On February 19, 1942, Franklin Roosevelt reached the moral low point of his presidency, signing Executive Order 9066. This authorized the internment of Japanese Americans in flagrant violation of the Constitution and our best national values.
Public hysteria to expel or deport Japanese-Americans rested on racial paranoia and resentment partly rooted in the competitive success of Japanese Americans in California and other western states. Yeah, Jewish readers would find much of the popular discourse–not to mention various sundry details regarding neighbors’ theft of property belonging to interned families–rather chilling in its familiarity. An amazing exhibit at the Japanese American national museum details much of this history. It is worth a visit.
President Trump is the most comprehensively unworthy man to occupy the Oval Office in modern American history. Yet far better men perpetrated worse injustices than we have seen thus far in the Trump administration. As Keith rightly notes in the first comment below, Earl Warren and many others supported the Japanese internment. Most other Americans acquiesced with their silence. Hopefully, our society and basic institutions learned from these experiences and failures, and will step up to resist contemporary injustices.
Dorothea Lange’s censored pictures of the Japanese-American internment, available through the Library of Congress, provide a heartbreaking reminder. For more information, check out Linda Gordon’s Impounded Dorothea Lange & the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment.