GLENDALE -- Russ Tanakaya thinks it’s important for Glendale students
to learn about Japanese-American internment camps in California during
World War II.
Tanakaya is the project coordinator of Glendale Unified’s
Japanese-American National Museum Project. District freshmen learning
about California history will begin taking tours of the Japanese-American
National Museum this month.
The purpose of the student tours will be to educate Glendale students
about the placement of thousands of Japanese Americans into internment
camps in California during World War II.
Groups of ninth-graders in the district -- some 2,600 -- will be bused
to the museum in downtown Los Angeles beginning Wednesday. Many of the
museum’s docents were interned at camps like Manzanar, in Northern
California’s Owens Valley.
“After Sept. 11, there were lots of hate crimes against Americans
thought to be associated with terrorists. Those attacks were similar to
1941, when hate crimes took place against Japanese for what they looked
like,” said Tanakaya, who is Japanese American. “We think the museum can
help teach students the concept of racial tolerance and help them
understand the history behind it, so maybe we can avoid similar issues in
Tanakaya said several community groups have helped cover costs of the
program, most of them transportation-related. Tanakaya also worked
closely with Glendale High School Co-principal Gloria Vasquez to get the
Glendale Sunrise Rotary, Glendale Noon Rotary, the Character & Ethics
Project, the Arab American Medical Assn., the Japanese-American National
Museum and a private foundation have all worked with Glendale Unified to
get the project rolling.
For Glendale residents like Allen Brandstater, the topic of Japanese
internment camps is not a clear-cut issue. The former AM radio talk show
host hopes the education Glendale students can gain from the museum tours
is not a biased one.
Brandstater wrote several columns about Japanese internment camps for
the News-Press between 1986 and 1994.
“Racism had nothing to do with those camps, and Pearl Harbor had
everything to do with it,” Brandstater said. “We were at war, and the
aspect of racism toward the Japanese is laughable to me. There’s about
1,200 men at the bottom of Pearl Harbor who would agree with me.
“I think any taxpayer should be concerned, if it involves our public
school system. Our young minds are going to be propagandized that the
[United States] did a terrible thing by interning them [Japanese
Tanakaya said the primary objective of the project is to allow
Glendale students to see and feel what Japanese Americans living in
California during World War II went through, and why.