Japanese Americans say WWII should serve as a lesson after 9/11

Ellen Godbey Carson
Ellen Godbey Carson
Mari Matsuda
Mari Matsuda

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Learning the lessons of World War II can shape a better future after 9/11.

That was the topic of a discussion entitled "A Decade After 9/11: Acknowledging the Harms, Learning the Lessons, and Shaping the Future," which was sponsored by the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.

Japanese Americans remember the treatment they faced during the war, when they were sent to internment camps after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl harbor.

"My father was interned at Hart Mountain," said Mari Matsuda, a law professor at William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii. "He was a U.S. citizen who was born in the United States and loyal to the United States, and so loyal that he lied about his age -- he was 17, but he said he was 18 -- so he could volunteer and join the 100th Infantry Battalion.

While he served in the U.S. Army, his mother and brother remained held in an internment camp, Matsuda said.

The JACL is looking at their experience, and what has happened since 9/11.

"I think we're recognizing commonalities between the hatred, the racism, the fear that encompassed large parts of the U.S. during the second World War, and ended up in mass deprivations to Japanese Americans," said civil rights attorney Ellen Godbey Carson, "and we're compared that to what's happened at 9/11, and what's happened to Muslim Americans since that attack."

While there are no mass internment camps this time, there is still discrimination, and some signs of it are subtle.

"Going to the other side of the street," Carson said as an example. "Pulling one's child away. Just refusing to sit at the same place, or the type of glances that occur."

The JACL said it recognized the possibility of discrimination against many for the actions of a few, and wanted to use the past as a reminder to not let it happen again.

"Immediately on September 12, people were already organizing and how we are going to stand up for civil liberties in this time of stress," Matsuda said. "And I think that is the most patriotic thing you can do."

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