A day lost on most, Feb. 19, marks the 77th anniversary of the Japanese American Internment, also known as Remembrance Day.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which forced 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry into internment camps, including children.
This included my great-grandpa, Henry Ishikawa, and his family who were interned at the Granada Camp, later renamed Camp Amache, in Colorado.
It may feel so far removed, having happened in 1942, but it really wasn’t that long ago.
It was my great-grandparents.
There is so much to be learned from what happened. Here are some of the many lessons we should learn from them:
1. Oppose legislation that forces people to register on a list
After FDR’s executive order, Japanese Americans were not only rounded up and forced into internment camps, but they also had to register on a national list.
This list is still accessible today on the National Archives website. They singled people out and essentially handed out their information.
This literally violates the Constitution, but was done in the name of “public safety.” Sound familiar? It should.
2. Don’t let fear rule our country; have empathy
There was no genuine reason for the internment outside of fear. People were afraid of the chance that their friendly Japanese American neighbor who had a business, farm and children was secretly a spy.
But there was no background done. This fear was baseless. It was based on how someone looked, instead of actual facts.
It was too much of a risk to let 120,000 people just exist for the few that might, just maybe, be spies.
Just have a little empathy. Can you imagine being systematically villainized for your existence? Could you imagine being forced out of your own home for nothing more than existing?
3. Don’t be complicit; speak up
So many people question why people in Nazi Germany didn’t speak out, but why didn’t anyone speak out here?
The president is one man who serves us, the people. Our voices have power, and we must not sit by idly while others suffer.
4. Own up to your own mistakes, and don’t wait for others to call you out for an apology
It wasn’t until 46 years after the last internment camp was closed that those who were interned were finally issued an apology and were given compensation money in 1988.
This didn’t come easy though, those who either were interned or had family interned had to fight for this. They campaigned for nearly 10 years to receive a formal apology. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act.
Unfortunately, it was already too late for many.
My great-grandfather never saw his government apologize. He never received any compensation. He died before he could see any of that.
5. Those who are different aren’t the enemy
Do I really have to explain this one? Just because someone is different doesn’t immediately make them the enemy.
So many issues stem from villainizing people without merit. You can’t lump people together based on differences, and just because you don’t understand something or someone doesn’t make them the enemy.
There are so many more points I could make in this case. However, I’ll leave you with this reality: We’re dangerously close to repeating our past, and we must take these lessons to heart. We must not repeat our past.