Introduction to and Explanation of the Resolution to the U.S. Department of Interior
A 21st century wrong is about to come to fruition. On November 9, 2000, a Japanese American national memorial will be dedicated in Washington, D.C., and other dedication ceremonies are scheduled for November 9-11, 2000. The problem is that, the inscriptions for the memorial include a controversial quotation and distorted or poorly-articulated information. Nevertheless, the National Park Service gave final approval for the inscriptions on March 21, 2000, and the inscriptions are in the process of being engraved in stone.
The central point of contention has been the inclusion of a modified "quotation" taken from Mike Masaoka's "Japanese American Creed" (1941). Masaoka served as the national secretary and field executive of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) during the traumatic and tumultuous World War II years. In the face of severe discrimination and oppression, Masaoka and the JACL advocated full and complete cooperation with the U.S. Government. Masaoka even testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, saying that, Japanese Americans would not protest exclusion and incarceration, and that they would go willingly when called upon to make this "sacrifice."
Eager to demonstrate loyalty and patriotism, some associated with the national organization even resorted to turning in Japanese American names to the FBI during World War II. Because of these and other offensive actions, many vehemently object to inscriptions that include Masaoka's name and modified quotation.
The National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF), the organization responsible for developing ideas, raising money, and constructing the memorial, seems more concerned about getting the memorial completed expeditiously than to ensure cross-sectional representation of ideas and experiences, accuracy and appropriateness. The majority of the NJAMF Board of Directors blindly approved the insertion of unspecified quotations by four named individuals--including Mike Masaoka--without even knowing what quotations were to be included. (Prior to this, the Board had already considered and rejected motions to include a quotation by Mike Masaoka. Thus, when the subsequent motion was made to include a quote by him, it was supported under false pretences and passed.)
The National Park Service (NPS), which oversees the NJAMF, is the federal agency responsible for approving the inscriptions after checking it for appropriateness and accuracy. Despite the fact that many called the NPS's attention to errors, distortions, and inaccuracies many months before the agency was to render a decision, the NPS approved the inscriptions without making necessary corrections. This action has revealed a sad lack of oversight on the NPS's part, and it has marred the memorial's integrity, making it appear to be sloppily and hastily constructed without due care to accuracy, completeness, and preciseness.
The resolution is a call for action. It asks that the NPS go back to carry out its functions in a responsible way. It also calls on the U.S. Department of Interior to invoke its oversight responsibility to ensure accuracy and correctness of this memorial, which sits on U.S. Park Service land. This resolution sends a message to the U.S. Government that, we deplore and call into serious question the following:
- The Federal Governments failure to check the memorial for inclusiveness and accuracy, and its failure to take corrective action (prior to approval) despite its knowledge of errors, inaccuracies, and controversies. The U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, has this oversight responsibility, but it failed.
- The National Japanese American Memorial Foundation Board did not follow its own by-laws and rules of governance, and it was not consistent and fair in its administrative procedures and processes. The Board Chair accepted an out of order motion, and then the Board acted upon it. The Executive Director inconsistently disseminated important information to members of the Board on a selective and inconsistent basis.
- The NJAMF let the public down by not considering and respecting the broad diversity of experiences, opinions, values, and choices of Japanese Americans. It has imposed its perspective of history without giving the entire community the opportunity to convey other perspectives that run counter to the NJAMF.
If you share our concern and wish to join us in publicly expressing them, please let us know that you want to be added to the list of individuals, organizations, and institutions supporting the attached resolution. The resolution and the entire list of sign-on names (along with city and state of residence or organizational operation) will be:
1. sent to the responsible and accountable government bodies and politicians, including (as a minimum) the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior and representatives of the National Park Service.
2. posted on JAVoice.com.
3. sent to Japanese American vernaculars and possibly other newspapers for their publication consideration
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