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Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview II
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 7, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-03-0026

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: When I interview people who were involved, in particular, with redress or coram nobis, they got involved because they wanted to right a wrong, to sort of do it so that similar things wouldn't happen in the future, that they use terms like "never again." And in the '80s, Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 apologizing and sort of authorizing payment to Japanese Americans. The coram nobis cases, where, as you mentioned earlier, they vacated the convictions of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Min Yasui. So did we accomplish that? Are we, did we make... I guess the question is, is that enough? I mean, did we accomplish, did you and others accomplish what they were after?

AH: Not totally. I think just the fact that some of the story will be now included in our history books in school is a good step forward. But -- and this goes back to 1984 or so, or '85, maybe -- when to prove a point that, how much have we accomplished or was it worth it? I was on a television show with, I think Norman Mineta was one of the panel members. But there was a congressman, Norman Shumway from California, who was on the screen. He couldn't appear at the studio, but they got him on the screen. We were talking about the redress bill that was being debated, and he said, what comes back to me all the time to show how the, at least Congress was viewing the redress bill. He said, "If you think for one moment that this bill, redress bill, which calls for 1.2 billion dollars, (...) is going to make any difference in the way the government will react in times of emergency such as after Pearl Harbor, that we have to take action against a potential enemy, you think it's going to make any difference that the government will not pick up a group of, say, misfits or ethnic group, then you're barking up the wrong tree. Don't kid yourself." He says, "We spend more than a billion dollars every day, every minute, every hour," he said. "So this isn't going to make a dent." I was furious with him when he said that, but it turned out to be the truth. When the war broke out after 9/11 and this country started picking on Arab Americans just because they were Arab Americans, ooh, shades of deja vu. We didn't learn anything. And what made me think was, okay, if Hohri vs. U.S., the class-action lawsuit that would cost the government, the treasury, 27 billion dollars, if we had passed that, would this country have remembered? I'm wondering whether or not the bottom line on this in this country is always the almighty dollar. Yes, we got an apology, a letter of apology from Bush and Clinton, and twenty thousand dollars per survivor. But Congress, even the new members of Congress (today) don't know anything about it. We didn't make a dent, we didn't affect how this country was looking at Arab Americans after 9/11. So I'm thinking, what do we have to do to make Americans aware? The only thing I see, the plus in our experience, is that now some of the stories of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, our exclusion, incarceration, will be in the history books. Maybe that's a start. But, well, jiminy, it's how many years since this happened, and we still, you know, don't know enough, and we repeated the same mistake when 9/11 happened. What do we have to do to awaken this country? I have questions about that.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.