One day after the Day of Remembrance, California lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution to formally apologize for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II—and for the state’s “failure to support and defend the civil rights and civil liberties of Japanese Americans.”
In the months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order No. 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942—authorizing the military to forcibly move Japanese Americans into concentration camps. Feb. 19 now is marked by Japanese Americans as a Day of Remembrance.
“This apology is long overdue, but it is important, nonetheless,” said Rep. Mark Takano of California. His family members were imprisoned during the war.
“We must take the necessary steps to prevent anything like Japanese American internment from happening again,” said Takano. “That includes acknowledging the dark times in our past and condemning present policies that are unjustly targeting and inflicting damage on innocent communities.”
California was home to an estimated three-quarters of those incarcerated in the camps. As California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi stated, “California led the racist anti-Japanese American movement.’’
Muratsuchi was the one who introduced the resolution which doesn’t come with any compensation. It targets the actions of the California Legislature at the time for supporting the imprisonments. The resolution, co-introduced by California Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, makes a passing reference to “recent national events’’ and says they serve as a reminder “to learn from the mistakes of the past.’’
Muratsuchi said the inspiration for that passage were migrant children held in U.S. government custody over the past year.
While the apology may be decades late, we join with Asian American lawmakers and citizens in California who are applauding the effort.
Les Ouchida, a born American, was just 5 years old when he and his family were ripped from their home in 1942 and imprisoned in Arkansas. He holds no animosity toward the U.S. or California governments, choosing to focus on the positive.
“Even if it took time, we have the goodness to still apologize,” he said.
We cannot genuinely apologize if we can’t admit that we made a mistake. California is admitting it made a mistake. An apology doesn’t undo what has been done, but it is an important step in the healing process.
Thank you, California, for choosing the path of healing, for choosing to apologize.