Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Date: October 25, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-06-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

Q: What, the camps, the decision for the American government to do it, what do you, what was, what for you was the primary issue, aside from just morally, what was your reaction?

GH: To the what, to the camp?

Q: The decision to evacuate the Japanese in the camps.

GH: Well, it was... it, to me, something morally wrong, associated, is partly because it violates the Bill of Rights and the basic constitutional guarantees. And if they could get technical support for something like that at a time when on a general basis on the West Cost of the United States in 1942, it was not considered sufficiently urgent to invoke martial law, I just felt that there were so many inconsistencies that the order was simply one of racial hysteria. You know, we've had people from way back looking for opportunities to get rid of the Asians. So war in this sense was not the reason for this action, it was the excuse to carry out a long-intended program: "yellow peril," Anti-Asiatic Exclusion League, you know, all of these activities are known history. And wartime hysteria just gave them an opportunity. And unfortunately, government programs caved in on that.

Q: What's been your reaction to the recent support and interest in your case?

GH: Well, we live in a different era now, and I'm very encouraged that the media, for example, has been very supportive, both in terms of coverage and the kind of coverage. And support from various individuals has been encouraging.

Q: What kind of things have people been telling you in terms of, what kind of reactions have you been getting?

GH: Well, the reactions that I've been getting from supporters, "It's a long time in the pursuit of this justice, and I'm glad you're finally getting some results. We want, we want to clear up a bad mark in our constitutional record, and I'm glad your program is going to help do this," this sort of thing. It's not all one-sided, however. We get confusing reports by people who say, "What about those, what about our boys who suffered in the Death March at Bataan?" And, "Look what the Japanese government did to our prisoners of war. Compared to that, you guys were treated real well. What are you complaining about?" and so on. Confusing international prisoner of war program with what our own government did to its own citizens purely on the basis of ancestry. So I think this has been one of the more heartening aspects. Not only are we in a more enlightened era, but we're able to move ahead on some of the past errors.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.