How The Japanese American Community Should Commemorate the 76th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

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

LOS ANGELES — On this day, the 76th 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 2016 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 76 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 Manzanar Committee’s Director of Communications and Social Media/Blog Editor.

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


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2 Responses to How The Japanese American Community Should Commemorate the 76th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

  1. Ralph says:

    Born of mixed European ancestry, I look back in horror at the attack on Pearl Harbor. I’m also embarrassed at the ignorance that lead to the internment camps that followed. History is full of the same ignorance and aggression, fear or prejudice against basic human differences. Civil wars have been fought for differences in religions. Religions have fought among themselves for differences within their own belief. The indigenous tribes of the world even fought amongst themselves, unincumbered by all of our modern day refinements. People can always find differences to object to and that will never change. It would help to realize that no race, religion or country is without the capacity to try and place themselves above another. Whatever your race, religion or country, each of us as an individual part of our tribe within our country within our religion within our race has the capacity to accept anothers differences and realize we are all indigenous to this planet. The mistakes and ignorance of our forefathers are not ours. The path forward is. As complicated as that path it is today, I think it would help to remember we’re all from the same tribe and seek the same peace.

  2. Taiji MIyagawa says:

    Japanese Americans should be taking against the mass incarceration of immigrants and the racial profiling of ICE raids happening RIGHT NOW. I agree 100% on continuing our stance in support of Muslims, but they are not the only ones being targeted.

    We should also call for a repeal of E.O. 9066 provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, notably Section 1021, which allows for indefinite detention of citizens without criminal charges or due process.

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