“It was all based on race hysteria, xenophobia in the past, and you don’t want that to repeat again.”
Seventy-five years ago on Wednesday, the bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into World War II and subsequently ushered in the nuclear age.
It also prompted the U.S. to round up about 120,000 people ― most of them American citizens― and throw them in prison camps because of their ancestry.
Today, Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated during World War II are speaking out about how that dark time is especially relevant in the age of President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump flirted with the idea of creating a Muslim registry or database during his campaign for the Oval Office, saying it would be possible through “good management.” Then, a Trump surrogate brought up the wartime incarceration of Japanese-Americans as a “precedent” for creating such a registry.
Though the remarks were widely condemned, Trump had already suggested that he might have supported imprisoning people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Indeed, Trump’s presidential campaign and victory has energized a base of Americans who support racist policies and ideologies.
New York-based survivors Suki Terada Ports, Teddy Yoshikami and Madeleine Sugimoto see echoes of the past in today’s increasingly harsh attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, and they don’t want the country to forget the lessons from their imprisonment. Here’s what they have to say in response to proposals like a Muslim registry and other acts of bigotry and hate:
Madeleine Sugimoto was 6 years old when she was sent to a prison camp in 1942. Gathered in an assembly hall near her family’s home in central California before they were incarcerated, she thought she was there for a picnic.
After a bit of time in the hall, she told her parents she was getting tired. It was only later that she understood they were going to be imprisoned because of their Japanese ethnicity, she explained to The Huffington Post.