KEEPER OF CONCENTRATION CAMPS: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism by Richard Drinnon

KEEPER OF CONCENTRATION CAMPS: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An account of a relatively unknown bureaucrat, Dillon S. Myer, who directed the War Relocation Authority during WW II, a dark hour of American racism when 110,000 Japanese-American citizens were sequestered. Drinnon, author of Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building, tells Myer's story in three segments. First, there is a brief autobiography of his life leading up to his appointment by Roosevelt as director of the WRA. The bulk of the book deals with Myer's cruel treatment of the Japanese-Americans, a race of which he was totally ignorant when he entered his position. Drinnon's purpose is not so much to demonstrate Myer's evil, as to show that this policy ultimately had ""deep roots in our traditional racism"" that made the ""Jap camps"" as American as apple pie. Later, Myer became director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. There he continued his Japanese policies in his policy of ""termination""--an attack on tribal rights and identities that sought to break up the reservations and lure Indians away from their homelands. Drinnon sees the policy as another example of that same traditional strain of racism that had led to the excesses during the war. Drinnon fairly drools at all of this, seeming to lose perspective in the process. Portraying Myer as a major figure, however, is a bit much; he was, more to the point, a petty bureaucrat playing it safe--a pawn in the game of the presidents for whom he ultimately worked. This sorry period has more poignantly been reported in Michi Weglyn's Years of Infamy (1976). Drinnon only adds fuel to the long-smoldering fire.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Univ. of California Press