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We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past…


The tragedy of September 11th and the increase of hate crimes in the aftermath against innocent persons because of their ethnic identity demonstrate the importance of studying the experience of Japanese Americans.  After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the U.S. interned 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, denying their basic civil rights.  We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing war hysteria and lack of understanding to deny anyone their basic rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

The mass imprisonment of persons with Japanese ancestry during World War II challenged the very foundation of our democratic society.  The California State Board of Education in its Model Curriculum for Human Rights and Genocide stated that “there is no more urgent task for educators in the field of history and social science than to teach students about the importance of human rights” and that we must “acknowledge unflinchingly the instances in U.S. history when our own best ideals were betrayed by the systematic mistreatment of group members because of their race, religion, culture, language, gender or political views.”  We are a strong nation of immigrants, and our ancestors come from many cultures.

The purpose of this event, “The Japanese American Experience in California,” at the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts is to give students an opportunity to hear first-hand stories from Japanese Americans who were in the internment camps. The  California Museum for History, Women and the Arts offers this program in partnership with the Florin, Lodi, Marysville, Placer, Sacramento, and Stockton Japanese American Citizens League, California State University Sacramento Archives and Special Collections, and the Elk Grove Unified School District.  We need to teach students that although the strongest protection for human rights is fundamental in our democratic nation, mistakes are made.  It is the responsibility of citizens to challenge those in positions of power in the government and not allow unfair treatment or practices to continue.  The significance of this study goes beyond the treatment of Japanese Americans.  When the constitutional rights of one group of citizens are violated, all Americans are affected.

Marielle Tsukamoto
Florin Japanese American Citizens League
Time of Remembrance Education Project Chairman