San Diego Apologizes for Japanese-American Internment During WWII as ‘Racist’ But Offers No Reparations

by on September 21, 2022 · 5 comments

in Civil Rights, San Diego, War and Peace

On Tuesday, September 20, the City of San Diego formally rescinded a 1942 resolution the city council had passed 80 years ago in support of the incarceration of Japanese Americans in prison camps during World War II.

City councilmembers made the rescission and called the camps and the council’s 1942 resolution supporting them racist, unjust and a form of hate. The council also approved an apology to Japanese Americans for the impact of the camps. They had been requested to do so by the San Diego chapter of the Japanese American Historical Society.

Kay Ochi, the society’s president, said the prison camps and the council’s resolution supporting them reflected the racism, prejudice and fear of the time. Her parents, U.S. citizens born in 1920, were incarcerated from 1942 to 1945 in Arizona.

During World War II, more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forcibly relocated to 10 prison camps in the western U.S. and Arkansas. More than 1,900 came from San Diego County. The American citizens were seen as a threat to national security because of their ethnicity — clearly a racist view — as it was not applied to German-Americans or Italian-Americans during the war.

At the time of the incarcerations, Japanese-Americans had to give up businesses, properties and personal items. White Americans bought up those businesses and properties at fire-sale prices, if at all.

The city council on Tuesday did not vote to offer any reparations to survivors or descendants of those forced into camps, however. There has been no official effort to determine economic losses suffered by those who were forced to give up property, much less any effort to figure out reparations  — some kind of recompense.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

kh September 21, 2022 at 4:23 pm

The city of San Diego does not have any money anyways to be giving to descendants of victims of this despicable racist act of government confiscation of liberty and property, without first taking it by force from today’s taxpayers.

One might say it’s the thought that counts, but personally I’d like the city council stop engaging in these empty goodwill type resolutions. It’s just lip service. Especially when we have council meetings running long with legitimate action items where we are limiting public comment, and also losing the attention or attendance of some councilmembers.


Frank Gormlie September 21, 2022 at 4:32 pm

I hear ya. It is lip service, a bunch of words spoken and on paper – very cheap. But what about the state?


kh September 21, 2022 at 4:52 pm

One thing that separates us from the medieval civiliziations, is not punishing people for the crimes of their ancestors.

But certainly possessions do pass down generations. To the extent it can be determined that an individual benefitted ill-gotten property from someone else, I think that’s fair game to consider.

Sometimes the best you can do in response to mistakes made 70 years ago, is to open the book and understand were they went wrong, and try to not make the same mistakes in the future. But I’m not sure that’s happening with some of these broad reparation proposals that pick winners and losers based on race.


korla eaquinta September 21, 2022 at 5:38 pm

The photo looks like Manzanar. I recommend everyone take a trip up 395 to tour this Japanese internment camp. It is informative and sad to see how people were treated.


sealintheselkirks September 23, 2022 at 3:04 pm

As I’ve mentioned before, my stepmom a 1st generation Nisei, a US-born citizen, who was kidnapped by the US gov and put in one of these US Concentration Camps surrounded by white men with guns, barbed wire, and guard towers out of a San Francisco elementary school in 1942. She’s on their website.

No I don’t know which but her parents lost everything; home, car, bank accounts, jobs, possessions, heirlooms, their self-respect, and self-worth. When the family was dumped on the street penniless after the camps were emptied into an extremely racist environment, just how is anything going to make up for that?

Then in the 1960s her baby brother (I assume a menopause baby) was drafted and sent to Viet Nam where he was blown into pieces driving his Army 6×6 delivering supplies to a forward Fire Base. Again, how can this country fix that?

She was my mom from 1961-1970 in racist military-base San Diego, an anti-war activist in the Peace & Freedom Party, graduated from SDSU when I was in elementary school, and to a lot of my childhood peers with military parents she was a Gook, a Slope, a Slant-eye un-American and I got in fights because of it.

And 50+ years later the same crap is still very apparent in this country as the ‘anti-Arab’ attacks and beatings crap is EXACTLY what she saw as a kid before and after WWII. My Pacific Islands combat vet grandpa just smolders at her in photos from back then.

Now that we know so much more about trauma and PTSD and the consequences and long-term behaviors from sufferers, I understand better why she’d just fly into rages, that snap from the mom that let me grow my hair and go surfing (against my dad’s wishes) and taking me to demonstrations to the raging woman that beat on me when I did something she didn’t like.

What the US government did to her had some direct and rather unpleasant consequences on my childhood. Trauma gets passed down through generations…and spreads out in waves that affect everyone in the pond whether they know it or not.

I don’t know if she’s even alive still; last I heard was that she had switched to counseling at Morse High, but if she is she’d be in her late 80s at least. I hope somewhere in the rest of her life she found some peace inside herself.

The only thing that can make a difference isn’t money or ‘I’m sorry’ but to NEVER DO THIS KIND OF SHIT AGAIN. Teach peace (as she tried to do),teach real history not patriotic pablum for idiots, and start really teaching anti-racism in schools. Make it a required subject could be a good first step.



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