In the C-Span recording, there is a public hearing debating on redress for Japanese American citizens who were put into internment camps during WWII after the bombing of pearl harbor.
At the beginning of the hearing, Norman Mineta sets the stage. Mineta explains that they have held hearings and discovered over 120,000 United States citizens of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned. Mineta emphasizes that redress is the only way to even begin to right the wrongs done 44 years ago. Mineta explains that redress is about equal justice for all and that since the bill had been introduced 4,000 formally interned people had died, Mineta calls for more immediate action in order to give reparations to the people who were directly affected.
After Mineta finishes Robert Matsui comes up to testify. I found Matsui’s story to be very powerful. Matsui explains that his family had come to the United States in the year 1890, by all means, he considered himself an American. Matsui tells his family’s story and explains how his family sold all their possessions because neighbors were knocking at their door and telling them it would all be stolen after they left anyway. Matsui explains how his friend told him he hated being Japanese and that he was told it was an “evil race.” Matsui described the way kids would look at him when they learned about WWII in class and how he felt like an outsider in his own country. German Americans were not interned, nor were Italian Americans, Matsui argued internment of Japanese people was racial. Matsui explains that people told him everyone sacrificed something during wartime and that Japanese citizens were just doing their part, however, Matsui refutes this belief. He explains if he were twenty years old he would be proud to fight for his country and fulfill an honorable duty, but there is no honor in being a prisoner, there is no honor in being a criminal when you nor your family has done anything wrong. Also, Matsui was not twenty at the time, he was ten months old, no White American had to give up everything as a baby for the war efforts. Matsui explains, and I really liked this and think that this needs to be explained to many people today, that America is a great democracy because we are not afraid of admitting our mistakes, redress is a way of taking that accountability and taking actual action to right the wrongs done. Matsui explains that he is not at the hearing just for a $20,000 check, he is there to check democracy and freedom promised to United States citizens. This made me think a lot about today and how people are calling for reparations for slavery, which is well overdue and that many people try to discredit history as a way to combat talking about reparations.
The other figure I found to be a very strong presence was Samuel Studdiford Stratton. Stratton opposed redress, his argument was that it was wartime so people were worried and that we can’t judge the actions of people during a crisis. However, I believe how we treat people when we are scared is a true reflection of who we are. During WWII people took advantage of the moment to promote their racist beliefs, and this is shown by the fact that no other “enemy” group (Germans or Italians) were imprisoned. Stratton tries to chalk it up to hysteria after pearl harbor and he feels as though the action was justified. Matsui had earlier pointed out that no Japanese- American citizen had been disloyal during WWII. Also, one thing that Stratton said that really bothered me was “FDR wouldn’t override the meaning of the constitution,” but he did? and that was just presented to him. It is wrong to say that any president wouldn’t override the meaning of the constitution, even if it wasn’t intentional, he still did, every American deserves a fair trial. Then Stratton tries to justify himself by saying he’s learned some Japanese and has Japanese friends, but still misses the point that people’s lives were heavily disrupted and even destroyed by internment, not only were there financial issues but emotional issues that can’t be made up for in money. Part of the legislation is to set aside money to be able to educate about Japanese internment so that nothing like it will happen again, and even though it won’t solve the emotional damage that has been done it will prevent it from happening again in the future.