This year marks the 70th year of the closing of the World War II incarceration camps (JACL’s “Power of Words”) that imprisoned thousands of Japanese American civilians under inhumane conditions and threat of violence. Yet, this shameful and racist episode of American history still receives scant attention in our history classrooms. The vast majority of Americans know that our government incarcerated Japanese American families behind barbed wire fences, but know precious little else about it.
Yet, Japanese American incarceration is of particular relevance given today’s political climate. The growing global presence of fundamentalist terrorists – who falsely justify their violence with appropriated references to the Islamic faith, yet who just last week took the lives of hundreds of innocent Muslims and non-Muslims in various parts of the world — has lead to intense Islamophobia. Our world once again stands at a precipice: we find ourselves once more ready to commit the unforgivable sin of failing to distinguish between our enemy’s heinous violence, and their race or faith. We again find ourselves in danger of persecuting our innocent neighbours as an expression of our grief-turned-unforgivably-racist-rage. Already, our politicians suggest with possible sincerity that we round up American Muslims and house them in camps – “for our own protection”.
“Allegiance” — a musical written by Jay Kuo and inspired by the experiences of former Tule Lake incarceree, famed Star Trek actor, and vocal Japanese American community advocate George Takei – opened this month on Broadway in New York City; it had previously opened in San Diego in 2012. “Allegiance” challenges us to learn about the camps not as artifacts of history, but through the lens of the lives torn asunder by them; and for this specific moment in the global War on Terror, this story seems particularly poignant and timely.
Twenty minutes ago, the Japanese American organizers behind the #StopRago campaign (which I wrote about earlier today), announced via their Facebook page that Rago auction house had decided to remove the lots containing approximately 450 artifacts from Japanese American incarceration. This move came after nearly a week of heated backlash from the Japanese American community who object to Friday’s scheduled auction of familial heirlooms and artifacts donated under the promise of creating an exhibit on Japanese American experiences in World War II concentration camps. Friday’s planned sale amounted to profiteering on the pain of Japanese American camp survivors.
The #StopRago group announced that these efforts were victorious. Moments ago, a Rago company spokesman said at the auction house’s offices in Lambertville, New Jersey that the artifacts will no longer be sold this Friday. Instead, actor and outspoken advocate for the preservation of Japanese American history George Takei will serve as an intermediary between the Rago auction house and various Japanese American museums, advocacy groups and families interested in the items.
I am particularly excited by this news given the current state of Asian Americans in musicals. The “Allegiance” website notes that with its Broadway opening, “Allegiance” will become the first musical with a predominantly Asian American lead cast to play on Broadway since Oscar and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song, which was revived for Broadway by noted Asian American playwright David Henry Hwang in 2002. More recently, Broadway has hosted a production of David Henry Hwang’s play “Chinglish”, which also featured a mostly Asian American-led cast.
Last Saturday, legendary Star Trek actor and activist George Takei arrived at a charity event with a bandage on his face, ContactMusic.com reports; the actor was recovering from having had a cancerous skin growth removed from his face earlier in the week. The cancer was detected in its early stages during a routine visit to the doctor the week prior, and removed.
Takei reportedly said, “I went to my doctor for my physical last week and he detected an early sign of skin cancer here. He cut it out and that’s why I’m wearing this (bandage).”
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with over 3.5 million new cases diagnosed each year. But, for AAPI, skin cancer is a particularly significant health concern: AAPI have among the lowest survival rates from skin cancer of any race or ethnicity.
The bill’s authors pedantically claim that the bill is exclusively intended to protect the right for Arizonan’s to exercise their religion, a right that Arizona state senator, SB1062 bill supporter, and possible talking tree stump Capt. Al Melvin could not convince Anderson Cooper last night was even in danger in the state of Arizona ( video after the jump).