Manzanar Revisited

White Racism at Its Ugliest

Living in Los Angeles as I have for over half a century, I have lived and worked with many Japanese whom I regard as my friends. They are also as American as apple pie—if not more so. So it strikes me as one of America’s crimes that 112,000 Japanese Nisei and issei were interned in some ten concentration camps scattered across the Western States.

The most famous of these camps is Manzanar, located midway between Lone Pine and Independence in the Eastern Sierras. The former camp is now the Manzanar National Historic Site, managed by the National Park Service (NPS). Martine and I had visited it in the past, perhaps as much as three times. Last week, we visited it again. We were happy to see that the NPS had reconstructed four buildings in Block 14 of the camp: two barracks, a women’s latrine, and a mess hall. (Beware of dinner on Tuesdays, when the infamous Slop Suey was served.)

In the crazy divided political world of today, it is nice to see a park whose reason for existence is an indictment of American racism during World War II. Yes, the Japanese were our enemy; but so were the Germans, and we didn’t intern any of them. More’s the pity: Perhaps our current Presidente might never have been born.

If you are driving up (or down) Highway 395, it is worth spending an hour or two visiting Manzanar. And be sure to see the 22-minute video shown every half hour.


America’s Concentration Camps

Why Not the Germans and Italians?

Why Not the Germans and Italians?

Today, Martine and I returned to the Skirball Cultural Center to see their new exhibit of Ansel Adams photographs of the Manzanar Relocation Center for Japanese-Americans during Wold War Two. In 2010, we had traveled to the Owens Valley to visit the Manzanar site, midway between Lone Pine and Independence. It was there I photographed the above rather disgusting display image.

Manzanar now has an interesting visitor center which is worth a stop on the long highway between Los Angeles and Reno.

In addition to Ansel Adams’s work, there are a number of photos by Dorothea Lange and others, as well as interesting documents relating to the “evacuation” and the maintenance of a system of concentration camps throughout the American Southwest.

Miné and Her Brother Hear the Radio Announcement About the Pearl Harbor Attack

Miné and Her Brother Hear the Radio Announcement About the Pearl Harbor Attack at Breakfast

Down the hall, there was a smaller exhibit of artwork by Miné Okubo, who published a book of sketches called Citizen 13660 about her experiences at the Tanforan and Topaz War Relocation Centers.

Below is a photo of me taken by Martine at the monument to those who died at Manzanar, in lieu of individual headstones.

Monument to Manzanar’s Dead

Monument to Manzanar’s Dead