February 19, 1942 – Japanese Americans incarcerated.

Bill and I had family staying with us for the last week. One thing we love to do is to take the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island. We can walk to the light rail station from our home and then walk to the ferry. Next is a wonderful ferry ride to Winslow where we spend the afternoon exploring the shops. We will also grab lunch at one of the many places to eat and gelato from the gelato shop. There’s even a great outdoor vegan place at the end of the strip. The ferry ride from Seattle to Winslow is so quintessentially Pacific Northwest and beautiful that it’s also perfect for those visiting Seattle.

When in Winslow, we always visit Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA). This small museum is a Pacific Northwest gem. BIMA supports local artists and takes risks larger museums are afraid to.

With family members in town, a ferry ride to Winslow was in order. Visiting BIMA as frequently as we do, we don’t keep up on the exhibits so we did not know what the exhibit was. Upon entering the museum, I saw a painting by Roger Shimomura. I love his work, so I immediately gravitated to it. Then I looked around the room and was overwhelmed by what I was seeing. The current exhibition is Americans Incarcerated: A Family’s Story of Social Injustice. It will be at BIMA through June 12, 2022.

This year marked the eighty-year anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066 which incarcerated Japanese Americans. They were first forced into American processing facilities not too different from those used for Jews, homosexuals, and other humans in Nazi Germany. From there, these people were put into American internment camps. The camps have become known as Japanese concentration camps.

These Americans were rounded up by the United States military with no more than two weeks’ notice. Their private property was confiscated and never seen again. Neighbors of Japanese Americans posed as helpful friends and then stole their property. Friends also tossed their friendships aside and stole from these incarcerated Americans.

Chris Hopkins
Camp Harmony, 2014
Oil on board
28″ x 22″

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, this was not news to me. On the other hand, my family members from the East Coast had no clue this was part of America’s history. When I found out they were unaware of Executive Order 9066, which criminalized being born Japanese in American, my heart sunk and expanded at the same time. These family members were unaware of this travesty, but art had just taught them something about American history.

One of the current buzz phrases floating around in America is “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). Some conservatives want the public to believe that teaching children about slavery, American concentration camps, and racial disparity is attacking “white people.” That’s complete nonsense… It’s teaching history! Currently, states like Texas are flexing their buying power and whitewashing books used to teach our children American history. Congress critters are also spreading lies about CRT and saying it’s being taught to children when in reality it’s nothing more than a dying elective in colleges. Misrepresenting CRT is nothing more than thinly veiled racism.

One thing I cherish about artists is that some really want to portray history as it was. Not so long ago, artists, museums, and galleries were more provocative. I believe that in the last couple decades, safe art has become the mainstay for galleries as well as museums and thus consumption. I love seeing museums like BIMA take risks of offending the public by hosting exhibits which address our history as well as our current social ills.

Like I said, I cannot give enough praise to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. Museum access is by donation. I encourage you to give what you can. If the ferry ride consumes all your funds, there is no shame in not paying. If you can afford to donate for those who cannot, please do.

The featured painting at the top of this post is All American Boy by Chris Hopkins. I would like to thank Chris for allowing me to use his images in this post. I did not know about his work until my recent visit to BIMA. Like I’ve said time and time again… Art needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. No pictures will do his his work justice. Both pieces shown in this post are on display at BIMA through June 12, 2022.

Chris Hopkins’ website: http://www.chrishopkinsart.com

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art: https://www.biartmuseum.org

Americans Incarcerated: A Family’s Story of Social Injustice at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art: https://www.biartmuseum.org/exhibitions/americans-incarcerated-a-familys-story-of-social-injustice

Roger Shimomura at Greg Kucera Gallery: https://www.gregkucera.com/shimomura.htm

For more on the forced internment of Japanese Americans: https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/japanese-american-relocation

2 thoughts on “February 19, 1942 – Japanese Americans incarcerated.

  1. Excellent post! I learned of this atrocity as an adult. I don’t believe it was ever mentioned in history class. It brings to mind what happened to African Americans in Tulsa, OK. This just recently became known to me.

  2. Thank you for this outstanding post! I was raised in Kirkland and did not know about the Japanese Internment until I was an adult in college. When I asked your Grandparents if they knew about this, your Grandmother said, “Yes, one of my best friends was interned.” When I pushed further, wondering why they didn’t say anything about this to me, the responds was something like, “It was just something that wasn’t talked about.” Art does have an important part of preserving history.

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