Terminology

William P. Jarrett, Francis Kau, and Curran Swint/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_5_Jarrett_HC.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
At the Capitol in 1926, Hawaiian Delegate William P. Jarrett, left, smiles as he stands with Francis Kau, a 14-year-old marble champion from Hawaii, and Curran Swint, of Scripps-Howard newspapers.
We derived the roster of Members included in this publication from the official list of Asian and Pacific Islander Members of Congress compiled by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress.10 In addition, in the course of our research, we discovered that three Hawaiian Delegates not covered in previous CRS reports also had Native-Hawaiian ancestry: William P. Jarrett, Victor S. (Kaleoaloha) Houston, and Samuel Wilder King. We added these men to the volume.11

Following the example of CRS, we use “the designation ‘Asian Pacific American’ … to identify a person having origins in East Asia, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, Vietnam, and the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.” The term, as CRS points out, is also incorporated into the formal name of the issues caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), “founded in May 1994, and refers to those who have self-identified themselves as such.” This volume uses the “Asian Pacific American” designation and its abbreviation, “APA,” as an umbrella term to cover this wide range of ethnic and national identities.12

Where appropriate throughout the book, we reference individuals by their particular ethnic origins, for instance, “Japanese American” or “Chinese American” or “Native Hawaiian.” We also use broader terms, “Asian American” or “Pacific Islander American,” that encompass a subset of particular ethnicities. For instance, an individual of Vietnamese ancestry may be referenced as an “Asian American” while an individual from Guam may be designated as a “Pacific Islander American.”

"I Am an American" Sign/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_6_IAmanAmerican_NARA.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, authorities removed Japanese Americans from their homes and businesses and placed them in internment camps. Before the evacuation, the Japanese-American owner of the Wanto Co. grocery store in Oakland, California, posted this sign reading, “I am an American.”
A note regarding the use of the word internment as it applied to Japanese Americans during World War II: the moral calculus behind internment and the actual language used to describe the policy have changed over time. Like many previous federal actions that were once considered acceptable, internment is now rightfully determined to have violated personal liberties and basic human rights. What was once deemed a wartime necessity is today considered one of the darkest chapters in American history.

Arguably, most people familiar with the systematic removal and relocation of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants know it under the umbrella term internment. The federal panel created in 1980 to study the event, for instance, was called the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. College-level textbooks written by noted historians like Alan Brinkley and David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey have used the terms internment and internment camps. And according to the historian Wendy Ng, “internment and relocation were the terms used by the government to describe the overall removal and detainment program.” Moreover, Ng wrote in 2002, “Among former internees, the term internment camp or simply camp is still widely used and has become a standard part of the Japanese American vocabulary.”13

Japanese Americans Arrive at Heard Mountain Relocation Center/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_7_HeartMountain_NARA.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration A group of Japanese Americans arrive at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Park County, Wyoming, in 1942.
Over the last few decades, historians have used other terms to describe the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II. Noted scholars like Roger Daniels and Erika Lee have described the policy as incarceration, and Daniels and others, including Kennedy, Cohen, and Bailey, have labeled the guarded barracks where the internees lived as concentration camps. The most direct explanation for this wording comes from Daniels in his 1993 study, Prisoners Without Trials: Japanese Americans in World War II. “Although the later mass incarcerations are referred to as ‘internments,’ that is not really the appropriate term,” Daniels wrote. “In law, internment can only apply to aliens. During World War II, in the United States, internment was individual and presumably based on something the individuals had done; the mass incarceration that took place was based simply on ethnic origin and geography.” Rogers reiterated this point in a 2006 article in the Journal of American Ethnic History.14

The detailed and instructive summary of the debate over the use of internment, incarceration, and concentration camps in Wendy Ng’s book Japanese American Internment During World War II: A History and Reference Guide underscores just how challenging it is for historians “to choose terminology that can be understood by everyone and that carries an accurate meaning and intention.” Ng opted for internment in her own book because the commission used it and because she endeavored “to use the terminology that is best understood by the greatest number of people, while understanding their limitations.”15

As such, this book uses internment to describe the federal government’s policy to detain Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants in camps often hundreds of miles from their homes. But this book also, at times, uses incarceration to describe the reality of the situation.

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Footnotes

10Lorraine H. Tong, “Asian Pacific Americans in the United States Congress,” Report 97-398, 7 May 2013, Congressional Research Service.

11Riley Kawika (Office of Hawaiian Affairs) to Donald Kennon (U.S. Capitol Historical Society), 21 March 2013, Memorandum on Native Hawaiian Delegates, in the files of the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives.

12Although the title of this book is Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, we have followed the lead of CRS and used the term Asian Pacific Americans throughout the text to describe the Members featured here. See Tong, “Asian Pacific Americans in the United States Congress”: 1n1. As promulgated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the official terms to be used in designating these Americans for federal reporting purposes are “Asians” and “Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.” U.S. Office of Management and Budget, “Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity,” Federal Register 62, no. 210 (30 October 1997): 58782–58790. See also, The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population: 2010.

13On textbooks, see Alan Brinkley, American History: A Survey, 10th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill College, 1999): 946; David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, 13th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006): 822–823. For the Ng quotations, see Wendy Ng, Japanese American Internment During World War II: A History and Reference Guide (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002): xiii–xiv.

14For the Daniels quotation, see Roger Daniels, Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993): 27. See also Lee, The Making of Asian America; Roger Daniels, “Incarceration of Japanese Americans: A Sixty-year Perspective,” The History Teacher 35, no. 3 (May 2002): 297–310; Roger Daniels, “Immigration Policy in a Time of War: The United States, 1939–1945,” Journal of American Ethnic History 25, no. 2/3 (Spring, 2006): 107–116; Karen L. Miksch and David Ghere, “Teaching Japanese-American Incarceration,” The History Teacher 37, no. 2 (Feb., 2004): 211–227. Wendy Ng also uses the term incarceration to describe the federal policy of removal. See Wendy Ng, “Exile and Incarceration: Japanese Americans in World War II,” in Asian America: History and Culture, An Encyclopedia, ed. Huping Ling and Allan Austin (New York: Sharpe Reference, 2010): 400–404.

15Ng, Japanese American Internment During World War II: xiv.