- Joanne Oppenheim
Remembering December 7th...
Today you will hear many stories about December 7th. This entry from the diary of a teen-aged boy tells of a drama that is about to unfold for Japanese Americans, all of whom suddenly became suspect because they looked like the enemy. Stanley Hayami was a sophomore, an honor student at Mark Keppel High in Alhambra, California. His family runs a nursery in San Gabriel. He hoped to go to Berkeley like his older brother and sister. An aspiring artist and writer, this is a drawing Stanley made and what he wrote about December 7th...
"I was busy outside that morning so I didn’t hear about it when it happened. However, in the afternoon business slowed down to a stand still, not a customer came for about an hour so I went back to the house and turned on the radio. The announcer kept butting in, “Attention to all men in service. Report at once to your station. All leaves cancelled” Then tuning in on a news broadcast I heard the stunning news. “Pearl Harbor bombed!”
I turned off the radio and rushed out front and told Pa and Ma.
That night we all felt as if we were … still having a nightmare. Obasan [Aunt] called and told about what was happening in LA. Ojisan…my uncle was taken away immediately…the FBI rounded up a lot of people that night...Dec. 7th. He was a big car dealer and he was influential in the community. He entertained dignitaries when they came from Japan. So that left my aunt alone. That was my dad’s sister. And so she asked that we move in with her in LA. I guess we had to get permission to do that, but we moved and it was there that we got the orders to leave."
Like more than 110,000 men, women and children, Stanley and his family would be incarcerated by the government for the next three and a half years...although they had committed no crime other than being of Japanese descent. Stan and his older brother, both U.S. citizens were drafted two years later and served in the United States Army while their family remained as prisoners in an American concentration camp in Wyoming.
Stanley's story is not just about the 1940’s. Racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are as current as today’s headlines. Many decades have passed since these events and the government has apologized for what happened then. Yet, the story of that time needs to remind us all of what happens when the principals of our democracy are forgotten and we fail to protect the civil liberties of others.