An art installation by Erin Shigaki currently at Bellevue College features a giant blow up photograph of two Japanese American children, taken at an Interment Camp, titled Never Again Is Now. Two weeks ago vice president Gail Barge removed a sentence from the placard about Japanese immigrants and their connection to Bellevue: “After decades of anti-Japanese agitation, let by Eastside businessman Miller Freeman and others, the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans included 60 families (300 individuals) who farmed Bellevue.”
The sentence was first whited out, then a laminated copy of the placard with the sentence removed was taped over the original placard.
Barge had previously apologized, but didn’t give any explanations as to why she removed the sentence. Two days ago the college announced the resignation of Barge and Jerry Weber, president of the college. Today that resignation was unanimously accepted by the board of trustees.
Weber did not claim involvement but recognized, “this event happened on my watch… Given the impact of this event, I believe it is in the best interest of the college for me to step down.” (1)
Incredibly, and unreported in the Seattle Times series of stories on this event, this is the SECOND time this sentence has been removed from Erin Shigaki’s work. She describes the first instance in an opinion piece in the International Observer.
She writes, ” The United States’ history of racism should not be erased or modified, just because some find it difficult to come to terms with, or because it names people whose generational wealth and power is entwined with that racism. In fact, it is this constant desire to whitewash the past that dooms us to repeat it. Three generations later, the cruel and thoughtless attempt to silence my art stirs up the same emotions my ancestors felt but were unable to speak of in order to survive their incarceration: sorrow, anger, confusion, mistrust, dismissal, disrespect, shame, and self-hate.”(2)
On Tuesday a ceremony took place to show support for Shigaki whose father was born in an Idaho incarceration camp. She is quoted in the Times, “I was moved by the number of people from my community and Bellevue College students who turned out remembering Japanese-American incarcerees and other victims of detention in a thoughtful way with a powerful show of solidarity.” (1)
Last month the 4th grade classes visited the Central Library and listened to a presentation by Japanese Americans who were interred during WWII. If you haven’t discussed this grim period of American history with your children, this might be a good opportunity to introduce it!