The Japanese in Our Midst

Our treatment of the Japanese is surely a test case of whether we can help to direct alien communities when this war is over


The experiment at Poston is being carefully studied by trained observers responsible to a branch of the armed forces. Our future tasks in relocating displaced peoples in many parts of the world, and in providing temporary administration and public services for peoples released from longendured bondage, are being prepared for in many ways. But here at Poston is both an experiment and a test case; it is well worth the watching.

Poston's chief difficulty, that of maintaining a modified position, goes to the heart of the problem. It is difficult to avoid building up a permanent labor camp of embittered citizens, on the one hand, and to avoid the dangers which would attend a too rapid dispersal of the evacuees at this stage. There is unfortunately no practical way of testing loyalty short of putting people in a position where they could be disloyal and taking the risks. The evacuees must be permanently relocated as soon as public opinion and the fortunes of war allow, but as this will be at best a slow process, those who have to live in the camps must be given the moral fortitude and proper incentives to do so. As this problem relates mainly to the young, the suggestion has been made that we give full freedom to American citizens among the evacuees to leave Poston if they so desire. Few would be able to leave, and those who remained would feel and act like free men. Such a measure would guarantee the loyalty of a group whose faith has been sorely tested. In this connection the Army's new rulings deserve the highest praise.

Complete detention and complete dispersal are clearly not the practical alternatives; the picture must include something of both. Poston must he considered as an organism growing in and into the American scene. What happens to those who leave Poston cannot fail to affect those who remain; what happens to those who remain will affect those who leave. Men who have built something of which they have reason to be proud will not feel ashamed to walk abroad and will be freer to make their own conditions if they decide not to come back. Men who are wage earners in a government managed bureaucratic enterprise run by Caucasians assisted by some evacuees will meet tile same fate outside. They will not have the knowledge, the experience, the leadership, the will to fight for the freedoms which all of its, whether members of minorities or majorities, must constantly struggle for if we are to keep them.

The position of the evacuees must be clarified. Officials at Poston realize that if the evacuees leaving the camp are suspected, because of ads of definition of their status, the whole policy of the WRA will fail; it is no use getting evacuees out on a permanent basis unless they are going to be accepted as loyal citizens. If we prefer not to let them come out, or want them only for cheap labor which can be returned when not needed, then it would be best to understand the connection between this attitude and the urgency of securing the political allegiance of the peoples of Asia in our struggle with Japan,

The consequences of not dealing with this issue intelligently and justly are serious. First, the Japanese of Japan would be provided with valuable fuel for the flames of race hatred which they are trying to whip up all over Eastern Asia. Secondly, the Chinese, our one great ally in Eastern Asia, our one bulwark against the threat of a race war against the white man, would be very much discouraged if the JapaneseAmericans were badly treated. Chinese in Salt Lake City are reported to have given $250 to the JapaneseAmerican Citizens' League because they sympathized with the position of an Oriental minority in the United States. The Chinese in China, who have suffered much more at the hands of the Japanese than we, have on occasion lectured their Japanese prisoners on the origins of the war and set them free to return to their own lines. They have encouraged a Free Japanese Movement — to use against Japan the Japanese who want to liberate their country from the grip of the militarists.

The Chinese do not wish to see every Japanese in a concentration camp: they want to defeat the Japanese in order to create a world in which there will be a greater measure of equality between men of different colors. Our experiment at Poston will be watched by our allies and our enemies, for it is a test case of our intentions in this world at war. More important still, it is a demonstration of our ability to handle one of the earliest problems of the peace.

Presented by

George E. Taylor

George E. Taylor, head of the Far Eastern Department of the University of Washington, was an authority on the Far East. During the decade 1930 – 1940 he spent eight years in China and Japan. He wrote regularly for the Manchester Guardian and the New Statesman, he taught at Yenching University, he collected medical supplies for the Chinese guerrillas and for a time traveled with them. He read and spoke Chinese. His books, Struggle for North China and America in the New Pacific, marked him as one of the most intelligent of our liaison officers with the Far East during his era.

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