This article appeared in the February 19, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Why California’s apology to Japanese Americans matters

Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Les Ouchida holds a 1943 photo of himself (front row, center) and his siblings taken at the internment camp his family was moved to, as he poses at the permanent exhibit titled "UpRooted Japanese Americans in World War II" at the California Museum in Sacramento, California, Feb. 11, 2020.

Today is a Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans. On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to move Japanese immigrants to internment camps, and the date marks a time to consider the lessons of that legacy.

This week, California will formally apologize for its role. This follows the federal government’s own apology in 1988, along with $20,000 in reparations to everyone who had been interned.

But the importance of that apology – and California’s – goes back to the spirit of the first Remembrance Day in 1978. For decades, the Japanese community had rarely spoken of their internment, ashamed and afraid. But on that first Remembrance Day in Seattle, “parents opened up to their kids and told them about what happened to them during the war, many of them for the first time,” according to Densho, a blog about the internments.

That is why the apologies matter, Japanese Americans say. Speaking out cannot change the past, but it can shape the future.

“There is a saying in Japanese culture, ‘kodomo no tame ni,’ which means, ‘for the sake of the children,’” John Tateishi, one of the original activists, told WFDD. “It’s the legacy we’re handing down to them and to the nation to say that, ‘You can make this mistake, but you also have to correct it – and by correcting it, hopefully not repeat it again.’”

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This article appeared in the February 19, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 02/19 edition
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