Japanese Internee Denounces Racism and War
Interview with Frank Emi
Frank Emi is a Japanese American who was a leader of the Fair Play Committee, a group formed in the U.S. detention camp at Heart Mountain, Wyo. during World War II. He and 85 other Japanese detainees refused induction into the U.S. armed forces to protest the wholesale incarceration of Japanese during the war. Emi and six other leaders were convicted of conspiracy to evade the draft and of counseling others to evade the draft.
They spent a total of 18 months in jail before an appeals court overturned their conviction. The other draft resisters also served time and were eventually pardoned by President Truman. Emi and other Fair Play Committee members are featured in a new documentary, "Conscience and the Constitution," by Frank Abe. www.resisters.com.)
Q: What parallels do you see between the situation of the Japanese during World War II and the plight of Arabs and Muslims in the post-Sept. 11 United States?
A:Racial profiling. Japanese Americans were subjected to very racist anti-Asian laws in existence from the 1800s on. Arabs and Muslims are not subject to the racist laws that we were subjected to. But a general racist attitude is pervasive towards anybody that looks Arab, not only among the authorities but also among many average people.
The climate is getting very similar because the authorities are rounding up Arabs and Muslims without any reason. Whoever they think might be subversive, they're putting them in jails without any hearings. In that respect, I would say the threat to our civil liberties is very similar.
Q: What are your thoughts on the U.S. "war on terrorism" and the current push to wage war in Iraq?
Their target is to get control of the oil fields in Iraq.
This thing about weapons of mass destruction is a joke. If Saddam Hussein were to attack the U.S. or its allies, Iraq would be obliterated. What happened in the Gulf War? In one week they were almost wiped out. So for the authorities to say we have to do this because they're liable to attack us with weapons of mass destruction is really a lot of bull.
Q: What would you say to Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. who face violations of their civil liberties?
A: Try to take every legal step you can to counter. Arab American organizations must step up and fight it. In our case the Japanese American Citizens League did the opposite. They bent over backwards to cooperate with the government and really came after us resisters. When we won our case at the appellate level, we proved them wrong.
Reprinted from the WAR TIMES, www.war-times.org
An earlier story also related to Frank Emi, is about the JACL apololgy to the Heart Mountain resisters
The event succeeded in drawing out 21 draft resisters from Heart Mountain, Amache and even the lone resister from Jerome, Joe Yamakido, who told me he just wanted to see it but didn't want to be introduced. We got his name to the organizers, and after he came up to receive his ceremonial gift and returned to his seat high in the bleachers, his daughter gave him a big hug and wiped away her own tears. It was also a shock to finally get to meet George Kurasaki, Halley Minoura, Bob Nagahara, and other Heart Mountain resisters who are in the courtroom photo but never wanted to come out in public until now.
JACL National President Floyd Mori (pictured above) and Executive Director John Tateishi took a great risk in fulfilling the membership's mandate to hold a public ceremony. Twelve years ago it would have been unthinkable to see the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee admitted as a group to a JACL meeting, much less be the center of honor and attention. Even when Frank Emi and Mits Koshiyama spoke at the 1994 JACL convention in Salt Lake City, there was an uneasy air about the invitation and a local white scholar was brought in to mediate the proceedings. In the 20th century a convention resolution deemed ill-advised by the Nisei old guard would have simply been redirected or undermined by JACL leadership. By following their own consciences, and the mandate of their members, Mori and Tateishi have elevated the JACL of today to a new level of credibility as the civil rights organization it has strived to be since resettlement.
Resistance leader Frank Emi and draft resister Yosh Kuromiya graciously acknowledged the reconciliation. But what may have been lost in the good feelings of the moment, which several journalists did not miss, was that Emi and Yosh raised the stakes by calling on JACL to consider apologizing to the entire community for its policy of compliance with expulsion and initial waiver of civil rights for an entire people. Here is Emi's closing:
"I wish to extend my appreciation to the JACL for sponsoring this ceremony. As a civil rights organization, I believe it is a step in the right direction.
Having said that, I think it would be entirely appropriate for JACL to go one step further and hold a similar program directed towards the Japanese American community for the excesses committed by wartime JACL leaders, such as acting as informants for the government causing many innocent people to suffer, as recorded in the Lim Report.
I believe such action would finally put to rest, JACL's unholy ghosts of the past and would be a worthy way to start the 21st century.
The United States government apologized for their wartime excesses. Can JACL do less?"
That was unexpected, but on reflection it is typical Frank Emi. Never afraid to take a stand. It is his image, by the way, at the top of this page.