Editor’s note: With the publication of the following essay by recently retired University of Washington professor Dr. Stephen Sumida, we conclude this “Legacy of the Sansei” series. The series, which ran for two years, was conceived of by Herald contributing writer Gail Honda, who also served as its coordinator. The 2016 essays spotlighted the views of Hawai‘i Sansei. This year, with assistance from Denshö researcher and writer Brian Niiya, we reached out to Sansei living on the continental U.S., all of whom offered interesting perspectives on the Sansei legacy. Although we are wrapping up the series, rest assured that should we come across other interesting points of view on the subject, we will make every effort to share them with you.
Thank you again to Gail Honda for all her hard work on this project.
For the most part, we Sansei are the generation who were not there. We were not there when the Issei decided to leave Japan. We were not there sweating with them on the plantations of Hawai‘i and working the truck farms, canneries, forests and lumber mills and the railroads of the American West. We were not there when Nisei of the West Coast grew up with some believing that one day one of them could be president of the United States, only to be crushed by mass incarceration by “reason” of their race. We were not there when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. We were not there in battle during World War II. We were not there in the martial law blackout of Hawai‘i. We were not there in the World War II camps where Nikkei were held.