History lesson: Executive Order 9066
Today is the 75th anniversary of the FDR’s Executive Order 9066. At the time, 1942, the United States was engaged in a world war. The countries of the opposition were the Axis Powers that were principally comprised of Germany, Italy, and Japan (though there were other countries involved, such as Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria).
My emphasis in writing this is to point out these three main countries — Germany, Italy, Japan — and to ask you to summon into your mind the physical appearance of German, Italian, and Japanese people.
Do you see what I see?
I have been to Germany, Italy, and Japan. In the first two countries, I blend into the crowd. As a white guy, I walk down any street unnoticed as being different, as being other. In Japan, my physical appearance is noticeable. I do not blend in.
Using this visual, think back to 1942 and FDR’s Executive Order 9066. FDR and his administration questioned the loyalty of UNITED STATES CITIZENS of Japanese descent. It bears repeating: these people were UNITED STATES CITIZENS!!!
Note that the administration did not question the loyalty of United States citizens whose family heritage was from Germany and Italy.
While Japanese-American citizens were suspect, and, as a result, torn from their homes to spend years in concentration camps, German-American and Italian-American citizens were left alone to live their lives in their own homes.
Isn’t it obvious why this distinction was made? It’s a simple one-word reason, and that word is RACISM.
All of these people, under the Constitution, were equal in the eyes of the law of the land. But their physical appearance distinguished them from all the citizens around them. And the racism enacted against them subjected them to great harm.
This brings us to 2017, seventy-five years later.
The current president has invoked two groups of people — Muslims and Mexicans — who, according to him, are not to be trusted or welcomed to our country. These groups are very frequently brown-skinned people who, by virtue of their appearance, do not blend in among a white crowd.
And, once again, this action on the part of the president, is racially motivated.
I am bringing this up today for several reasons:
First of all, this is as a means of showing the current administration that we will not stand by idly when he foments racially motivated sentiment in our country.
Secondly, it is critical to inform our citizenry of the nightmare that was Executive Order 9066. Speaking for myself, I can say that this was not taught to me anywhere in school. I got my undergraduate degree in 1969; it was nowhere to be found in any class I took in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college. I didn’t find this out until I was in my twenties.
That alone is noteworthy, as it is very likely that this is still not taught in history. It’s important for all of us to rid ourselves of the notion that our country can do no wrong — that all actions committed by our government are fair and just.
Saying that we have erred is not condemnation of our country or our government. It is our duty as citizens to speak up when we see miscarriage of justice, and to let our government know that not only are we are aware of what is going on, but that we will not stand for the mistreatment of our fellow humans, whether those people be citizens of our country or of other countries.
Finally, it is our right and our duty not only to know our own history, but to stand in defense of others who have been wronged. The constitutional rights granted to us are also granted to others. If others are harmed, it could be only a matter of time that we could be, also.
We must now say to this current administration: We are on to you! We do not support and will not support your racism and xenophobia.