Don Wakamatsu, Baseball, And Internment

Monday, April 06, 2009

This is just a really good article on Don Wakamatsu at the The Seattle Times that talks about how Wakamatsu (the first Asian American manager in the game) came to know more about his heritage and history and the family members around him who had to endure the Japanese Internment Camps:

The family never discussed their internment along with other Japanese Americans during World War II. Leland's parents didn't bring it up to him, so he didn't bring it up to his children. The silence ended sometime in the late 1980s when a 20-something Don observed his father's reaction to opening a government check.

Leland, who was born in the Tule Lake internment camp in California, realized it was a reparations check. He flipped it to the side and muttered something in disgust. It piqued Don's curiosity.

"If you didn't live it, you have to do some digging to find out what happened," Don said. "I didn't learn about internment in history class, that's for sure."

Still, he tiptoed around the topic until about five years ago. He befriended baseball historian Kerry Nakagawa and learned about Japanese Americans who played baseball in the internment camps.

Don knew his education wouldn't be complete until he questioned his grandparents about it. So he cornered his grandmother two years ago. After a few hours of listening, he left with anger, pride and compassion coursing through him.
It's articles like this that I think truly show why it's so important to Asian American faces - and just diversity - in the spotlight. It brings stories like this to a broader audience where in a way they think to themselves "This happened to one of our own?" and it makes people realize history on a more personal level - they connect with history in way they never would have before and I think become better because of it.