This post is part of a series of profiles of Central District residents, part of “The People of the Central Area” project developed and written by Madeline Crowley.
Yosh’s love of sports not only introduced him to towering figures like: Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe and Billy Jean King and a career but cemented a sense of fair play that drives him to pursue social justice and understanding even today.
Yosh on his life:
I was born in 1932. My name is Yosh Nakagawa. The story I will share with you is the story of the Japanese-American, the Nikkei community and their incarceration in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II (WWII). We were born and raised in America where we have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. Yet, it is only as good when it is abided by, that paper is worthless when citizens lose their freedoms. In wartime, I lost my freedom because I looked like the enemy.
That’s the central question in my story. When I look at this in context of today, in the very church building that was boarded up and closed in 1942, because all its congregants were removed physically, against their will, to be interned without due process of law by Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt.
On Executive Order 9066
It is ironic that 120,000 Japanese-Americans living west of the mountain ranges from Alaska to San Diego were physically removed from their homes. When in the (then) territory of Hawai’i 160,000 similar people were never removed [from their homes] despite the fact that they lived where the bombs fell in Pearl Harbor. If I had lived over on the other side of the mountains, I would have been free. How do I know this? When I was in Camp Minidoka, the American Concentration camp, I had a friend who looked like me, who lived in that area (Idaho) could come into the camp to visit me but I could not leave to visit him.
If we had lived in Washington D.C. or New York City or anywhere else, our jobs would have been considered key (to the war effort) and never would have been threatened. This isn’t in the history books, so the educated American knows little, by intentionality, of this story. My story of my community is not just a Japanese-American story; it is an American story. It does not simply belong to my people; it belongs to American History. The Eurocentric model must come to include that Columbus did not discover America, nor did this city begin when settlers founded Seattle, in both cases the indigenous people were already there.
My story is part of what I call the awesomeness of America.
Today I have found that if I do not speak about what happened to people, our freedoms as citizens will soon be challenged. 9/11, the bombing at the Boston Marathon are instances where people are subject to looking like the enemy. We must be very careful for it might not be me [this time] who will be incarcerated or interned but it may be my neighbor.
Fantastic profile! Keep them coming!
Glad you are enjoying them!
Thank you for telling your story and the story of Japanese Americans during WW2. Communities, homes, businesses and other properties were lost. It’s important that people know and remember what happened.
And it’s important to remember that, despite Reagan’s lame apology decades too late, and despite a vote for reparations, those reparations hit “not this year, the budget is a wreck” stonewalling while many internees died off. It’s also important to remember that the black population in Seattle went up ten-fold after the Japanese internment, with black families benefiting from the wrongs done to internees, many of whom lost their homes. I’d like to tell my “Anarchist” former neighbors that, since they yelled “get out, gentrifier” at my auntie who not only was interned as a child, but lost her father in the camp. She was able to come back to the family home, thanks to the help of east coast family who paid the taxes when her Seattle family’s assets were frozen and their business lost.
It is notable that America’s first socialist (democrat) president Roosevelt was the monster that signed this order. How typical. The end of America justifies the means – locking up independent minded people.