Biden swears ‘never again’ as he marks 80 years since Japanese internment
US President Joe Biden pledged to fight racism on Friday as the country marks 80 years since signing an executive order that led to the incarceration of some 120,000 Japanese Americans during the Second World War.
While affirming the U.S. government’s apology to Japanese Americans who were wrongfully sent to internment camps following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Biden said in a statement, “We reaffirm our commitment to Nidoto Nai Yoni, which translates to ‘May this never happen again.'”
The photo provided shows people at the site of the Manzanar internment camp in California in 1943. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress) (Kyodo)
The incarceration of Japanese Americans – about two-thirds of whom were born in the United States – was carried out by an executive order issued on February 19, 1942, by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the pretext that they might spy for Japan or sabotage the war effort.
“Despite never being charged with a crime and without due process, Japanese Americans have been forcibly removed from their homes and communities and incarcerated, simply because of their heritage,” said Biden said.
For years, many Japanese Americans have lived in harsh, overcrowded conditions, surrounded by barbed wire fences and armed guards. They not only lost their homes, businesses, possessions and savings, but also their liberty and basic freedoms, he said.
Despite the unfair treatment of their community and family members, many second-generation Japanese Americans, known as Nisei, volunteered or were drafted for service in World War II, not only to defeat the enemy, but in the hope that a strong combat performance might help reduce the prejudices they face in their own country.
The all-Japanese 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team have become known as two of the most decorated and distinguished military units in United States history.
“The incarceration of Japanese Americans 80 years ago reminds us today of the tragic consequences we attract when we allow racism, fear and xenophobia to fester,” Biden said.
The US government apologized for the incarceration and promised compensation in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan.
Biden was sworn in last year at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise amid the ongoing health crisis from the novel coronavirus, first detected in China in late 2019.
The administration has taken a series of steps to combat racism against Asians and others in the country, including enacting legislation in May last year to strengthen the response of the forces of the order to hate crimes.
Declaring Saturday a “World War II Japanese American Incarceration Day of Remembrance,” Biden called on people across the country to commemorate wartime injustice against civil liberties and “commit together to eradicate systemic racism to heal generational trauma in our communities.”