Kristine Minami was in college before she learned that her father, grandmother and uncle had been essentially jailed by the U.S. government for the crime of being Japanese.
The detention of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II was not discussed in Minami’s household. She learned about it in the 1980s through the National Day of Remembrance, which was observed around the country Thursday.
The discovery led Minami to greater understanding of her culture — and herself. Many hope the Day of Remembrance will also lead to greater understanding that Americans come in all types of packages.
“It got me more interested in my history and my roots,” said Minami, who grew up in Maryland with a Japanese father and white mother, and says her Asian heritage is not immediately apparent.
“I learned about being Japanese,” said Minami, 40, who ended up writing her senior thesis about the effects of the internment. “It led me down the path to my identity.”
Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942, giving the government power to uproot entire innocent communities due to fears of “sabotage and espionage.”
In 1988, President Reagan signed a law that apologized and paid $20,000 to each survivor.