Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy 67th Birthday Internment Camps!

On this date in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 placing Japanese-Americans into concentration camps.

I usually call them concentration camps in my classes. There are important differences of course because American concentration camps and German death camps. But they both share the facts of taking people based upon their race and locking them up away from society to preserve the nation from a vague threat. We usually call them internment camps to separate them from what was happening in Nazi Germany. But I think calling by their real name has great value.

At the same time, it's also important to note that we seem to have learned some valuable lessons by this horrible mistake. After September 11, while there were individual attacks on Muslims and people who vaguely looked like they could be Muslims, including some murders, there was not a nationwide attack upon them. There were some on the right Michelle Malkin who wanted to repeat the mistakes we made in World War II, but the idea was widely discredited. Given the atmosphere of fear and the scary administration we had at the time, I was pleasantly surprised to see Muslims treated, if not good, significantly less bad than the Japanese were after Pearl Harbor.