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All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 4, 2004

Written by C.N.

In Defense of Ignorance

Originally posted Feb 2003

During a radio call-in program, Rep. Coble (Republican from NC) said that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was right to send Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II because “some [Japanese Americans] probably were intent on doing harm to us,” according to the Associated Press. “Just as some of these Arab Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us.” He also noted that the internment was for the Japanese Americans’ own safety.

Apparently Rep. Coble completely forgot about the bipartisan Congresional commission that issued the “Personal Justice Denied” report in 1988 which declared that the internment was never militarily necessary and that instead, occurred as a result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” Also, Coble apparently doesn’t understand that if the internment was indeed for their own protection, Japanese Americans were never given a choice on whether or not they wanted the “protection.” Instead, their rights as U.S. citizens were unilaterally revoked and they were incarcerated only because they were of Japanese ancestry.

In Defense of Ignorance

Also, if Japanese Americans were being “protected,” why was it that military guards at each prison camp had their machine guns and bayonets pointed inside, toward the Japanese American prisoners with orders to shoot any Japanese suspected of trying to “escape,” instead of outside at potential attackers? The scary thing is that Rep. Coble is also the Chair of the house Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. He has the power to direct public policy and impose his views on all of us.

Asian-Nation condemns Rep. Coble’s remarks as ignorant, insensitive, incongruent with historical facts, and far out of step with the U.S. Congress and the American people. He is unfit to serve as the chairman of a Congressional subcommittee that is charged with weighing the most consequential civil liberties issues of our time.

Asian-Nation therefore supports efforts organized and supported by the Japanese American Citizen’s League, the 80-20 Initiative, the Arab American Institute, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, several of his colleagues in Congress, and others who call for his immediate removal from the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Show your support by signing Petition#1 and Petition #2 to demand Coble’s resignation as Chair.

Update: On Feb. 10, Representative Coble issued this statement:

“In recent days, there has been considerable media attention and interest surrounding comments I made on a morning radio call-in show regarding the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the implications of this policy in today’s society. I regret that many Japanese and Arab Americans found my choice of words offensive because that was certainly not my intent.

The point that I was trying to make during the radio show was that given the circumstances in which President Roosevelt found himself at the time and the information that was available to him, he made a decision which he felt was in the best interest of national security. Today we can certainly look back and see the damage that was caused because of this decision. We all know that was in fact the wrong decision and an action that should never be repeated.

It is my sincere hope that this situation will be a reminder to us all that while we have made great strides to improve diversity, acceptance, and understanding since 1941, there is much work left to be done.”

Is this a genuine and sincere “apology?” You be the judge. At the least, thanks to the onslaught of criticism from Asian Americans, Arab Americans, and others who were outraged by his comments, Rep. Coble seems to have realized how stupid his comments were. Should he continue to be Chair of the House subcommittee overseeing homeland security?

I still say no and still support calls to have him resign. My reason: politicians need to understand that the rights of loyal, hardworking, and patriotic Americans, who happen to be non-White, must be respected. If not, we as a united community will demonstrate just what kind of power we have to demand justice.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "In Defense of Ignorance" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2004/12/in-defense-of-ignorance/> ().

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