I am writing in response to the Jan. 29 guest editorial by Gary Bullert claiming that Japanese internment camps were not racist in origin and practice.
The United States certainly faced the reality and threat of overwhelming violence. This fact should not dismiss the reality that the “historical circumstances” of the day included racist and exclusionary rhetoric toward Japanese Americans. This rhetoric was realized in specific governmental actions: the federal government judged those with Japanese ancestry guilty by association — ethnic, racial association. The systematic interning of Americans and other citizens on the basis of their racial origins is racist.
Bullert’s argument repeats this historical and moral error by conflating the Japanese military with Japanese immigrants in the United States. Moreover, the author’s praise of “discretion” has no bearing on the constitutionality or the ethics of the government’s actions. History has not judged internment as kindly as Bullert. A 1982 Congressional Commission stated unequivocally that Executive Order 9066 was animated by “race prejudice.”
I wonder, as a reader and citizen, what the purpose of Bullert’s comments may be at this current political moment. His invocation of “vetting” strikes all too close to President Trump’s recent executive order, rather than the internment order he is ostensibly discussing.
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Leonie Oostrom, Pritzker School of Medicine, Harvard ‘15, Richland