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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: May 21, 2000
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

Structural Violence in Honoring Our Heroes

Here is an instance in which the structural violence comes in the privileging of one perspective over another. Professor Hata is explaining what is structurally violent about the present state of the memorial plans. Notice how many people are beginning to band together to stop the escalation of structural violence. jeanne

On Monday, May 22, Professor Don Hata wrote:

Jeanne and Pat,

My  appeal to campus colleagues, below, summarizes the scandal, and why we seek support for a resolution to avoid a Nikkei (Japanese-American) repeat of the Enola Gay exhibit debacle at the Smithsonian a few years ago.

At the end of my personal appeal for support, I have attached a draft of our resolution, and a roster that reflects a critical mass of academic experts in addition to a diverse group of supporters.  When we started this movement two weeks ago, we had less than a dozen names.  Look at the roster on our website now, and you see some 350 names.  We just heard that the entire Honolulu chapter of the JACL voted to sign on.

If you wish to join us, simply reply by email and we will forward your name.  We have a newly created web page with additional information and an easy sign-on form at:  HTTP://WWW.JAVOICE.COM

This is not an issue that concerns Japanese Americans ONLY.  Please scan the materials below and consider signing on.  We also welcome students at all levels, especially those who have done research and produced reports and term papers on the subject.  It is an excellent opportunity to give them a real experience in the responsibility of citizens to get involved. 

From:   Don Hata, Professor of History        18-MAY-2000
To:     Colleagues at California State University, Dominguez Hills

Some of you may not have gotten my hastily-written and poorly typed email on this scandal last week, and I wanted to make sure you have an opportunity to join or decline. Please circulate the message to other potential supporters.  

This is not a Japanese-American-ONLY issue, and the more diverse names of supporters the better.

Nadine (my wife and co-author) and I became aware of this scandal a year ago, in the course of our research on an interpretive history of Japanese Americans. When we first received the slick and expensive- looking brochure about a memorial to Japanese American patriotism in WW II, to be constructed on an attractive and large triangle of land, we tossed it away. Our parents raised us with the Confucian virtue that loathes such conspicuous and ostentatious public displays of self-aggrandizement.  

Later, we met the incredible researchers--Aiko Yoshinaga and her husband Jack Herzig--who miraculously found the evidence in the National Archives that forced the federal courts to reopen (and overturn) the notorious wartime convictions of Hirabayashi, Korematsu and Yasui, and we were motivated to learn more about the memorial project.  Note that Dale Minami, a local Gardena Sansei who served as lead attorney in the Coram Nobis cases that won pardons for the aforementioned Nikkei, is on the list of signatories to the resolution below.

We were shocked  to learn that the private foundation created to raise funds for the memorial had collected more than $11 MILLION DOLLARS from some 20,000 large and small donors across the nation.  We found that many donors were making their first-ever contritutions to any Nikkei-related cause, because they felt guilty for not having supported the earlier Coram Nobis court cases or the Nikkei Redress Movement that eventually secured an official presidential apology and a one-time tax-free cash payment of $20,000 to survivors.   

We were also dismayed to learn that the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF) board of directors had broken faith with all the donors, by not acting in accord with their own bylaws and rules of procedure, and arbitrarily favoring certain names while omitting key facts and substantial themes that fully and accurately depict the many forms of courage and loyalty exhibited by Nikkei during the horrible wartime experience.   

Few college texts or courses on U.S. History mention it, but more and more scholars and students know now that the "resisters of conscience" at Heart Mountain concentration camp were NOT disloyal cowards, as they were denounced by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL).  Few if any texts mention that, after failing to make the resisters cooperate, JACL recommended to the administration that the resisters be placed in solitary confinement to break their spirit;  rarely is it told that the resisters publicly proclaimed their readiness to fight for the U.S. but not while their families were deprived of their basic rights and imprisoned without due process.   

Too few Americans, including many Nikkei, know that the 10 WRA (War Relocation Authority) camps were only one part of the sinister and expansive GULAG of other isolation camps and special detention camps administered by the INS and the Army. The latter are either not included or inaccurately described in the draft of inscriptions approved by the National Park Service (NPS)--which has jurisdiction over the memorial site in Washington, DC. 

And what about NPS? Has it been inclusive and objective in its review and approval of the proposed inscriptions submitted to it by the NJAMF? 

For the past year, dozens of letters from scholars and other experts have been sent to the NJAMF and the NPS, but to little avail.  After several months, the only reply to our request for clarification was a form letter from NJAMF, asking us to donate to the fund.  Nadine is the former chair of the California State Historical Resources Commission-- the body that approved the designation of wartime assembly centers and concentration camp sites as state historic sites and pushed forward recommendations for federal recognition. She has not received the courtesy of a reply to her letter to the National Parks Service.

We have in our possession a copy of the letter from the National Park Service to the chair of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation Board, approving their flawed draft of distorted and inaccurate statements.  At the bottom of the letter, along with the typist's initials, is this file name:  "japmemor.doc"  What kind of sensitivity do we see in the abbeviation "jap" for the file name?  This is disgusting!  To our knowledge, the NJAMF has meekly accepted "japmemor.doc" without protest, like the wartime JACL position of total collaboration without protest.

Dr. Rita Takahashi, a professor at our sister Cal-State Univ. campus, San Francisco State, and Dr. Don Nakanishi, director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Department, are among the minority of NJAMF Board members who have protested and demanded that the memorial foundation staff and majority of the Board keep faith with the overall goal of the project:  To bring closure to the wartime divisions among Nikkei caused by certain self-serving and self-styled wartime Nikkei "leaders" who claimed that they spoke for all Nikkei and actively cooperated with officials for the sake of "patriotism" and because there was "no alternative" amid the war hysteria of the times.  

That was not "leadership" or "cooperation," but often collaboration under the cover of "patriotism" and other euphemisms-- selling out and sucking up--for special treatment and cozy deals. Real "leadership" in a genuine democracy means standing up for one's  rights, and especially when times are very tough.  

The NJAMF places great emphasis on the widely-known and well-deserved combat heroism of Nikkei in uniform, but the proposed inscriptions entirely omit other Nikkei who fought for due process and basic civil rights. The "resisters of conscience" did this.  So did many others, including the courageous Nisei who individually tested their rights in the courts.  But they are not included in the names and inscriptions pushed through by a well organized INU-mentality cabal. "Inu" ("dog") was the term used by Nikkei in the concentration camps for fellow prisoners who acted as informants--spying on their neighbors.  Such activities added to the feeling of isolation, betrayal, and hopelessness of Nikkei in the wartime gulag.  

America has begun the process of coming to terms with the Vietnam War, including those who dissented and refused to fight a war they did not believe in.  It is time for Nikkei to use this public memorial in Washington DC to stop playing the obsequious "model minority" and "200 percent American" stereotypes and get down off the cross of "we are so perfect."   

Real history is messy and often uncomfortable.  It is time to abandon the myths and lies and accusations--about who did what to and for whom, and open all the long-locked closets.  They include genuine heroes and heroines who have been falsely villified or suppressed for too long by the INU-mentality that prefers masturbatory myths and nostalgia to the facts.   

I am attaching the resolution and a list of early signatories, an explanation of why we support this action, and a form and info on how to sign on. You can sign on at our new web page: HTTP://WWW.JAVOICE.COM

You don't have to be a donor to the memorial. I have not yet donated a cent and will not consider it until and unless the memorial foundation expands the inscriptions to include the full range of persons and activities that comprise a realistic summary of Nikkei patriotism in World War II.  

The history of Nikkei patriotism and loyalty in WW II is not owned by any  single organization, but they will get away with it--and in the form of a very large and permanent public memorial with incomplete and inaccurate inscriptions etched in stone, in a prominent and well- travelled spot in Washington, DC--unless individuals and groups dedicated to seeking and teaching the truth stand up and demand a full and honest accounting of the historical facts.  

This is NOT an attack on the JACL.  Many JACL members are on the roster below, including Clifford Uyeda, former JACL president who stands as an example of the post-WW II JACL at its best, leading the struggle to secure a pardon for the Nisei woman unfairly convicted of treason as "Tokyo Rose" and moving JACL into the national Redress movement. Another supporter, Rita Takahashi was a JACL chapter president as well as its Washington DC Representative.  We just learned that the Honolulu chapter of JACL voted to sign on. 

This IS a straightforward public protest, in the best tradition of a truly participatory democracy,  against the self-styled Nikkei oligarchs who assume that wealth and political connections can purchase and purloin their place in history. 

Time is short.  Articles are already appearing in the Nikkei vernaculars, about reserving your hotel room for the gala event in November, etc.  All the emphasis is on the show, not the substance.  Please circulate the resolution among your friends and associates.  We need as many names as possible, and quickly.

The list of signatories is growing rapidly. The roster below reflects a critical mass of diverse expertise and experience re Nikkei and WW II.  Well-published scholars like Ron Takaka at UC Berkeley, Tetsuden Kashima at the University of Washington, Gary Okihiro at Columbia, and Don Nakanishi and Yuji Ichioka at UCLA have signed on.  Roger Daniels has been contacted.  He has a policy of not signing such petitions, but his condemnation of the wartime JACL leadership pervades his numerous publications on Nikkei and WW II.  

The form below is for our internal records.  In order to expedite adding names to the list that will soon go out to the vernaculars, simply email me that you wish to sign on, include your mailing address and phone and fax;  and what city you wish after your name. 

Thanks for your consideration. SUPPORT HISTORIAL ACCURACY. SIGN ON!  

In haste,  

Don Hata
Professor of History, California State University, Dominguez Hills
(on leave for research on an intepretive history of Nikkei, with co-author Dr. Nadine Ishitani Hata of El Camino College)