Eighty years ago today, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry (immigrants and U.S. citizens) from the West Coast of the United States for fear they might support Japan in the war.
As a direct result of this Order, my parents’ families were moved to relocation camps in the inner states.
My father, Thomas (pictured above), was sent from Los Angeles, California, to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, at age twelve. My mother, Florence, arrived from Seattle, Washington, to the camp at Minidoka, Idaho. She was also twelve.
Each family would spend the next three years in the camps, adjusting to this new life by creating schools and building community within the confines, while armed guards stood watch in their towers until the end of the war in 1945.
With no “home” to return to, each family found its way to Chicago, Illinois, a city known to be friendly and tolerant of Japanese Americans after the war.
Let’s learn from both the negative and positive actions that are a part of our history. Do our best not to make decisions based on fear or discriminate against a group because their members don’t look like us. Be inspired by people that choose grit and perseverance over acquiescence and withdrawal. Honor the sacrifice of those who came before us by choosing love and community over hate and division.