Letter to the editor, February 2001

From The Trail, Feb. 15, 2001

Dear Editor,

In passing, when you walk toward the SUB to grab some food, you might notice the pretty pink blossoms blooming on the twelve cherry trees strategically planted on Lawrence Plaza. You might marvel at the trees' beauty and the harmonious effect they project, standing at attention, their boughs swaying gently in the wind. Then your stomach might get your attention and the trees - nothing more than a fleeting observation.

But the cherry trees are actually of a greater significance than the landscape of campus. The trees were replanted in 1989 in memory of 30 students of Japanese ancestry whose education at Puget Sound was interrupted by relocation into internment camps during World War II. Before being taken to the Puyallup Fairgrounds for internment, these Puget Sound students presented the University with the original cherry trees in a planting ceremony as a token of their appreciation and thanks for all their friends and professors had done for them.

The internment experience of these 30 Puget Sound students, whose names are commemorated annually, should be remembered and learned from. Theirs, was an experience that a whole group of people numbering 110,000 (70,000 were Japanese American citizens) were required to undergo on the West Coast. They were evacuated from their homes and buisnesses and had to give up their whole way of life on the sole basis of thier ethnic identity.

No one should have their civil rights violated in such a way, to be treated as second-class citizens, herded to and confined in desolate camps surrounded by barbed wire. It is our responsibility to make sure this kind of racial prejudice will never happen again. The Japanese internment experience is one we should teach our children about. It is a tragedy that could happen to any minority group, given the right circumstances, if the lessons of the past are not learned.

Next time when you pass by the cherry trees going to the SUB, you might see the names of the 30 Japanese Puget Sound students on the plaques nearby in observance of Japanese Internment Day on Feb. 19. Your stomach might be growling, but stop to think of the stomachs of the Japanese American students, waiting in long meal lines to be fed at the internment camps. Remember that the people of Japanese descent had to wait as long as three years to see the dawn of freedom again.

Ngai Fang Chen
APASU President