FDR New Deal Legacy Intact, but Internment of Japanese-Americans Lives in Infamy Too

Internment of Japanese-Americans showed New Deal's architect to be all too human.


Today still, a handful argue angrily that, after all, Japan attacked the United States. They do not seem to realize that Japanese-Americans as a whole stayed true.

The Japanese-American units in the Army became the most highly decorated in history, for their size and length of service. Japanese-Americans served in the military in Europe as well as Asia, sacrificing their lives while their families were deprived of the very liberty for which they fought.

For the era, FDR had progressive views on race. He seems to have assessed the internment to be a practical course of action. His successors, beginning with President Gerald Ford, would come to apologize for his choices.

Perhaps the greatest strength of our experiment in diversity is our dynamism, the ability to adapt and change, especially in correcting our own collective errors. Two generations later, 21 years ago, Congress passed legislation acknowledging the internment had been inappropriate. It paid reparations to its own citizens who had been locked up. While the redress was objectively only pennies on the dollar to Japanese-Americans, it was symbolically much more for all of us. For it showed that our democratic process works and our egalitarian ideals can be realized.