An Open Letter to the JACL National Council and JACL Membership

Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) voices its support for the resolution of reconciliation and apology that will be presented at the 2019 JACL National Convention.

We believe that the 75 years of internal turmoil within the Japanese American community during and after the WWII incarceration must come to an end. We believe that, as a community, we must remember that it was the U.S. government — not fellow Japanese Americans — that brought on the deep divisions within of our community.

Our government orchestrated the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans. It decided to listen to military and political leaders who called Japanese Americans potential saboteurs and spies. It decided to listen to nativist groups who called for getting rid of Japanese Americans. It decided not to listen to intelligence reports from its own Department of State, FBI, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army that largely stated that Japanese Americans did not pose a threat to national security.

With the full force of the military, our government carried out this miscarriage of justice against Japanese Americans.

Our government did what it could to destroy our community. It dismantled the Issei leadership by having the FBI lock up Issei community leaders, business leaders, Japanese-language instructors, Buddhist ministers, and others. With that vacuum in community leadership, our government then appointed the very young and untested JACL to take on leadership in getting Japanese Americans to cooperate with exclusion orders and eventual incarceration.

NCRR asserts that the JACL was manipulated. We believe that the government “used” the JACL to carry out many of the government’s dastardly efforts to create dissension and division within the community, thereby stirring up turmoil and hostilities that would tear up the community for decades.

NCRR believes that the finger-pointing and scapegoating within our community must stop. On the one hand, many in our community still condemn the Tule Lake resisters for their acts of dissent; on the other hand, many still blame the JACL for the pain and trauma that many former incarcerees still feel.

Both groups have been unfairly blamed for conditions over which they had no control. For the most part, people from both groups were acting in concert with their honest view of what was best for their families and the community as a whole. Our government manipulated and exploited the finger-pointing and scapegoating that Japanese Americans inflicted on fellow incarcerees — for they were terribly vulnerable to acting out in such a manner because after the government forced them to answer Questions 27 and 28 of the loyalty questionnaire.

The loyalty questionnaire tore the community apart. The government said you were disloyal if you answered “no, no” or refused to respond to Questions 27 and 28. Yet it was the government that was disloyal to its own Japanese American citizens and residents, for it presumed them to be guilty until proven innocent, which is totally contrary to our American democratic promise that each person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty.