. However, Lungren was against redress as he believed that it was unnecessary given how long ago internment occurred and that the movement for redress is a moral failing. He also emphasized how internment was not based on race and only from fear of war and that Roosevelt did not make these decisions based on race. These testimonies were the most frustrating to hear, aside from having flimsy arguments, they completely miss why redress is so important for Japanese-Americans, and justifying these decisions do not remove how much these actions should be rectified.
The final testimony is of Sparks Matsunaga and having this one last provides a powerful ending to the senatorial testimonies. Senator Matsunaga starts his testimony by emphasizing how the push for redress was following the recommendations of the commission. Matsunaga speaks from the perspective of Hawaiian Japanese-Americans and highlights again how ridiculous internment was. He blended together both the emotional and rhetorical reasoning as to why internment was wrong. The testimony highlights, like the first two, how regardless of their reasoning the government forcibly moved Japanese-Americans who had no reason to betray the country and questioned their loyalty.
I specifically noted the difference between the aspect of the racial component of Japanese American internment, the difference between those saying that this was racially motivated and not is the way these statements were made, as facts and as arguments. Congressmen Mineta and Matsui stated the fact that this internment gave racism against Japanese Americans the federal government “seal of approval” Stratton on the other hand tried to present an argument that this was not based on racism.