Last Thursday, students, faculty and staff gathered to learn about a forgotten part of AsianAmerican history. Journalist, producer and director Frank Abe gave an empowering and valuable lecture about Japanese internment camps and World War II. Through Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 in 1942, individuals of Japanese descent were forced into isolation because of the fears of many Americans including those of the U.S. government. Americans’ sense of nativism, nationalism and isolationism has continuously produced a sense of marginalization to other groups. The discrimination against Japanese Americans goes beyond the internment camps. While in camps, individuals, regardless of gender or age, were forced to pledge their allegiance to a country that did not fully accept them. While many individuals were drafted and participated in the war, there were those who refused to do so because what was being done to them was unconstitutional.
Abe fueled a need to stand up and be a leader within the audience by presenting leaders like Frank Emi, who knew and understood the struggles of being Japanese in America and felt the need to stand up against the discrimination many suffered. After WWII and the Japanese internment camps, many Japanese Americans knew that what was done to them was wrong, but there was a continuous fear of standing. Abe highlighted the need of claiming history, as well as the actions of leaders who have created various movements like the “Day to Remember,” which is celebrated on the day Roosevelt signed the executive order.
Through theater, literature, and activist organizations, many Japanese-Americans continue to protest the discrimination that they face to this day. The Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL) is one of the organizations that is dedicated to the cause of fighting for the rights of Japanese-Americans. Often we look back at history and think it is a part of the past, but the fact is that it all still impacts citizens. Even thou8gh most of the public believes that Internment camps do not exist, there is a facility near Crystal City, Texas that houses inmates, some of them JapaneseAmerican. There are still many acts of discrimination against minority groups.
To properly fight against it, Abe says we need to educate the young. Many academic institutes do not focus on issues like the internment camps of WWII. To some audience memebers, those details were unknown. However, to this day there are many acts of discrimination against minorities. At times many believe Asian Americans are okay because they have been given the label of “model minority,” yet Abe proves it is important to acknowledge that they were still not included in America’s “melting pot.” There is a lot of history to be learned to truly say “never again.” Frank Abe acknowledges the need to know about our past to advocate in the present. He gave a much needed lecture on a hidden part of American history, a part that has to be told because it happened. Japenese-Americans are American too.