I am an American citizen of Korean descent. In the Korean-American community I and people like myself are known as 1.5 generation (il-jum-oh sei) because I was born in Korea but have lived in the States since early childhood. 1.5 and 2nd, 3rd generation Korean Americans face many confusing realities on a near daily basis, finding it very difficult to fully integrate into a culture that is still predominantly white. Like the Nisei, many modern-day Asian-Americans feel strong pressures to "choose sides", spawning such derogatory terms as "banana", "twinkie", and "FOB" that are commonly thrown about amongst each other. And no matter how American our accents may be, no matter how American our wardrobes are, and no matter how many years we have spent in the American educational system, our skin color makes us easy targets for racial discrimination/violence at worst, or ignorant comments and questions at best. But despite all this I am proud of my Korean heritage, and I am extremely proud of my American citizenship. Granted America's continuing racial problems, it has nevertheless given me opportunities I could never have imagined growing up. I would like to thank folks like the Japanese-Americans of WWII, who have allowed folks like myself to proudly claim our rights as citizens and live freely. If they could survive internment at those camps, I think my generation can withstand a few hostile stares or ignorant statements beginning with "You Chinks..."
My reaction to this website was very, pleasing. I think itís good that we list on the internet what had happened to some of our citizens during the Second World War. I think itís great to recognize them, and how ignorant we were to put our own people in internment camps. I think that it was very terrible to have to put our own citizens in internment camps. As I read in the book Farewell to Manzanar the author who experienced the internment camps, citizens of the United States lived in filthy, close to nothing homes. Homes with one huge sink, like a pig trough. They lived with one light bulb hanging from the roof. Hardly any insulation was put in to the shacks. They had to sleep on mattresses that were stuffed with straw, and many floor boards were filed with knots and many of the floors were unfinished and had to be redone, or were still under construction. I think of how terrible it must have been to have to get up everyday and go to the bathroom and shower with strangers completely naked, no privacy whatsoever was given to these citizens. I think that under our countries state at the time I see why they did what they did but again I think it was totally ignorant of us to have put them in isolation, just because of the way they looked. These people were simple people trying to make a living in the United States. They werenít trying to make plans to destruct their own country that they live in; I think itís shameful that we did what we did.
I'm a Japanese American. Although my family has been in this country for a century, I still encounter fellow citizens who insist on treating me based on their reactions to what I look like, instead of the person I am.
The Wheel of Life keeps turning. Following is a letter I sent to a nephew, in early March:
I've been wanting to respond to your news for a good while now. I didn't want you to ship off without my saying something, but I didn't know what that should be. The President's last speech has commited us to a fight so I better send you this note, pronto.
I was surprised by my first reaction to the news of your deployment. What popped into my mind was the Issei* "Come back if you can, die if you must, but never, never shame the family."
Your dad was in the 442nd Reserves. He probably met a good number of the 100th/442nd Nissei, who were younger than you are now when their mothers and fathers sent them to Europe. Many of them never came home.
They led the first bayonet charge of WWII and some claim to have screamed "banzai" as they ran towards the enemy. They forged such a reputation as fierce fighters that the Germans knew of and feared them.
They chose to fight the injustice of prejudice by the most honorable means they could.
You know your great grandma Ohashi was not permitted, by law, to apply for US citizenship until long after the war was over. But Uncle Charley still volunteered to serve his country as a medic, the same country that would not have his mother as a citizen.
Your deployment notice and my reaction to it got me wondering, just how much of a "Japanese-American" am I? What should this heritage mean to my nieces and nephews and your children?
It's weird, but we Sansei are still Japanese. The stink of the shame of Pearl Harbor clings to us. Perhaps your dad is still fighting to prove his right to citizenship. He's the eldest son, struggling to assert the family's right to be Americans. I don't think he can help himself. He's trapped by the way he was raised.
What I don't want to see is your having to pick up this battle. It's one that's already been won. You'll have your own struggles, you don't need to carry your fathers' burdens into the next generation as a Yonsei.
It's fine with me if your kids do not label themselves Gosei, if they're just plain Americans and not AJAs.
Friends tell me that you are a Brave Rifle and your job is to scout, draw enemy fire and report on their location. Sounds like you'll be running out in front of the lines, stopping and then yelling, "Here I am! Shoot me so my buddies can tell where you are, okay?"
Sorry, but that seems a silly job to me.
This is what I'd like to tell you as you head out into the desert: Keep yourself as safe as you honorably can.
--Your Worried Auntie May
* Japanese counting: "ichi, ni, san, yon/shi, go"...one, two, three, four, five. The first generation to settle in Hawaii or the US are known as Issei. Their children (born here) are the Nisei. I'm a Sansei, my nephew is a Yonsei.
AJA: American of Japanese Ancestry
Jason is a Major in the Third Armored Cav. His father, my eldest brother, was a Stf. Sgt., 101st Airborne, Artillery, Vietnam 1969.
Jason was married last winter.
It is easy to justify lashing out when one feels threatened, to act out of fear. Instead, that's the time to stop and ask if your chosen action is not simply justified, but is truly the Right Thing To Do.
God help us all if the US, the most powerful nation in the history of this planet, choses to merely react out of fear. We have inherited a great Constitution, but we do not deserve it if we cannot continue the fight to keep it great. We must drive towards that more perfect union.
Avis Marie Sandar
Though I had not yet been born, I had heard about this incident while in high school, but not in full detail. OH, MY GOD! I was totally, shocked, surprised, and even totally angry about it. How could this country allow something like this to happen, especially since Hitler's Germany had already begun the same parallel process with the Jews, the Homosexuals, and the Gypsies? Didn't America learn anything at all from the past, from the Civil War and its inclusion of slaves? History has this tact of repeating itself and we all have a great deal to learn.