xi's moments
Home | Americas

Fighting anti-Asian bigotry in US

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-12 09:38

Protesters hold signs as they march along Market Street before a rally to show solidarity with Asian Americans at Embarcadero Plaza on March 26, 2021 in San Francisco, California. [Photo/Agencies]

George Takei, best known for his acting role in the 1960s TV series Star Trek, recited his experience as a child in a Japanese internment camp in the US and encouraged Asian Americans to actively participate in the democratic process to combat racism.

The virtual discussion, organized by Serica Initiative, SupChina and the Midwest USA Chinese Chamber of Commerce on Friday, was joined by Lee Wong, an Ohio elected official known for recently revealing his scars from US Army service to refute questioning of his Americanness and patriotism, and Justin Lock, special assistant for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues with the US Department of Justice Community Relations Service in the San Francisco field office.

Takei, who will turn 84 on April 20, was 5 years old when he and his family were taken from their home and put in the camp along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans on the West Coast — without charges, trials and due process in 1942 — per President Franklin Roosevelt's executive order.

There also was Earl Warren, then-attorney general in California, who had his sights on the governor's seat.

"He saw that the most popular issue in California at that time was the lockup of Ja--. He made the most amazing statement: We have no reports of spy or sabotage by Japanese Americans, and that is ominous because the Japanese are inscrutable. You can't tell what they are thinking from that placid face," Takei said. "So as a preventative, it will be prudent to lock them up before they do anything."

"So, the absence of evidence was the evidence. With that he won and became a popular governor and elected three times and went on to be appointed as chief justice at the Supreme Court," Takei recounted.

It was the most egregious violation of the Constitution by Roosevelt, who had led America out of the Great Depression, Takei said.

"With that kind of wanton lawlessness, we were in prison for four years. During those four years, incredible cruelties against innocent people were perpetrated one after another."

Takei pointed out that from the beginning there was intrinsic prejudice and discrimination against Asian immigrants.

Besides the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which denied citizenship to Chinese immigrants, there were the alien land laws, which stipulated that people ineligible for citizenship could not buy land in states such as California, Oregon and Washington.

"It said nothing about Asians, but the only aliens ineligible to citizenship were immigrants from Asia. So, there was systemic and worked-in prejudices that had become law against us," Takei said. "We've got to educate the rest of America that our diversity is the strength of our country. When they realize that, America will truly become a great country."

While most Japanese American parents didn't talk to their children about the internment camps because of the pain associated with them, Takei's father shared his experience and wisdom with him.

"My father said, ‘This is a democracy (where) we are Americans like any other Italian Americans or Irish Americans or African Americans. We have to participate in the American process. We are the ones that give those noble words meaning and we have to actively participate,'" Takei said, adding that he followed such advice by being active in the performing arts.

Wong said that Asian Americans need to be more engaged in civic matters at all levels.

"I would encourage young folks today to take jobs as police officers, civil servants instead of traditionally doctors and engineers. There are many benefits in those areas. They all protect us in the Asian American communities. AAPI has to take the initiative and stop being marginalized. We have to toot our own horn," Wong said.

Wong said that he has learned that getting involved in government is crucial.

"Participate, set up, and run for office, that is the most powerful thing. You have your own voice, and you have a voice in the government at the grassroots level, like what I am doing," he said.

Hundreds of people across the country participated in the event.

One participant named Eric commented in chat: "I'm African American and disagree that we have to choose one group or movement over another. Isolation has never benefited any group of people. Supporting my Asian American brothers and sisters enriches my life. We wept together with Lee Wong last week on our broadcast! We are stronger together!"

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349