The war ended more than 60 years ago, but the Japanese internees are still suffering from the effects of World War II. After Pearl Harbour was bombed, tens of thousands of Japanese living in America or Japanese-Americans were interned for their own good, but the fact was that the nation was rocked by this display of horror and thought there might be spies in their midst. Turns out that those fears were unfounded, and those people suffered meaninglessly.
In 1979, reports showed that, “our government had in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act of sabotage.” On top of the fact that more than half of those incarcerated had been children, the government dutifully accepted their responsibility in helping those who had suffered to find closure and sought forgiveness.
Robert K Bratt, leading the reparations for the hurt and grievous harm suffered by those of Japanese descent, have waged his own personal war against the unfair treatment and sought to offer internees a small act of comfort by carrying out redress on behalf of the nation.
His work was by no means a small feat. Having no internet access back in the day meant that he had to track down each internee physically, through calls and visitations, and poring through documents and files in order to verify their eligibility for redress. Those that have perished prior to the official announcement of the Japanese American Redress Bill in 1988 do not qualify, but those that have been survived by their children or heirs will receive payment and an official apology.
It is a small comfort, especially to those who have suffered emotional duress due to losing their homes and having their lives so rudely disrupted. Furthermore, research has shown that internees have a greater chance of developing heart disease and dying from premature death, possibly due to high levels of stress.
As reported by Gwendolyn M. Jensen in The Experience of Injustice: Health Consequences of the Japanese American Internment, “Recognizing the great injustice that took place, they carry with them the legacy of their parents’ internment. Time has not severed the psychological ties to events that preceded them, nor has the fact that their parents will not openly discuss the internment. On the contrary, the vast majority of Sansei (third generation) feel that the incarceration has affected their lives in significant ways.”
While this redress will not undo the trauma that has been suffered by persons who have been interned and displaced or even removed from their families, it has helped in small ways. For the nation to finally accept their transgressions and take steps to addressing it, it can alleviate the pressures of being socially discriminated against due to the color of their skin or their cultural roots. We cannot remove past traumas, but we can help by showing victims that there is hope for a brighter future, which is what this redress aimed to achieve with Robert K Bratt at its helm.