You don’t have to be over 75 to remember curfews aren’t just imposed by parents on their kids. Rebelling against curfews is part of teenage culture, but imagine then a curfew over a city or a state. Gordon Hirabayashi was past his teens when he broke curfew, one imposed not on him by his parents, but by the US government in 1942. The production “Hold These Truths” at the Pasadena Playhouse is about Hirabayashi and how breaking a curfew brought Hirabayashi to stand before the Supreme Court and to his career as a sociologist.
Just 25 years ago, then-mayor Tom Bradley signed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the second day of the Los Angeles Riots. In August of 1965, California Lt. Gov. Glenn Anderson declared a curfew in South Los Angeles after 8 p.m. at the time of the Watts Riots (August 11–16, 1965).
During the World War II, there were other curfews that targeted not geographical areas, but specific people. In the summer of 1943, during the Zoot Suit Riots, a curfew was placed on military personnel in Los Angeles. But earlier in the spring of 1942, Public Proclamation No. 3 declared that “all enemy aliens and all persons of Japanese ancestry” within military areas would observe a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. By military areas, the order wasn’t limiting the action to military bases. Military areas were defined as almost the entire Pacific coast and 100 miles inland. The curfew was part of the move to uproot all the people of Japanese ethnicity from the Pacific coast that would eventually lead to the internment.
The topic of the internment camps isn’t just a matter of history. This month the topic of internment camps have been making the news. Michelle Malkin argued that the Japanese American internment was a good thing in her 2004 book, “In Defense of Internment: A Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror’ and appeared on”‘Fox and Friends” (June 5) to endorse the internment of Muslims.
The call was echoed in the United Kingdom after the June 3 London attacks. Brexit leader Nigel Farage, now a Fox News contributor, commented, “We want genuine action, and if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow.”
The San Gabriel Valley area has its place in the Japanese American internment camp history: Santa Anita Racetrack was used as a gathering place, a transit center, where ethnic Japanese from Southern California were first taken before being transferred to as far as Arkansas. Less well-known is the Tuna Canyon Detention Center.
Hirabayashi died in 2012 in Canada, but his story is very much part of the US history. This weekend is your last chance to see Jeanne Sakata’s play about him at the Pasadena Playhouse.