The current rise in anti-Islamic sentiments is reminiscent of the persecution faced by Japanese-Americans during the second World War.
The targeted violence that Muslims are facing today in America brings back the memories of another group of Americans who were unjustly punished in recent history, the Japanese. The Pearl Harbor aftermath resulted in Japanese-Americans being the victims of targeted violence. This tragic episode that happened around 70 years ago, is again rearing its ugly head again, this time with American Muslims at the receiving end.
Over 120,000 Japanese, especially children, were forced into concentration camps during this time. The accusation against them was that they were working against the nation. However, no evidence was found against these Japanese, most of which were already either born in America or officially American citizens.
Many of these children wrote letters regularly to Miss Clara Breed, the librarian at the San Diego Public Library. Breed had been deeply associated with the Japanese children of San Diego, who often came to the library to borrow books. When the time came for the children to be put into concentration camps, Breed gave them self-addressed postcards and asked them to write to her. Throughout the tragedy, she kept in contact with the children either through letters or by actually visiting them.
The letters, of which around 300, were given to Muslim children by filmmaker Frank Chi to be read out on film. This short film, Letters from Camp, depicts Muslim children reading out these letters before the camera, along with the Japanese-American survivors of the incarceration camps. Chi aims at bringing out the similarities of the current trend of Islamophobia and the persecution that the Japanese faced.
This moving video makes me weep with despair and hope all at the same time. 'Letters from Camp' https://t.co/dGy6E7Kfrr
— Nancy Mercado (@nanmercado) November 22, 2016
— Perry Roth-Johnson (@prothjohnson) November 19, 2016
Chi believes that primary sufferers of racial hatred are children. The letters depict the suffering that Japanese children faced in those times, and are strikingly similar to what American-Muslim children are facing today. Chi says that this short film that he has shot is an “act of love” for a community that once suffered from unjust racial hatred towards a community that is now on the verge of facing a similar situation.
Chi says that even now there are a number of Americans who believe that the incarceration of the Japanese was justified, and use this dark episode as a justification for the demand to do the same to Muslims as well. The filmmaker hopes that his short film helps in bringing the pains and suffering of victims of racial hatred to the front, and help in preventing another catastrophe from occurring.
- Huffington Post
- Washington Post
- Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
- Japanese American National Museum
- Calisphere University of California