Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) addressed GW College Democrats yesterday, in a speech coinciding with the start of Asian Pacific Heritage Month.
We contacted his office and asked to see if he would be interested in speaking, said Anjan Choudhury, president of the CDs. Since it was the beginning of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, it was the perfect month.
Inouye described his life and the challenges he faced growing up as a Japanese American amid the mistreatment of Asian Americans.
Inouye said his grandfather immigrated to the island of Kauai in 1899, after his great-grandfather was judged responsible for the origin of a fire because it started in his house. The damage, estimated at $300, was a large amount of money at the time, and Inuoye’s great-grandfather stayed in Japan to work to pay for the damage.
Institutional racism prohibited Japanese Americans from becoming citizens.
In 1942, in the wake of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, all Japanese were declared enemy aliens by the U.S.
As a result of Executive Order 9066, the Army established 10 internment camps to hold 120,000 Japanese, regardless of their citizenship.
But, in February 1943 Japanese Americans were allowed under an executive order to enlist in the U.S. Army. More than 85 percent of men held in the camps enlisted, Inouye said.
Inouye was part of the most decorated unit in the U.S. and the one that received the most casualties.
We were instructed to save a battalion of tall Texans; we were small and yellow, Inouye said.
Inouye said that in four days his unit suffered 800 casualties.
Not until 1952 was his father able to be naturalized. His mother, although born in Hawaii, lost her citizenship when she married a Japanese man.
Inouye, an alumnus of GW Law School, said the school was still segregated when he was a student. The only minorities at the school were Asians and Ethiopians, he said. Nevertheless, he came to D.C. because he wanted to become a politician.
Inouye has served in Congress more than 30 years.
The eighth speaker of the year for the CDs, Inouye gave the last speech of the year.
Inouye said he hoped Democrats would retake control of Congress in November.
I would like to be called Mr. Chairman again, said Inouye, who is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Defense. It’s been quite awhile now.
Although he expressed admiration for the apologies the U.S. has offered, he said that racism is still rampant.
The millennium has not yet arrived. But it doesn’t mean everything is well. I hope that when my great-great-grandson is alive, it will be a better place as far as racism, Inouye said. But I don’t think I will live long enough to see it.