In yet another episode of “fun things I get in the mail,” I recently read Kevin Keller #6 (Archie’s new friend, haven’t you heard?), featuring guest star George Takei. It was, as Archie episodes are want to be, incredibly sweet.
Parts of the comic reminded me of reading George Takei’s autobiography in 1995. In my fourth grader ignorance, his book was the first time I learned about Japanese internment camps. Takei and his family were sent to Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II. During my undergraduate years at McGill University, I learned that Japanese-Canadians had been similarly interned, which blew my (young, ignorant) mind again.
Now that I’m like a 20th grader or something (and still working on warding off youth and ignorance), I’m researching various aspects of Hawaiian history for my dissertation, and I came across two items I’d like to share with you in the Treasures from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Libraries collection.
First, this poster from 1943:
This is one of five posters which represent approximately 200 similar posters created by school children in Hawaii during World War II. Most of the themes chosen by the children parallel themes illustrated by posters produced for the government to promote the war effort or propaganda: Victory Gardens, scrap metal and rubber drives, Work to Win Campaign, Dengue Fever eradication. One particular poster in striking deep blue and bright red fosters what many today would consider racist jingoism: the “Speak American” campaign; ironically, this poster was painted by [Raymond Yoshida,] a Japanese American boy, age seven.  – Hamilton Library
Second, this photograph from 1945:
Photographs taken by unknown Honolulu Star-Bulletin photographers illustrate one of the most serious lapses in American democracy. The internment of approximately 1,500 Hawai`i residents, though small by comparison to that of Japanese on the mainland, hurt just the same. The photographs suggest the disruption and dislocation that occurred in the lives of the internees. – Hamilton Library
As an avid Takei follower on Facebook (and really, who isn’t?), I am very interested in his current musical, Allegiance, which is about a Japanese-American’s experience in World War II and post-9/11.
I think it’s good that this experience hasn’t faded from public memory (yet), because it’s a reminder of what xenophobia can do to families, communities, and democratic processes.
Too bad there’s not a WebMD link for xenophobia (common causes and cures!). And homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia…
That’s your research / brain / memory dump for today!