In light of a Donald Trump supporter’s recent suggestion that imprisoning Japanese-Americans during World War II set a “precedent” for creating a Muslim registry, one viral video’s message is particularly poignant.
A clip from AJ+ features Japanese-Americans sharing what happened to them and their families when the U.S. government forced 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry to leave their homes and live behind barbed wire over 70 years ago.
The video came out in February, but the survivors’ words are still relevant ― especially after retired Navy SEAL Carl Higbie’s interview on Fox News last week. Discussing a proposed registry of immigrants from Muslim countries, Higbie said, “We’ve done it with Iran ... we did it during World War II with Japanese, which, call it what you will, maybe it was wrong ... Look, the president needs to protect America first.”
After facing major backlash for those comments, Higbie admitted that the government’s imprisonment of Japanese-Americans, many of whom were U.S. citizens, was a “huge black mark on our society and we would never want to do it again.”
Japanese-Americans have long drawn parallels between their wartime experiences and the mounting Islamophobia that Muslims have faced in recent years. “What’s happening to the Muslims right now is really close to the hearts of the Japanese-Americans because it happened to us,” said Gloria Imagire, a former prisoner, in the AJ+ clip.
In the video, some survivors spoke about being relocated to detention facilities and the lives they left behind. One man, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, recalled the guard towers in the camps, where sentries were stationed with firearms. Survivor Tadashi Yoshi explained how his brother served in the U.S. military even though his family was imprisoned.
“My brother was in the Army,” Yoshi said. “He was fighting over there in Italy, in southern France, and his mother and father and his younger son is in a camp.”
After they were released, Japanese-Americans continued to feel the effects of imprisonment. Though not everyone in the video agreed, a few people said that they made an extra effort to prove their “Americanness.”
“When the Korean War started in 1950, I enlisted in the U.S. Army and served my three years to prove my loyalty,” Ben Takeshita said in the video.
Ultimately, it’s clear these survivors hope the injustices they suffered never afflict another group of people.
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