By Will Kaku
The 31st Annual San Jose Day of Remembrance will take place on February 20, 2011 in the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin.
The annual event commemorates the signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 which eventually led to the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were American citizens.
The theme for the 2011 San Jose Day of Remembrance is “Fighting Against Fear,” reflecting the feeling that over the past year, many highly controversial events stirred up strong emotions, hysteria and fear that prevented serious discussions, intellectual debate and sensible policy.
The “mosque near ground zero,” the California Proposition 8 court
battles, calls for racial profiling at airports, threats of Koran burning events and the rising tension between the Department of Justice and Muslim American civil rights organizations created a highly-charged atmosphere that some would say had parallels with the experience of Japanese Americans.
For example, the “mosque near ground zero” debate made some people in the Japanese American community recall the events surrounding the establishment of a Japanese American hostel in New York City. In April 1944, the American Baptist Home Mission Society and the Church of the Brethren announced that a hostel would be opened that would house Japanese American internees who were granted permission to leave the internment camps if they met a particular criteria.
The establishment of the hostel met opposition from the local community and a strong protest from Mayor La Guardia. La Guardia argued, “If it was necessary to evacuate them from their homes originally and put them in a concentration camp, what justification is there for turning them loose in Eastern cities at this time?”
The Japanese American hostel was supported by several organizations, religous groups, the faculty of Columbia’s School of Social Work, and Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes. Ickes stated that La Guaria’s position would “seem ominously out of tune in a nation that is fighting for the principles of democracy and freedom.”
In May of 1944, the hostel was opened and eventually tensions subsided. It has been estimated that approximately 2000 Japanese American internees had settled around the New York City area by the end of the war.
For information about the 2011 San Jose Day of Remembrance, visit www.sjnoc.org.