Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Advancing Justice-LA Challenges Justification for WWII Internment

Friday, December 16th 2016

Following a Los Angeles Times Sunday Travel article about visiting Tule Lake (a former site for Japanese American internment), the Times published controversial letters in support of Japanese American internment, resulting in backlash. The piece below was written by Advancing Justice-LA to the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board. 

Dear Editors:

On behalf of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), I write to express my organization’s significant disappointment in and alarm at the Los Angeles Times’ publication on Sunday, December 11, 2016, of two reader letters that attempted to justify the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. [“Were the stories about Japanese internment during World War II unbalanced? Two letter writers think so” in Los Angeles Times, Travel section] The Times was subject to an immediate – and deserved – backlash across social media after the letters were posted online and printed in the Dec. 11th edition.

Advancing Justice-LA was founded specifically to fight against the very kind of historic discrimination and racism that resulted in the mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. As an Asian American civil rights organization, we believe that any analysis of Japanese American internment must always be placed in proper context, namely that widely-accepted historical and legal analysis defines the internment as a major due process violation that was based primarily on xenophobic hysteria versus evidence of actual wrongdoing.  Anything less supports a revision of history that centers a white supremacist interpretation of what really happened, which is that in 1988, Congress passed and President Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act, officially apologizing on behalf of the U.S. government for the internment and authorizing reparations for survivors of the camps.  In addition, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most socially conservative Supreme Court justices in recent decades, publicly commented in 2014 and 2015 that he thought the Supreme Court’s prior upholding of Japanese American internment was wrong. 

Urgently, the publication of these particular readers’ letters is particularly dangerous in today’s political and social climate where Muslim and other immigrant communities are being vilified and potentially criminalized based purely on their identity.  For targeted communities, the fear of another internment under the incoming Administration is very real.

We do appreciate that the Times subsequently acknowledged it should not have published those letters and that in doing so, those letters failed to meet editorial standards. [“Letters about Japanese internment weren’t “civil, fact-based discourse’” in Los Angeles Times, Readers Representative Journal, on December 12, 2016]

However, the response fell short of an apology to Japanese Americans, who had to read in the pages of a major reputable newspaper that they should have been grateful to the internment for protecting them. We urge the Los Angeles Times to be transparent in terms how it will ensure that such a grave error in judgment does not happen again, as our country moves into a period of history where another internment of a suspect group looms very real on the horizon.


Karin Wang, Esq.

Vice President of Programs & Communications


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