The forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans happened in 1942 during World War II, where people of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast were forced into internment camps until 1944. This happening was a result of Americans threatened by Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, and questioned whether they were more loyal to their ancestral decent.
During this time, San Jose, CA was an area that participated in the relocation of Japanese Americans. San Jose State’s gym was one of the locations to register and collect Japanese Americans before sending them to internment camps. Among the 40,000 children that participated in the relocation was Ruth Asawa, who stayed at the Santa Anita race tracks in Arcadia, California for five months. Asawa shares her experience and hardships during this period of time through a memorial placed in Downtown San Jose. The vignettes on the memorial portray a serious of events that took place in the entire span of time from when the Japanese came to America, up until the interment camps were finally upheld by the Supreme Court. There were a few specific vignettes that caught my eye during my visit.
In the beginning of the sequence of vignettes, there are images of Japanese Americans adapting to their new lives in America, farming and raising families. As soon is the sequence turns to the time period when government officials stripped the Japanese Americans off their land, there is a vignette of two men of authority, as observed by their suits and top hats, towering over a Japanese man working in a field, with one of the officials placing his hand on the Japanese man on the ground. The facial expression of the Japanese man looks confused and a bit disrupted. I found this specific vignette compelling because you can almost feel the intruding nature of this government officials, and how it effected the lives of innocent, hard working Japanese Americans.
Another vignette that caught my eye was an image of a young girl and two men putting together a mattress using what looks like blankets or sheets using hay on the ground to stuff them. This portrayal of means of survival gives the viewer an idea of the struggle these people went through while in the internment camps. I read on Ruth Asawa’s website that she lived in a horse stall with her mother and five siblings for five months, which most likely correlates with this specific vignette. This experience shows the risks and desperate measures people like Asawa, who were interned, went through in order to survive through their conditions.
It is appalling to think further past the images created by Asawa of what the Japanese Americans experienced of relocating and interning. Americans should be informed through memorials such as this one in order to stress that something like this cannot happen again. Giving our government today and our position in war, I don’t believe it is likely that an event would happen like this again. After reading on the repercussion that the government faced, including a $20,000 reimbursement to each survivor of the camps, and the effect it had on so many Americans, it is not probable that our government today will allow such an act.