When beginning this video, I was surprised by a few things throughout. Generally, the idea of watching almost two hours of video on C-SPAN, is not very appealing to me, but the fact that this session was full of testimonies made it an interesting watch. The fact that there were also opposing views on this issue was also startling. I’ve heard the phrase before, “you can’t put a value on human life,” but here these people were, deciding whether or not to pay reparations to people who had their lives stolen from them in the early 1940s. Something I noticed even before the main panel was done speaking was how many Japanese-Americans were sitting in the room listening behind those speaking. One of the speakers early-on talked about how many of them had come from the West Coast in order to provide their testimonies in hopes of getting justice.
Another surprise being the fact that the Committee was around for over 6 years before this commission made it to this hearing. I understand that trials and write-ups and gathering witnesses takes time, but to me this seems like an urgent matter of getting justice. I believe that one of the representatives said the point of reparations was brought up in 1979, and with this committee meeting in 1986, it obviously took a long time for these arguments to become solid enough to be heard in front of Congress. One speaker also spoke about “hindsight” as a person born after the time of internment. Some people may have argued that he didn’t see the event happen, so he shouldn’t have a say, but he argued for an apology.
Another point that I found interesting was that even after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-Americans that lived on the island of Hawaii weren’t moved into internment camps. Why? Because they were needed. The location of Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific as well as having a large naval base on it let to Japanese-Americans having a vital role in the shipbuilding and other processes that happened on the base. While they may have been (and probably were) looked down on after the attack on Pearl Harbor, they were allowed to stay and work. This was the opposite of what happened in mainland United States. One of the people on the commission who spoke near the beginning talked about professors that were relocated from California to Colorado. They began teaching there because it was within their new, relocated area. The loyalty of Japanese-Americans who fought in the war for the United States also came into question.
The implementation of relocation and internment was different throughout the United States, and was ultimately decided as being wrong because it was based off of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” according to one of the speakers, rather than being a security issue, which it truly was. While I think the point of this commission was to determine the best path towards reparations, for the part that we watched, I didn’t feel like anything was solved. All of the speakers agreed that some reparations were needed, but whether that be money to the individuals/families, research, recognition of loyalty, funding towards projects, etc. there was conflict. After research, I found that the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed by President Reagan and gave $20,000 to over 80,000 survivors of internment.
I agree that it was definitely shocking to see how long it took for the hearing to actually happen. When Mineta explained that 4,000 people who were interned had passed away since the introduction of the bill, that really put into perspective how long and difficult this process was.