Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login


Submitted on
May 1, 2005
Image Size
420 KB


6,246 (1 today)
93 (who?)
Manzanar Concentration Camp by dchui Manzanar Concentration Camp by dchui

"A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched - so a Japanese American, born of Japanese parents - grows up to be a Japanese, not an American."

- Los Angeles Times


Notice of evacuation
One spring night
The image of my wife
Holding the hands of my mother.

- unknown Japanese American


I spent this last weekend with my friends visiting the Manzanar Relocation Center near Mammoth, California... the following are a few of my thoughts from the trip that we took to Manzanar, which I regard as one of the best decisions of my life.

I'll start by saying this is a hard one for me to write. I don't know if it is within my ability to articulate how I feel about the issue, but I hope that you will stick around and read this one the whole way through. It will be spread over the next few photos I post on DA.

On February 19th, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which mandated the immediate "evacuation" of all Japanese-Americans on the West Coast to "relocation centers" around the country. I use quotation marks because the words "evacuation" and "relocation centers" were originally fabrications made up by the United States Government to cover up the fact that A) the Japanese Americans were not being "evacuated", but instead imprisoned against their will, and B) that the Japanese Americans thought of the camps as concentration camps, not "relocation centers". Also, I won't get into what a concentration camp is or isn't... as one of the formerly interned Japanese Americans told me, the JA's attempt to inform others of what happened to them is in no way in competition with what happened to the Jews under Nazi Germany.

The public excuse that the government issued was that the Japanese Americans were being moved for their own protection. This seems ironic to me, because while the various internment camps did have guard towers, those guard towers had their guns "permanently aimed inwards, into the camp". Regardless of the United States' government's attempt to pamper the issue at the time, it didn't change the facts: thousands of Japanese Americans were forced, against their will, to give up the lives they had worked so hard to achieve in order to be shipped off to lonely and remote internment camps scattered throughout the country.

"Like a dog,
I am commanded
At a bayonet point.
My heart is inflamed
With burning anguish

The night the first convoy of Japanese Americans arrived at Manzanar, they were instructed to go to a barn full of straw and fill bags that they were given with the straw. This was to serve as their beds for the first night's rest; these were later replaced by standard-issue army cots. The dwellings that they entered were miserable. They were ercilessly dusty, and there was no privacy because of the cramped quarters and the government's decision not to include curtains or walls in the shower-rooms. In the evening, when everybody had finally gotten to sleep, the wind would come. It would whip around and carry sand and dust from the outside into the cracks in the corrogated aluminum walls of the barracks.

"Vexed beyond my strength,
I wept. And then the wind came
Drying up all tears."

Today, there is little left of Manzanar. The barracks, latrines, etc. are long gone - either blown away in time or purposely destroyed by the United States government post-internment.

What is left, though, are the memories. Just walking around this place made me sad, because of everything that it represents to me as an American. I am a Chinese-American, but I do not feel detached from the Japanese American internment just because I am not Japanese; the internment of the Japanese Americans could have happened to any race, and it can still happen today. Many of the things that Chinese-Americans had to face coming up in this country are the same struggles we see today: I didn't want to bring it up, but look at the Rodney King beating. One of the police officers peed on the guy when they were done beating the shit out of him. I grew up sheltered, thinking that racism was a thing of the past; how could there be racism if I had black kids in my school, and they were just as loved (or hated) as the other kids? It really wasn't till I stepped outside of the Palo Alto bubble that I started realizing how bad things are.. I won't get into how I came to realize racism now - that is a story for another day. Still, it makes me disgusted and sad when I think of the racism and prejudice that still exists today. This is why I feel it is of the utmost importance to understand the cultural roots of racism, its history, and its manifestations.

Please take this stuff in small doses, but really do try and think about what your liberty and your freedom means to you. What is it worth to you, and what would you do if tomorrow it were taken away from you?

I will write more as it comes to me. I rarely ask for responses from those who view my Deviant Art gallery, but I would encourage anyone who is reading this to share their own experiences with prejudice and racism, how it has impacted their lives, and perhaps, if they have time, what people think we can do to change the way things are.

- Chui
Add a Comment:
KatVizik Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm doing a project on Japanese Internment Camps in my school.

Would you mind if I used this image, as well as your "Manzanar BLDG 3," "Welcome to Nowhere" and "Shikataganai"? They're a beautiful series and when I saw them, they just fit the mood much better than a bland old picture off google. I'll give you full credit, of course.

I very much agree with your feelings- it doesn't really matter who you are, it can still hit hard. I'm just an average white teenager who fell in love with a Fort Minor song, and now has a grave interest in the background of it.
Gods-Faceless-Doll Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2008
such a beautiful photo =]
SidStillHere Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2006
All I have to say is Japanese guys with perfect American accents turn me on O_O
pikab2001 Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2006  Hobbyist Photographer
This has gotta be one of the most incredible photos I have ever seen.
LeonieZurakowsky Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2006   Digital Artist
Hey Daniel, sorry about my reference to "David" above. That was my own careless error!

Fantastic photo, fantastic story and fantastic gallery. I have great appreciation for your photos. You appear to be very dedicated despite your modesty - but then that's a good thing, right? Well, both modesty and dedication are good, I guess! It's also amazing that you have responded at length to all your commentors!

Hmm...thinking about those gay pride photos... we have the celebration here in Vancouver too. It's pretty cool but you get tired of it eventually, like any other celebration. Though not exactly bi, I've always had a lot of gay friends so I think what they've done in my lifetime (51) is astounding. And young gays don't understand what people went through. I even lost a job once because I hung with this married guy who was just suspected of being gay! And that was around 1980 something.

As for the Japanese/North Americans: another atrocity the west has committed against the east. But like you say, prejudice and wars go in all directions.

Though I grew up in a tiny white bread town in the middle of Saskatchewan, Canada we were always taught that "red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world!" I found out from an "Armenian-Canadian" friend who grew up in Toronto, that this was not the case for her. She was also raised in a Christian home, as was I. (At that time, it wasn't a horrid stigma to be a Christian. Though I am no more (if I ever was), I can't fathom these so called Christians who don't realise that Jesus was a Jew and came to help his own people mostly but was totally unprejudiced. They don't appear to have read the Bible either!) Who knew? She speaks more passionately about racism than I do. Reasons below.

I never wondered too much about the native Canadians who lived nearby but unfortunately went to private Catholic school and suffered the consequences to this day! Then, we had a feeling that they were a little superior to us because they went to private schools. Duh. Little did we realise!

We often think that native (and other races) genocide was practiced in the US, we just beat them here! Disgusting.

In my own case, my family lived in Hawaii (62-3, 67-8) and I was nearly always the only "white" (then I was very brown dueto genes and the sun) kid in my classes etc. I don't recall ever suffering for that so I always assumed that racial mixing was the norm until I started learning more in junior and high school etc. I also lived in Japan and Thailand for over 9 years and there I was invariably the only "white" (though many of my aquaintances were whiter than me) and did experience prejudice in many different (fortunately small) ways but it was one of the reasons I left Asia. (Though I adore Thailand and hope to go back again someday soon!) I visited many other countries in the area then and went to Hong Kong as well to see it before the handover.

Now in Vancouver, I live in an exceptionally mixed neighbourhood. It's clear that there is some violence and stupidity here but for the most part, it seems benign. Others tell me that this is an illusion. Nonetheless on any given day you can walk a block and hear at least 10 different languages, see 8 (obviously) racially mixed couples and their babies, see groups of kids and adults in radically mixed "races" (how I hate that meaningless word) enter half a dozen different ethnic restaurants and other shops, groceries etc. It's beyond cool for me. Even if it may be an illusion and who knows what would happen if we had a catastrophe like US east coast, we might also turn into racist mobs.

When I check a few Canadian political sites, racism is barely even mentioned as an issue! Here's one: [link] and this is publically funded. Nonetheless, many people don't get why we need to ease immigration policies and welcome more people from anywhere into Canada. I'm for it!

Anyway, I'll stroll your gallery (soon but I have a huge list!) and welcome you to mine!
electricnet Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2006  Professional Interface Designer
I didn't hear about this story until now, and I never thought something like that could "occur" in a western civilization like the US. :disbelief:

But it is a beautiful picture, though. The colours rocks, and I like the flag in the sun.
icewarrior Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2006
Hi - I've just stumbled upon your site through site-hopping and I'm pleased that I did.
You have some wonderful photographs in your gallery and I would bet your teacher would be proud to have had a hand in your abilities.

I have some very unpleasant experiences of prejudice and racism and I am white/British/European/caucasian whatever you want to call me!
I am a little older than you [b: 1950 - so 5 years after WWII ended] and as I said I am European - that is I have an English mother and a German father with a German surname [my father was a captured low ranking member of the German paratroopers - incidently SS]. My father and I have always differed on issues of race [he dislikes Black, Jewish, Asian, Hispanic etc. etc] in fact we have always differed, disagreed and fought on just about everything under the sun.
When I was a child you could not tell that I was anything but British/English - as I said I am white/caucasian and my first language is/was English - but I have a German surname which lead to major problems with children in the streets around where I lived and at school - it even spilled over to some of the teachers at my schools and obviously to the parents and grandparents of the children I knew. I learned to be a fighter and to stick up for myself so the abuse was largely verbal and not physical unless, on occasions at school or in the street, someone stirred up the other kids and we would go at it hammer-and-tongs, then I would come home bloodied and cursing [all this for something that was not my fault and really not about me but about bigottry, misconception and prejudice by people who did not understand what they were prejudiced about]. It took me many years, well into adulthood, to understand why this happened and even then it still occured with a few older people calling me a Nazi [I'm not, I loathe the Nazis and everything they stood/stand for] and why didn't I piss off back to Germany? The mother of one of my girlfriends when I was in my mid twenties [and the war had been over for 30 years] used to tell my girlfriend that I wasn't good enough for her and for her to tell me to "sling my hook" back to Germany.
All of this though is just small fry compared to what a lot of Black and Asian people have to go through. Here in Britain it depends to a large extent on the area you live in as to what kind of treatment you receive if you are in any way different.
I am now, and have been for 5 years, married to an American woman who herself has received comments about pissing off back to America - this is not a well integrated part of the country.

Well I have taken up enough space here so I will post this quickly before I change my mind.
phschallenger Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2005   Photographer
There is a huge differance between a Concentration camp, and an Internment camp.
dchui Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2005
There is indeed a huge difference. I used concentration camp because I was told by interned J.A.'s when I visited Manzanar that the word "internment" dances around the truth of what the camps were.

Anyway, I'm not going to argue with you one way or another... I have no opinion on the matter myself. I chose to title it concentration camp out of respect of the words of some of the interned J.A.'s I spoke to while at Manzanar.

- Chui
phschallenger Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2005   Photographer
Very good then. Words do have iffy meanings at times.

Add a Comment: