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JACL Reflects on the 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Attack

Today the JACL reflects on the 80th anniversary of the devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japanese forces. The attack resulted in the deaths of over 2,400 Americans stationed in Hawaii. This event is especially painful to the Japanese American community because the attack led to the direct questioning of loyalty and incarceration without trial of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. Those that were not incarcerated continued to face hate and discrimination from their fellow Americans who saw them as indistinguishable from the faces of the enemy.

We recognize the 33,000 Japanese Americans who served in our nation’s armed services, despite the fact many had family members and they themselves were being imprisoned by their country. Even in their loyal service, they served within segregated units, yet they would become one of the most highly decorated combat units in the war.

It is without a doubt that the attack on American soil and loss of American lives was a dark day for our nation. However, the subsequent racial hysteria and demagoguery that led to the profiling and targeting of people of Japanese ancestry led us into an even darker place. It is only when we remember the wrongs of this past that we can be sure we do not repeat the same wrongs in the present day.

The trauma of this event persists within the Japanese American community, and it is important that we continue to fight against discriminatory practices that unjustly profile and surveil minority communities. Although we are unlikely to see actions on the scale of mass incarceration of nearly 120,000 people, in the past few years we have seen people from majority Muslim nations banned from our country and refugees denied entry disproportionately those with darker skin, all under the guise of national security need. And in the past year, COVID fear has led to the scapegoating and direct acts of hate and violence against Asian Americans. It is important we remember the history of racism as we continue to fight current racial injustices.


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