'If I Were A Japanese-American'

(In San Francisco News) A Japanese-American is an American citizen of Japanese racial extraction. He is a citizen because he was born in the United States. A Japanese born outside of this country can not be a citizen by naturalization.

But under the 14th amendment to the constitution any person born in the United States is an American citizen by the mere fact of birth here. This amendment was incorporated in the constitution a few years after the Civil war to reaffirm the citizenship of the emancipated colored people.

The war between America and Japan revealed the attitude of the American government and people towards the Japanese-American. Without challenging his citizenship or casting a blanket charge against his loyalty, they believed that his close association with the alien Japanese both here and in Japan made him a potential danger to the security of this country.

Therefore, as a war measure his residence, movements, and activities were placed under restriction and supervision. This action was held to be a protection for the majority from a group so regarded as was the Japanese-American as well as a protection for the group itself at a time when public feeling against it ran high and when the government must prevent all internal dissensions.

The liberal and minority groups in this country made only perfunctory protests against the Japanese-American segregation, making it clear, however, that fundamental constitutional principles were not involved in the case and recognizing, moreover, that when public safety so requires the constitution itself authorizes the temporary suspension of personal civil rights like the right of habeas corpus.

These are stern realities.They happened here. And there is no guarantee that they will not happen again in other forms. The loyalty of the majority of the Japanese-Americans manifested chiefly by their acquiescence in the plans of the American government for them was generally considered as strictly formal and was not enough to allay the suspicion of potential disloyalty that clung and still clings around them as a group. The patriotic service of some of them in the armed forces of the United States was completely neutralized by the disloyalty openly and proudly expressed by not a few of them at the Government relocation centers.

When peace comes, the Japanese-American can not again be really happy here. He will always have to deliver more than sixteen ounces to every pound in whatever he does or says. He will be enveloped in an atmosphere of silent hostility. He will feel keenly like a foreigner in the country of his birth as often, in his spiritual life, he must feel as keenly like a deserter from the country of his fathers. He needs to be in his elements to be natural and Japan seems to be the best place for him.

These things belong to the realm of the spirit and are deep and abiding, and man-made laws will effect an amelioration but not their elimination. "It is one of those things" and it will remain so. All in all, the Japanese-Americans as well as the other American citizens would be happier if they didn't continue the grandiose fiction that they feel towards each other like fellow citizens whose rights and privileges are sacredly equal when in the domain of realities they are not.

So, after the war, with hard lessons learned and new duties beckoning, I would do the following things if I were a Japanese-American citizen who had to live in a relocation center during the war by order of the American government and with the approval of the American people:

1. I would overlook the legal and/or legalistic considerations surrounding my American citizenship and its treatment while the emergency of war lasted.

2. I would remember the fact, without admitting that I am a slacker, that I wasn't required by the government to risk my life in the war while other American citizens were so required with the result that many of them were wounded, shocked or killed.

3. I would thank God that I am still in the land of the living and thank the American government for returning my property to me and taking care of it while the war was in progress.

4. I would intensify my feeling of gratitude for the United States for the opportunity in pre-war times to have lived, worked and prospered under its flag, the result of all of which was to make me more useful to myself, my family and my fellowmen.

5. I would be grateful to those Americans who sympathized with my fate but could do nothing in the emergency as well as to those, including public officials, who protected those of my rights that did not impinge upon the security of the nation at war.

6. I would go to Japan with my family and my savings armed with the determination to show to the Japanese people, by precept and example, the way of life that has made the American people free, contented, prosperous and peace-loving.

7. I would use my savings, my experience and my enthusiasm to start business enterprises in Japan to give employment to people and help in the post-war reconstruction of the country. (The Japanese assets in the United States are approximately 150 million dollars, which would be a sizeable block of capital in impoverished Japan.)

8. I would appeal to Japanese in other parts of the world, especially in Latin America, to follow my example and go to Japan to help rebuild it materially and regenerate it spiritually. (In Latin America there are some 250,000 Japanese, while in the United States, including Hawaii, there are some 300,000 both citizens and aliens).

9. I would strive in every way possible to establish peaceful, friendly and beneficial relations between the land of my birth - the United States and the land of my fathers - Japan.

10. I would do these things cheerfully and resolutely after knowing what I have known and after satisfying myself that I could do something to help the land of my fathers to abandon its medieval ideas and to realize its enlightened role in the orderly progress of mankind.

11. Finally, I would hold the foregoing expressions as my acceptance of the challenge to what is noblest and strongest in me and as my contribution to the reconstitution of moral and material values that must be at the foundation of the new world, humbled, purified and reconciled."

Creator: Vincente Villamin
Source: Watsonville Register-Pajaronian , page 5
Date: 1945-04-10
Coverage: 1940s
Rights: Copyrighted by the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. Reproduced by permission.
Identifier: LN-1945-04-10-1011



Villamin, Vincente. “'If I Were A Japanese-American'.” Watsonville Register-Pajaronian , page 5. 1945-04-10. SCPL Local History. https://history.santacruzpl.org/omeka/items/show/134702. Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.