Sunday, February 19, 2012

Black History Month & the 70th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066 -- why both matter, together

It is Black History month, a time when we (as a nation) remember the significant contributions to American history, culture, and society of people of African heritage to the United States. At Southern University there has been additional programming highlighting various aspects of African American history, culture, and people/communities. While there are some who criticize the idea of "heritage months" because there is no "white history" month (to which I say, isn't everyday white history month?) and there are those who say why single out single month when we should be acknowledging African American contributions to U.S. society everyday (to which I say, well of course, but a month of programming and remembering is still a good and worthy thing), February is none-the-less the month in which those of us who care about issues of race, racism, white privilege, white surpremacy, and most important anti-racist practices, recognize the importance of honoring and celebrating African Americans.

And 70 years ago today, February 19, 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which nullified the constitutional rights of every single person living on the West Coast of the United States. It allowed for the military to interpret and restrict who could remain on the West Coast--and the military, under the auspices of EO9066, targeted one and only one ethnic group: people of Japanese ancestry. There was no mention of race in EO9066--which is significant because it gave great power to the military to interpret who was a threat and who needed to be evacuated from the West Coast due to "military necessity."

By now, many people have debunked the idea of "military necessity" surrounding the Japanese American internment/incarceration, and I have written about this issue many times before, especially in this post. So I won't rehearse all of the standard reasons why it is important to remember the 70th anniversary of this infamous date (although I would encourage people to go to this link to an article in Colorlines Magazine).

But I do want to note a connection between EO9066 and Black History Month. Because I think there are more things that unite Asian Americans and African Americans than divide them, despite ridiculous recent comments by Floyd Mayweather and Jenny Hyun. The Afro-Asian connections and points of solidarity are ones that Dr. Sarah Jackson has tweeted about (click here). Asian American activism (of which the Japanese American Internment redress movement was part of) owes a debt to the modern civil rights movement for African American enfranchisement. Asian Americans and African Americans can and should join together to confront issues of white supremacy and white privilege -- and should join with all others who want to be anti-racist allies.

Social justice issues should give us all an opportunity to recognize the intersections of oppression and the possibilities for solidarity across racial lines. We should celebrate Black history month and recognize the injustice of Executive Order 9066 and the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanaese Americans during WWII--and we should continue to see why we are stronger thinking of both together rather than separately.

1 comment:

Dianne said...

It's important that we remember our history and acknowledge the fear and emotionally-driven decisions that were made and that damaged generations of people.

Here is my slant on the topic, written back in December after watching a special on Pearl Harbor: