JAMES OMURA, "IN SPIRIT, WE ARE AMERICANS" (CIRCA 1942)
Promoters of racialism--the gulf which seems to eternally divide oriental Americans from fellow Americans of Caucasian ancestry--have enjoyed a virtual field day to date in their vigorous campaign to oust resident Japanese, including bona fide citizens, from their hard-won economic niche modest as such may be. The theory of racial "divine creation" is a theory which gains greater and more ominous impetus with the progress of war in the Pacific, especially intensified at the current hour by virtue of repeated Allied losses in the Far East.
The Nisei Americans, the unfortunate children of destiny in this Pacific War, are mere stepping stones for political aspirants and self-seekers. They are being utilized today as political footballs for ambitious officeholders and aspiring demagogues who find it quite opportune to grind their personal axes on the fate of these oft-vilified and persecuted voiceless Americans. The extent to which bigotry and racial antipathy can go in denying civil liberties--a vital cornerstone of democracy--to a segment of the population is witnessed in the summary dismissal of Nisei civil service employees in the city and county of Los Angeles.
Racialism doubtlessly will play a significant and important role in the war over the Pacific. And the brunt of the guilt for the criminal act of December 7, at Pearl Harbor seems destined to fall upon the guiltless brow of the poor, hapless Nisei--merely because they wear the outward features of the race whose people committed the now historic crime. For that act, the Caucasian population on the Pacific coast will find fiendish glee in exacting punishment upon citizen Americans with Japanese faces. What could be more unjust and un-American?
The future of Nisei Americans is indeed dark. They walk through life in fear, dreading that with each passing moment new restrictions and edicts, disrupting the normal conduct of their daily lives will be adopted. They have watched with saddening brows the pathos and confusion of their alien parents being uprooted forcefully from the homes which took some of the best years of their oppressed lives to build commanded by the stern measures of a nation at war to go elsewhere in some distant alien surroundings to build anew. Will the hour arrive when they, too, must willingly follow after?
Should that hour come, the history of our American Republic will never again stand high in the council chambers of justice and tolerance. Democracy will suffer deeply by it. The forceful evacuation of citizen Americans on the synthetic theory of racial fidelity--"Once a Jap, always a Jap"--would be an indictment against every racial minority in the United States. It would usher in the bigoted and misguided belief that Americanism is a racial attribute and not a national symbol. The scar that will be left will be broad and deep--a stigma of eternal shame.
We must stand shoulder to shoulder in these critical hours. National unity is not best served by discriminating against a segment of the citizenry merely because of physical differences. It would be well to remember that the Nisei Americans and their alien parents have contributed generously and are continuing to contribute in like fashion to the cause of national defense. In spirit, we are Americans.
OMURA'S TESTIMONY BEFORE THE SELECT COMMITTEE INVESTIGATING NATIONAL DEFENSE MIGRATION FEBRUARY 23, 1942
I requested to be heard here due largely to the fact that I am strongly opposed to mass evacuation of American-born Japanese. It is my honest belief that such an action would not solve the question of Nisei loyalty. If any such action is taken I believe that we would be only procrastinating on the question of loyalty, that we are afraid to deal with it, and that at this, our first opportunity, we are trying to strip the Nisei of their opportunity to prove their loyalty.
I do not believe there has ever been, or ever could be again, a situation of this kind where the Nisei can prove their loyalty.
I suppose you understand that I am in some measure opposed to what some of the other representatives of the Japanese community have said here before this committee. Unfortunately, I wasn't here, and I have no report on it, so I do not know actually what was said, but I do know generally what they are promoting.
I specifically refer to the JACL. It is a matter of public record among the Japanese community that I have been consistently opposed to the Japanese American Citizen League. I have not been opposed to that organization primarily in regards to its principles, but I have felt that the leaders were leading the American born Japanese along the wrong channels, and I have not minced words in saying so publicly. . . .
Statement submitted to the committee subsequent to hearing
I would like to ask the committee: Has the Gestapo come to America? Have we not risen in righteous anger at Hitler's mistreatments of the Jews? Then, is it not incongruous that citizen Americans of Japanese descent should be similarly mistreated and persecuted? I speak from a humanitarian standpoint and from a realistic and not a theoretical point of view. This view, I believe, does not endanger the national security of this country nor jeopardize our war efforts. . . .
Are we to be condemned merely on the basis of our racial origin? Is citizenship such a light and transient thing that that which is our inalienable right in normal times can be torn from us in times of war? . . .
May I ask the committee member if any or all of you are acquainted with the Nisei? I believe that much of this distrust of citizen Japanese is based on ignorance. It would seem more compatible in the sense of fair play and justice that we should not be prejudged and that racialism should not be the yardstick by which our loyalty is measured. . .