How The Japanese American Community Should Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

The cemetery monument at the Manzanar National Historic Site.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: National Park Service

LOS ANGELES — On this day, the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, many Japanese Americans will grit their teeth, expecting to see anti-Japanese comments, not to mention the racial slurs and racist comments that our community has had to endure for our entire history, and given the current political and social climate following the November 8 Presidential election, hate-based attacks are far more frequent and violent.

Perhaps now, more than ever, the Japanese American community must fight through the insults, epithets, comments and attacks. After all, given the circumstances, this year, December 7 should remind the Japanese American community of what the attack on Pearl Harbor meant for us…the unjust incarceration of over 110,000 of us—two-thirds citizens by birth—in American concentration camps, because of racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a failure of political leadership.

Although there has been no mass incarceration (yet), those three causes of our community’s incarceration during World War II have been happening with increasing, frightening frequency to Muslims in this country. There is no doubt that we are closer to a repeat of what happened to our community during World War II than our nation has ever been before. It is quite obvious that many have failed to learn from our history.

Indeed, the racial profiling and the talk that no Muslim can be trusted, that all Muslims are terrorists, and even that all Muslims in the United States should be rounded up and incarcerated in refugee camps—even a “Muslim registry”—is exactly the same as what happened to our community almost 75 years ago.

Because of that grave injustice inflicted upon the Japanese American community, we have a special responsibility to speak out and fight against such injustices. We must not allow them to happen again, to anyone.

Given all that, Japanese Americans should use this day to remember what happened to our community, and to teach others about it and how it relates to what’s happening today, in the hopes of preventing further injustices being inflicted upon our American Muslim brothers and sisters.

Gann Matsuda, who writes from Culver City, California, is the editor of the Manzanar Committee’s official blog.

The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.

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4 Responses to How The Japanese American Community Should Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

  1. Jenni says:

    Tonight in Little Tokyo, We Stand Together:Solidarity Vigil

  2. Jana J. Monji says:

    I also wrote about this on my blog: Racism, Religion and Remembering Pearl Harbor:

  3. Keith Wood says:

    Japanese Americans should commemorate the O’ahu attack the same way that any other American should. I’m haole, but it wasn’t “my” homeland which was attacked, it was OUR homeland.

    Among those who stood on the beaches of the islands 75 years ago last night were ISSEI, ready to fight their former countrymen, as well as their Nisei sons — and Filipinos, Portuguese, Chinese, kanaka and haole. Most were armed with clubs, knives or agricultural implements, bravely facing an enemy which would have arrived with guns and cannon.

    One of these Issei later became a friend of mine, and I was young enough to ask how he could want to fight his “cousins.” His response was something like: “I may have been facing my cousins, but my FAMILY was behind me.”

  4. Yusra Khafagi says:

    Kudos for acknowledging the injustice that happens to the Japanese community and for showing solidarity with the Muslim community.

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