Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fumiko Hayashida of the Iconic Japanese Internment Photo, R.I.P. (January 21, 1911 - November 2, 2014)

Fumiko Hayashida of the Iconic Japanese Internment Photo, R.I.P (1911-2013) One of the most disgraceful episodes in modern American history was the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. General Sherman said “War is Hell.” Civilians are casualties and atrocities are committed. The internment of Japanese America citizens in concentration camps during World War II culminated almost a century of racism against Asian Americans on the West Coast. The Chinese immigrants were the initial victims, going back to the times of the 49ers. The Japanese immigrants were next to experience the racism. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but this country did not intern German Americans in either World War or Italian Americans during World War II, except for a few thousand who were citizens of Italy. Between 110,000-120,000 Japanese Americans were interned during the war. Almost 2/3 were American citizens. The internment was popular in the West, but opposed by civil libertarians. The ostensible reason for the concentration camps was questions over their loyalty. The leading advocates for internment were Lt. General John L. DeWitt, Head of the Western Command, and the Attorney General of California, Earl Warren, the future Governor of California and Chief Justice of the United States. The United States Justice Department concealed documents showing the FBI and Office of Naval Intelligence had no questions about their loyalty. Both agencies had been investigating the loyalty of the Japanese Americans before the war. Nevertheless, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the internments. Fumiko Hayashida was a pregnant mother of two when they received the evacuation notice. She and her husband owned a strawberry farm on Bainbridge Island, off of Seattle. She was told they were only allowed one suitcase, so she packed the suitcase with diapers and wore layers of clothes herself. The 227 Japanese Americans on Bainbridge Island were the first to receive the evacuation order (Exclusion Order No. 1) because of the proximately to naval bases. The Hayashidas rode the ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. A photographer for the Seattle Post-Intelligence took the photo of a Japanese mother holding her baby daughter at the ferry dock. It was Fumiko and her daughter Natalie. This picture is the image of the Japanese internment. They initially went to the Manzanar camp (sounds like a Nazi concentration camp), and then to the Minidoka camp in Idaho to be close to relatives and friends. The Hayashidas returned to their farm after the war, but could not make a go of it. Her husband, Saburo, got a job with Boeing and they moved to Seattle, where she became a housewife. She lived on Beacon Hill for the past 63 years. Fumiko lived long enough to hear the apologies, receive the reparations, and experience the full integration of Asian Americans in the Seattle and American culture. She lived well. Her story is a 2009 documentary, “The Woman Behind the Documentary.” The other icon of the wrongful internments is Fred Korematsu of Oakland. He refused to evacuate in 1942, and was subsequently arrested. He became the plaintiff in a test case, Korematsu v. United States. The Supreme Court in a 6:3 decision in 1944 upheld the internments. I was receiving allergy shots at the Stanford medical faculty, then in San Francisco, when I was very young (probably 5-6). My mom pointed out a Japanese nurse and said she was in a concentration camp during World War II. The way my mom said it sounded like the nurse had done nothing wrong but the government had. I later read up California history and discovered the history of the anti-Asian racism: discriminatory fees going back to the 49ers, bans on education, land exclusions, enforcement of miscegenation laws, zoning restrictions, restrictive covenants in deeds, immigration restrictions, race riots, and lynchings. Several prestigious universities are still believed to discriminate against Asian American applicants, using the same reasoning they used against Jewish students last century. The Korematsu opinion is universally viewed as one of the ten worst Supreme Court decisions. Earl Warren, known to history as the civil libertarian leader of the Warren Court, never apologized for his conduct.

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