Houston Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League

Protecting the Freedoms of All Americans

   The Houston Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League offers its condolences and sympathies to the victims and families affected by the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001.

    Now, as in 1942 when America came under attack, the resulting emotions are: anger, hate, vengeance and patriotism.(1)

    Shots have been fired into mosques. Arab American businesses have been defaced with the word “Die!” painted upon them.  Reports of harassment, vandalism, assaults and even murder against innocent Americans and residents of our country have set off alarms in the Japanese American community.  This all happened once before to people in our community.  It was ugly, ignorant, humiliating and wasteful. And most importantly, un-American.(1)

    We are horrified and saddened to hear about the violent and demeaning acts against Arab Americans and Islamic Americans today.  It is also distressing to read that public polls indicate a willingness to return to internment camps in the U.S. as a possible response to terrorism.(1)

    On February 19, 1942, 73 days after the United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which resulted in the removal of 120,000 Japanese American men, women and children from their homes in the western states and Hawaii.  Allowed only what they could carry, families were forced to abandon homes, friends, farms and businesses to live in ten relocation centers guarded by armed troops and surrounded by barbed wire fences.  Some remained in relocation centers until March 1946.(2)

    Today, our political leaders, including President George W. Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and members of Congress have made it clear that the harassment and assault of Muslims, Arab Americans and South Asian Americans is not to be tolerated by our government.  It is important to note that during World War II nearly 60 years ago Mineta, at age of 10, was interned in an U.S. concentration camp along with his family.  His experience and condemnation of random discrimination against Muslims and Arab-Americans has touched the conscience of the Bush administration and has helped shape the response to the terrorism.(1 )

    President Bush stressed that the United States’ war is not against Islam.  “There are millions of good Americans who practice the Muslim faith, who love their country as much as I love the country, and who salute the flag as strongly as I salute the flag.  As for those who try to pit religion against religion, our great nation will stand up and reject that kind of thought.  We won’t allow that to creep into the consciousness of the world.”(3)

    During that dark period in American history, when much of America was turning its back on Americans of Japanese ancestry, including the government and news media, there were individuals who refused to turn against their friends and neighbors.  There were some who were moved to great acts of kindness, including those who cared for their Japanese American neighbors’ home and the possessions they were not able to take to camp, or minded their friends’ business while they were behind barbed wire.  And, there were individuals who proved to be true defenders of democracy.(1)

    Daniel K. Inouye, U.S. Senator, U.S. Congressman, Captain, 442nd Regimental Combat Team said, “The lessons learned must remain as a grave reminder of what we must not allow to happen again to any group.”(2)  An attack in words or deeds upon any person, due to their race, religion, ethnicity or any other characteristic is an attack on fundamental liberties that all Americans cherish and are entitled to.  We all lose when attacks are aimed at any one group, tearing, as they do, the very fabric of our society and freedoms.  We become our enemy when hate and rage becomes our guide. We will not succumb to the temptation of allowing prejudice tear apart the majesty of our country, this city and every neighborhood.(4)

    BE IT RESOLVED that the Houston Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League speaks out for the rights of Arab Americans and Muslims against unjust discrimination, insult and violence.  We resolve to remind our leaders, our family, our friends and our neighbors of similar injustices suffered upon the Japanese-American community simply because they looked like the enemy.


Signed,

    Mari Okabayashi                                                                                                               Date
     President
     Houston Chapter
    Japanese American Citizens League


REFERENCES

1. “Japanese American National Museum Statement in Response to the Events of September 11, 2001, ” Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA.
2. “The Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II,” Washington, D.C.
3. Graves, R., “Afghan-Americans fear terrorism, blame,” Houston Chronicle,
4. “80-20 co-signs a statement on the 9/11 tragedy,” 80-20 Initiative, October 13, 2001.