Skip to main content
ColumnistsGuest ColumnistJACL

Guest Columnist: The Pacific Citizen Needs Your Support!

By June 7, 2024June 26th, 2024No Comments

Ron Kuramoto

Throughout the United States, the month of May has been widely recognized as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This designation commemorates the first Asian immigrant to officially arrive in the United States — a Japanese fisherman named

Nakahama Manjiro who arrived on a whaling ship in Massachusetts on May 7, 1843, 181 years ago. And so the journey of Japanese Americans — and our stories of Japanese in America — began. And the Pacific Citizen covered it.

In the first edition on Oct. 15, 1929, of the Nikkei Shimin (which later became the Pacific Citizen), Saburo Kido, the first president of the New American Citizens League of San Francisco (which became the JACL), wrote:

“It is with great joy and pride that I write this message to the members of the staff for making our dreams of having a publication such as we now have come true. Ever since the organization of the league, the Board of Governors have recognized the necessity of a newspaper or magazine which would serve as a mouthpiece … Oftentimes, we have read in the Japanese section of local papers articles pertaining to us, second generation [Nisei] members; and we have had the desire to express our ideas and thoughts as a reply because we thought our elders misunderstood us … .

A publication such as we now have will be of great aid.”

Furthermore, Mr. Kido wrote that this new publication “… can portray to the American public what we, Americans of Japanese ancestry, are thinking in regards to our duties as a citizen as well as our diverse problems. It can give expression to what is considered true

American ideals and guide the growing generation to become American citizens we can all be proud of.”

Then, Dec. 7, 1941, happened.

And then, Feb. 19, 1942, happened.

Suddenly, questions as to whether Americans of Japanese descent should be “worthy” of United States citizenship rights were increasingly argued by individuals in both public and private sectors. The Pacific Citizen continually monitored and reported about these threats to Japanese American individuals and communities.

The June 4, 1942, edition of the Pacific Citizen reported:

“U.S. Webb, former California attorney general, proposed that American citizenship be denied to all Japanese, whether foreign or American-born, in a speech before the Native Sons of the Golden West … . Webb, state attorney general for more than 30 years, was the author of most of California’s anti-Japanese legislation and has long been identified with proposals for restrictive measures against the state’s Japanese residents … . He is also the author of the recent test suits pending in federal district court in San Francisco to determine if any person of Japanese race is entitled to be a citizen and vote.”

Also reported in the June 4, 1942, edition of the Pacific Citizen:

[California] Attorney General Earl Warren, [Republican] candidate for governor, and [Los Angeles] District Attorney John Dockweiller promised the [Los Angeles County] Board of Supervisors last week that prosecution faces any Japanese who violates the Alien Property Act and obtained title to land in the names of minor American-born children.”

Starting in February 1942, among the worst atrocities in U.S. history involving mass suspension of Constitutional rights on the basis of race and ancestry was soon under way against what grew to be 125,824 Americans of Japanese ancestry — over 67,000 of whom were United States citizens — being involuntarily removed with seven to 10 days’ notice from their homes, businesses and farms located on the U.S. West Coast without due process of law or access to legal counsel, then transported to unspecified remote desert locations where they were incarcerated for up to four years by their own government and U.S. Army … and the Pacific Citizen continued reporting.

But as stated in the June 4, 1942, edition of the Pacific Citizen:

“The Pacific Citizen needs your support! The Pacific Citizen under its new setup will endeavor to be a newspaper for ALL Americans of Japanese ancestry … . For a record of one of the milestones in American history, the greatest forced migration of an American group, keep a file of the Pacific Citizen.”

For over 95 years, the Pacific Citizen has told our stories as told by us. It has chronicled both good times and bad, highlights as well as lowlights of the Japanese American experience — our experiences.

Please join me in supporting the Pacific Citizen — our JACL newspaper — by contributing to the 2024 Spring Campaign!

Ron Kuramoto is a P.C. editorial board member (MDC) and JACL Wisconsin Chapter president.