Several friends sent me a link to this article that appeared in the Guardian: click here
For those of you who think that one cannot take what Mr. Trump says seriously, here is an example of his influence.
In November of 2015, I began my visits to all ten concentration camps, before the Republican primaries began in earnest. I was able to get to six of them.
In May of 2016, I went to visit the last four.
In between the two trips, both Donald Trump and the Mayor of Roanoke, VA, invoked FDR and his administration’s use of mass incarceration during WWII.
There was a distinct difference in attitude regarding the topic, before and after I went.
Before, there were just a handful of people who knew, cared and were working to make a difference. It seemed to me that the majority either didn’t know, didn’t care or just never thought about it. There were also the vocal few who believe that “Japs” deserved it and needed to tell you so.
But, after Trump’s suggestion, there has been a clear increase in the level of interest. More people were writing about it, talking about it. People were finally asking, “Was it truly American to incarcerate thousands of innocent citizens and take their homes and businesses away simply because of their race?” In fact, in January and February of this year, I was joking to friends that Mr. Trump may be the best thing to happen to the story of Japanese incarceration in a long time. His candidacy was raising awareness about the topic. But that awareness had a dark side it turns out — as I discovered on my visit to Tule Lake Camp in Newel, California.
Tule Lake, the most brutal camp of all, was where those who questioned the whole policy and said so in a “loyalty” questionnaire, were labeled troublemakers, segregated from those who were considered “loyal” and sent to a prison inside the prison.
When we arrived at the infamous jail, we found a group of students from a nearby Klamath Falls, Oregon, high school. As I approached the building to decide where I would place my bowls, I could hear voices from the group — boys saying “Jap” this and “Jap” that, “hashtag Jap” for a Twitter feed. The boys were making the girls laugh and clearly enjoying the naughtiness of being politically incorrect. I couldn’t hide my hurt, but made my way into the jail building where a park ranger was giving a tour of the inside.
When I came out, the students’ teacher came up to me with four or five boys in tow to say, "These boys would like to say something to you." One white boy stepped forward and said, “We are very sorry. We didn’t mean to be hurtful or disrespectful. We will not do it again.” Of the group, there were two who appeared non-white, one ethnically Mexican, the other perhaps south Indian. One of them stepped forward and said, “I, of all people, should not be saying things like that and I am deeply sorry.” I said I really appreciated it and gave the two a hug and went on to do my project.
Later, I talked more to the teacher. She said her students were not bad boys. She said she thought what they said was wrong and hurtful but that bringing them here was part of trying to teach them something different. “I really don’t think they meant any harm,” she said. I said I agreed.
However, there was something else more disturbing. Ranger Kenneth Doutt said that since mid-December, there has been a clear increase in the number of visitors trying to find out about “internment.” The problem he said was that they weren’t coming to uncover this dark part of US history. Rather, they were coming because “they wanted to know how internment worked” — and they were doing so “because they heard Trump and some mayor say it was an example the government might re-think to solve the Muslim-American problem.
My Yellow Bowl Project hopes to spur discussion around these questions: Who is an American? What does citizenship mean? How long do you have to be in the US to be considered a bonafide member of this group?