Norman Mineta was the first speaker of the Redress to Japanese American hearing. He talked about the experiences of him and his family in the internment camps as an example of ordinary people whose lives were disrupted and damaged by internment. I thought it was smart that he also talked about his experience serving on the House Budget Committee and not taking taxpayer money lightly, but that he still believed monetary compensation was necessary, because it provided him with a sense of authority on the topic. I also thought it was interesting to hear the type of rhetoric he employed, like mentioning his sons and mentioning a quotation tied to slavery.
Robert Matsui spoke second. He discussed the stigma of being Japanese even after the camps were closed and emphasized the lack of due process. I thought it was interesting that his parents were also American citizens, born and raised in the United States. It was hard to watch his statement because he was emotional, and internment clearly left a large impact on his and his family’s life. I thought it was meaningful that he invoked the Bill of Rights. He also emphasized the importance of understanding justice and rights and the necessity of an apology and compensation.
In Michael Lowry’s speech, he mentioned that he introduced the first legislation for redress for Japanese Americans in 1979. I think it was very important that he noted that German Americans were not interned during World War II, but Japanese Americans were, because it so blatantly points out the racial motivations. I think it was interesting that he felt the priority should be compensation and that he referred to the defense budget, used to protect people from abuse of power, to justify spending compensation on those who were victims of abuse of power. Similarly, Mervyn Dymally emphasized that the United States has a debt to Japanese Americans.
Samuel Stratton and Dan Lungren opposed parts of redress. Stratton felt that it happened too long ago, and that the generation gap prevents people of the time from understanding what it was like to live through Pearl Harbor, and that is easy to criticize in hindsight. I feel that he diminished the trauma felt by Japanese Americans by claiming that non-Japanese Americans also had their lives disrupted by the war, failing to recognize that other Americans were not incarcerated without due process and were not questioned of their loyalty to the United States. Lungren strongly supported educating the public about internment and creating a fund to support historical research about it to learn from past mistakes, but did not support monetary compensation and excessively defended Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I think I liked Spark Matsunaga’s speech the most. He spoke about how J. Edgar Hoover, “who can hardly be accused of being soft on suspected spies,” opposed internment and how many Japanese were resident aliens in the United States because they were not allowed to become naturalized citizens even if they wanted to. I also think it was interesting that he talked about how people who would, under the logic of the time, be more likely to be spies, Japanese diplomats and Japanese Americans in Hawaii, were largely not interned. In fact, Japanese diplomats were treated well and lived on house arrest. It was interesting to hear about his experience in the military, serving in the war but still being questioned of his loyalty due to his ancestry. He also argued that recognition of Japanese American loyalty and the violation of rights committed by the United States would be evidence that the United States is a great country.