“I Am An American”: Remembering America’s Bigoted Past
There is a deep-rooted history of isolating minority groups in the United States. In the case of prejudice against Japanese-Americans which resulted in the creation of internment camps, the notion was propelled by the country’s position in World War II. There were many memorials created after World War II to remember the horrific Japanese internment camps in the United States. I will argue, through this exhibit, that their designs responsibly pay homage to the victims and their families while, simultaneously, admitting the country’s wrongdoings.
Although the simplistic nature of this monument alone is powerful, the story behind it only strengthens the piece’s intended message. The artist, Ryozo Kado did not put his name on it because it was made for all of the Japanese-American internees who suffered fatally under the injustice of the American government. He himself was an internee at the time and was held captive in Manzanar, but he placed emphasis on making this memorial for the internees to take time and mourn. The artist sought and obtained approval from each internee family, each victim donating 13 cents to the structure’s construction. The work itself was finished in 1943, two years before the site itself would be closed. The memorial was created using cement, white paint, and black paint as there was limited access to supplies. Over the years, the message of memorial has changed as descendents of internee families and people seeking to learn the truth travel to the tower. The black and white paint of the tower illustrate a clear picture of prejudice and transparency.
The Japanese American Internment Memorial in San Jose, CA, depicts the timeline and overall effects of the camps. It utilizes family crests, government policies and documents issued during the time to depict the dynamics between families held captive together in the ten internment camps. The artist, Ruth Asawa, built this memorial for the San Jose Federal Building, used dough cast in bronze to convey her timeline. The piece ranges from Franklin Roosevelt approving the executive order to force Japanese Americans into government-run camps out of fear of spies to the 1998 Redress in which each family affected was formally acknowledged.
The Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II, placed in Washington D.C., is powerful not only because of its overall design, but because of its location, However, the monument was erected in 2000. Why did it take the United States Government over fifty years to acknowledge their internment camps in the nation’s capital? The monument names each internment camp and the numbers in held at peak capacity, along with quotes of influential Japanese Americans. Despite the reparations the United States has attempted to make, it still leaves the lingering question of lack of action when Japanese Americans needed it most.