With public outcry growing in recent weeks over the detention, internment and forced separation of families and children over immigration, and the surprise checkpoints and raids carried out by ICE; all under the purported guise of cutting down on crime, and the scare tactics being employed to turn an entire nationality of majority hard working, law abiding people into enemies and pariahs, the similarities between this rapidly unfolding crisis is reminiscent to many of another one – one which took place during the early days of World War 2, when fear and suspicion of anyone of Japanese ancestry, no matter how distant, were ordered by the government to turn themselves over to authorities for the express purpose of internment and relocation to Detention Camps. The premise was; anyone of Japanese ancestry stood the chance of being an enemy agent, capable of sabotage and spying on critical war activities, particularly on the West Coast. There was already fear that a Japanese invasion of the West Coast was imminent. A much publicized but falsely described air raid over Los Angeles only heightened the intense paranoia fairly pulsing through the country at the time. And so it was determined that, to eliminate the fear of invasion or spying, everyone who had even a trace of Japanese blood in their veins was ordered to evacuate all cities and towns up and down the West Coast, or any industrial centers around the country, and be placed in detention camps set up in the California desert. Entire communities were decimated – families were ordered to sell their homes and businesses within days of notification – all for pennies on the dollar, and ordered to assemble at various staging centers, to board buses and trains to be sent to these camps where they stayed for the duration of the war; all carried out by Military and civilian Police personnel.
It wound up being considered an ugly stain on American democracy and one of the worst episodes of prejudice and hatred in our country in the 20th century – an overreaction and a rush to judgement based on faulty or nonexistent information with long-term effects continuing to this day.
In 1970, a discussion (one of many over the years) took place regarding this issue. This one; an episode of Kup’s Show – a daily talk show hosted by noted journalist Irv Kupcinet discussed the issues of Racial discrimination, Preventive Detention and the historic aspects of our attempts at dealing with them. On this episode, he is joined by a number of noted personalities, including Roy Wilkins of the NAACP and Mike Matsuoka, himself a victim of the Internment camps as well as a decorated Veteran of World War 2 (as part of the Japanese-American units serving in Europe during the war).
Fascinating stuff, and an issue which has drawn numerous parallels between the days of 1942 and the current social climate spreading over our country.
That thing about history repeating itself . . . .