Education

Columbia Basin College professor receives backlash after publishing controversial article

A Columbia Basin College (CBC) professor finds himself feeling the heat after he penned an op-ed piece about the internment of Japenese Americans during World War II.

The controversy started when Dr. Gary Bullert, who teaches political science at CBC was moderating a community discussion forum about whether or not it was an act of racism to put Japanese Americans in an internment camps after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

The Badger club is a non-partisan independent group that hosts monthly forums that are open for the community to watch and participate in discussions about tough issues.

The Badger Club is sponsored by the Tri-City Herald, and according to Dr. Bullert only one side of the argument at one of the monthly forums was presented when in regards to the subject of whether or not the internment of Japanese Americans was an act of racism.

When Dr. Bullert notified the Tri-City Herald, they asked Dr. Bullert to present the opposition.

"I mean I got three emails this morning ok they were accusing me of crimes against humanity,” Columbia Basin College political science professor Dr. Gary Bullert said.

The veteran professor has been accused of being a racist after his op-ed piece on the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II appeared in the Tri-City Herald in late January.

Bullert made the argument that incarcerating Japanese Americans was not a racist act.

"Then you had Franklin Delano Roosevelt who argued for a World War II in large part because we were fighting racism of the Nazi's and racism of the Japanese government, so in looking at the literature and the information that they had at hand I didn't see evidence that they were doing this based upon a racist motive," Dr. Bullert said.

When his piece appeared in the Tri-City herald it caught the attention of a Huffington Post commentator Joseph Lachman who immediately criticized what he says were many factual errors.

"This is where we get into the more the problematic language, you cannot basically force your own citizens and their families to take responsibility for the actions of the soldiers of a foreign military. That is not how we deal with war crimes of another country," Huffington Post commentator Joseph Lachman said.

"Saying that the American relocation was managed discretely is basically a way of minimizing or essentially ignoring the suffering of a large number of people who were humiliated by their own government," Lachman added.

"When I said discrete, I meant that you had two to three thousand Japanese American students who were able to leave the relocation camp to attend college on the east coast, they were able to leave those camps to work elsewhere,” Dr. Bullert said.

The backlash from Lachman's article has been fierce and Bullert received hundreds of emails along with a social media firestorm that keeps growing.

"They thought that the article itself was a blatant example of racism and the problem with the people who criticized my article is that they were condemning the editor of the Tri-City Herald saying there is only one point of view and how dare you present the alternative side,” Dr. Bullert added.

As for Lachman he says he believes Dr. Bullert shouldn't be teaching young minds.

"Teachers are entitled to their opinion but when you are a representative and an employee of a public community college that does not give you a license to tell your students things that are factually incorrect,” Lachman said.

However, Dr. Bullert says he's in no way justifying what happened during the war he was simply presenting the other side.

CBC officials say that Dr. Bullert has a right as a private citizen to express his view regarding the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and his op-ed piece does not represent the perspective of CBC.            

Dr. Bullert is not facing any consequences from the article.


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