George Takei, a Japanese-American actor and activist, wrote a gripping op-ed for CNN to commemorate Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day, also known as Day of Remembrance, is designed to commemorate the struggle of Japanese-Americans when they were forced from their homes during World War II and placed in internment camps in the United States.
When he was 5-years-old, Takei and his family were forced out of their Los Angeles home per an executive order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Executive order 9066 was created on the basis of national security, but as Takei described in his op-ed, the executive order was fueled by prejudice and xenophobia, not the best interest of American citizens like Takei, and hundreds of thousands of other Japanese-Americans.
Takei wrote about executive order 9066 in his CNN op-ed, stating, “On its face, the order was ‘neutral,’ authorizing the military to designate whole swaths of land as military zones, and evacuate any persons from it as they saw fit.” Takei also detailed how he and his family, all American citizens, were driven from their home by soldiers wielding batons. The Takei family wasn’t initially informed of where they were going, only that they could take what they could carry and nothing else.
The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II signaled a dangerous precedent for executive orders and dividing the United States based on a person’s country of origin or appearance. As Takei stated in his op-ed, Roosevelt’s executive order hid behind a veil of discrimination and shallow racism that assumed all Japanese-Americans were a danger to the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor, ignoring the fact that he was imprisoning American citizens.
“It didn’t matter, back then, that most of us were U.S. citizens and had never even been to Japan. We were presumed guilty, and held without charge for four years, simply because we happened to look like the people who had bombed Pearl Harbor. For that crime, we lost our homes, our livelihoods and our freedoms,” Takei wrote.
In his letter for Remembrance Day, Takei not only reflected on the past, but talked about the future of the United States and the “terrible echoes from the past” that persist in discriminatory legislation in the present day. Takei has been an avid supporter of Muslim American rights and vehemently protests President Donald Trump’s proposal of a Muslim registry and the travel ban which targeted seven Muslim-majority countries.
The Star Trek actor often discusses the prejudices that exist behind an insular, “America first” policy that has been promoted by Trump. In a USA Today piece, Takei expanded on this idea, writing, “Our president has trumpeted an ‘America First’ policy, vowing to prioritize the well-being of the United States. But ‘America’ doesn’t seem to include the brown-skinned, foreign-sounding or non-Christian people affected by his travel ban, his Mexico border wall or his immigration raids. When Trump labels them ‘bad hombres’ or ‘terrorists,’ he feeds a narrative of ‘us vs. them.'”
Takei lived through an interment camp during the very early years of his life and continues to be a stalwart opponent of any political practice that he believes is reminiscent of the Japanese-American internment camps. For Remembrance Day, Takei wanted to make sure that people did not forget the struggles that Takei, his family, and hundreds of thousands of interned people endured. It is a lesson that the actor fears will be forgotten and therefor be allowed to thrive again.
In recognition of Remembrance Day, Takei’s play, Alliance, will be shown in theaters across the United States.
Thank you to the tens of thousands across the country and Canada who honored us by watching Allegiance today. Together, we will #NeverForget
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 19, 2017
Since that day in 1942, Takei and other Japanese-Americans commemorate Remembrance Day in order to fight oppression and prejudice in the United States. The 2017 Remembrance Day marks the 75th anniversary of the internment of Japanese-Americans.
[Featured Image by Paul Sakuma/AP Images]