Today marks the birthday of Fred Korematsu, a man who never gave up his fight for justice, even though it was a fight he needed to pursue for decades. His bravery, his light, his dedication should light a fire in all of us, renewing our personal commitment to see justice done, and to protect, help, and fight for those being victimized. Too many Americans are more than content to let the ruinous and immoral past repeat itself, while remaining blissfully ignorant of history. Just a bit here, the full story is at Think Progress, and of course, at http://www.korematsuinstitute.org/.
Here are six comments from Japanese Americans that have an important message for the Trump administration to learn from:
Fred Korematsu, 2004
No one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.
George Takei, actor and civil rights leader, 2014
When I was a teenager, my father told me that our democracy is very fragile, but it is a true people’s democracy, both as strong and as great as the people can be, but it is also as fallible as people are. And that’s why good people have to be actively engaged in the process, sometimes holding democracy’s feet to the fire, in order to make it a better, truer democracy.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), former congressman, 2015
Even after we were released, I, along with other Japanese-Americans, faced anti-Japanese slurs and insults in a post-World War II America. We developed a sense that somehow we had done something wrong. It was my father who helped me realize that our “crime” was simply being of Japanese ancestry. In a post-Pearl Harbor craze, this lineage was sufficient for the federal government to pass orders to detain and imprison an entire segment of American society — we were guilty solely by association.
Dr. Satsuki Ina, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Sacramento, 2015
I was born behind barbed wire 70 years ago in the Tule Lake Segregation Center, a maximum-security prison camp for Japanese-Americans in Northern California. My parents’ only crime was having the face of the enemy. They were never charged or convicted of a crime; yet they were forced to raise me in a prison camp when President Franklin Roosevelt signed a wartime executive order ultimately authorizing the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent. We were deemed a danger to the “national security” and incarcerated without due process of law.
Paul Ohtaki, businessman and journalist, 2008
People don’t believe this. If you go beyond — maybe a few states here — they don’t believe that the United States had a concentration camp! They don’t call it that. You can call it what you like, but they put people in who are entitled to every citizen right of anybody else. People don’t believe that!
Fumi Hayashi, Cutter Laboratories, 2006
When you see pictures of black men hanging from trees, and I don’t know how we can do things like that to each other. Sometimes I think if I were on the other side of the fence, would I go to Tanforan [a temporary incarceration camp to hold Japanese Americans] with a whole bunch of buckets and soap? Do I have that kind of something inside of me — that I would do something like that for other people? It’s a big question mark. I can’t say that I would, because I think it’s more comfortable to write a check or even worse, just do nothing.
Chizu Iiyama, activist, social worker and educator, 2009
I don’t have advice. I just say to learn from your own — to study and learn about your history; history of our government and history of all these things that happened. If you are a minority person, learn your history, so you’ll know again what happened in the past so you’ll be sure to deal with the present in a more enlightened way.