In light of everything that is happening here in the United States, I felt compelled to track down the artwork of my Bachan (my maternal great-grandmother) Hatsune Kawashima. She made some pieces while imprisoned by the United States government at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center during WWII. The piece I had in mind, isn’t the one pictured above, but a simple embroidery of a barbed wire fence on a stark white background. I spent many hours of my childhood looking at it; first at her house, then at my great-aunt’s house, and I have thought about it a lot over the years. It seems even more pertinent right now that I find it. This is the person who, with my mom taught me how to sew when I was 3 (their photo is on my about page). She died at age 100 about 14 years ago. I cannot understate the influence she had on me; even though we didn’t speak the same language.
From my mother: “Some memories of our conversations…there was never anger in her voice, but acceptance, humility. Those who actually served, like Grandpa, served as a patriotic obedience, they were proud.”
You can go read about the “internment” of the Japanese. Go read George Takei or Yoshiko Uchida or the veritable plethora of first person accounts. I wasn’t there. This happened to my grandparents generation. They rarely talked about it, but the art hanging on their walls told another story. I am haunted by this bit of American history. I’m reminded when people ask me where I’m from, and I say “here.” And then they say, “before that.” Or simply told to “go home.” I am home. Home in a country that constantly reminds me that I am an other. I am not. I am an American. Both of my parents and all my grandparents were born here. I can trace my ancestry on my dad’s side to our founding fathers.
So when I see the internment of the Japanese to be used as “precedent” to marginalize another group of people, I want you to remember this: Race is a cultural construct. There is no biological basis for the separation of people by colour or nationality. And yet here it creeps in again. This isn’t a disagreement about policy or politics. My personhood is threatened, along with anyone who simply doesn’t agree. This leaves no room for discourse. Dehumanizing others always leads to violence; it is happening here. Right in front of you. Fascism. This is not who we are. This is no time to “wait and see” or “give him a chance.” Please call your congresspeople, make your voice be heard, volunteer in your community, donate to organizations who protect our rights, be nice to your neighbours and fight to keep the rights that the law and the constitution guarantees us. All of us.