Target: University of Southern California President C.L. Max Nikias
Goal: Applaud the University of Southern California for awarding honorary diplomas and alumni certificates to former Japanese students forcibly interned in war camps during World War II
It was December 7th, 1941 and America had just entered World War II to fight Germany, Japan and Italy. During the war, the United States government committed an unconscionable, racist act and forcibly interned more than 120,000 Japanese living in America. Thank and applaud the University of Southern California (USC) for recently giving its formerly interned Japanese-American students honorary diplomas and honorary alumni certificates at a special reception following its May 11th, 2012 commencement.
In the fall of 1939, the United States had proclaimed its neutrality and stayed out of World War II, which was already underway. However, that all changed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, drawing America into the war. President Roosevelt then committed a racist and atrocious act by signing Executive Order 9066, which allowed local military commanders to set up “exclusion zones” for any persons that they deemed necessary. Unfortunately, the persons that they deemed necessary were all of Japanese descent, approximately 120,000 of the existing 127,000 Japanese already residing in the U.S., with 80% holding American citizenship.
Given only 48 hours to pack up a few belongings, Japanese men, women, and children were rounded up and herded like cattle to imprisonment camps. The American government justified its actions by warning of threats of espionage, but America did not forcibly intern Italians or Germans whom they were fighting in the war as well.
Stripped of nearly all of their personal belongings, houses, property and wealth, the newly imprisoned Japanese started a bleak and restrictive life in guarded zones, cramped in tight quarters of tar-covered barracks that lacked plumbing or cooking facilities. Many died in the camps from starvation, improper medical care, and harsh weather conditions. On January 2nd, 1945, the order was entirely rescinded. The end result of this supposed “strategy” to ferret out spies was the capture of ten spies, all of which were Anglo and none of which were of Japanese descent.
Japanese citizens across the United States were forced to stop their studies from colleges and universities and were not able to resume them after the internment period ended. The University of Southern California decided to recognize these students who were unjustly denied their education and awarded the group honorary diplomas and honorary alumni certificates. Thank USC for recognizing and honoring these World War II internment survivors who were forced to stop their USC studies during the war.
Dear President C. L. Max Nikias,
The internment of 120,000 Japanese residents was a heartbreaking and unjust act by the United States of America during World War II. Besides losing their homes, wealth and personal possessions, many Japanese citizens were forced to stop their studies at colleges and universities across America. Thank you for awarding honorary diplomas to nine former Japanese-American students and for presenting honorary alumni certificates to representatives of four Japanese-American deceased students.
Universities are great centers of learning that can advance one’s knowledge in a multitude of disciplines and fields. It is a time of great intellectual and personal growth. To have this opportunity stripped away by a government’s racism is horrific and painful. The University of Southern California is to be applauded for giving its former Japanese students a sense of acceptance and justice after being rejected and mistreated by the American government years before.
By awarding honorary diplomas to former students that had been interned, and posthumously awarding honorary alumni certificates to interned students as well, the University of Southern California is addressing and correcting a terrible injustice. Thank you for your actions which are honoring to the Japanese community and helping to heal the broken bonds from the past.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Alan Miyatake via USCTrojan Family Magazine