The language we use to tell a story becomes part of the story itself. The government euphemistically referred to the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast during World War II as an “evacuation,” suggesting their compulsory exclusion was to protect them, rather than the result of prejudice and wartime hysteria. Similarly, the government officially called the camps where Japanese Americans were sent “Relocation Centers,” even though leaders including President Roosevelt referred to them as “concentration camps.”
Since at least the mid-1990s, scholars, educators, and Japanese Americans have debated about terms to use in public discourse that more accurately capture the motivations for, and impacts of, the government’s wartime actions towards Japanese Americans. No clear consensus has emerged.
These definitions will help your understanding of 9066: Japanese American Voices from the Inside.
Comment: While most families appreciated the apology and the $20,000 reparations, for many it came too late for the adults most affected by the sudden, forced incarceration: the Issei. By the time the reparations came (40 years after the fact), most of the Issei and over half of those imprisoned had already died. The $20,000 was nowhere near enough to compensate for the value of the houses and property internees lost (and the appreciation over time), much less the years of imprisonment, deprivation, and dehumanizing conditions they suffered. While the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was a success for American civil rights, it was considered a weak attempt at righting an enormous wrong from the past. Because of this, some individuals would accept neither the apology nor the money.
ACLU-NC: The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California investigated conditions at Tule Lake Segregation Center and brought the landmark case of Korematsu v. U.S. to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans.
JACL: The Japanese American Citizens League is a civil rights organization founded in 1929 by Nisei.
WRA: The War Relocation Authority was the federal agency that administered 10 American concentration camps in which Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.
Many of the terms in this glossary were copied, with permission, from The Art of Survival: Enduring the Turmoil of Tule Lake: Exhibition Manual, by Exhibit Envoy, San Francisco, California. www.exhibitenvoy.org. Additional words were added to the glossary (cited as appropriate) to help visitors understand the 9066 Japanese American Voices from the Inside exhibition as a whole. The Art of Survival is one of the traveling exhibits within the 9066 Japanese American Voices from the Inside exhibition at the Library at California State University, Fresno.