Trump’s Racist Precedent

To justify his anti-Muslim racist proposals, Trump invokes the precedent of FDR’s Executive Order 9066. This order imprisoned Japanese American citizens like my parents (ages 11 and 15 at the time) and Japanese immigrants like my grandparents who were forbidden by racist laws from becoming citizens.

To Trump and his supporters, racism had nothing to do with the internment during World War II. Here is an editorial from the Los Angeles Times, 1942, arguing for the internment; it provides a vivid sense of the racism that was rampant at the time:

A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched. A leopard’s spots are the same and its disposition is the same wherever it is whelped. So a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents, nurtured upon Japanese traditions, living in a transplanted Japanese atmosphere and thoroughly inoculated with Japanese thoughts, Japanese ideas and Japanese ideals, notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship, almost inevitably and with the rarest of exceptions grows up to be a Japanese, into an American in his thoughts, in his ideas, and in his ideals, and himself is a potential and menacing, if not an actual, danger to our country unless properly supervised, controlled and, as it were ‘hamstrung’.

Even President Ronald Reagan, in an apology to the Japanese American community, admitted that the camps were not militarily necessary and said the real reasons for the camps were racism, wartime hysteria and a failure of leadership.

Our fellow Muslim American and Arab American are experiencing now what my family experienced in World War II–having their patriotism and loyalty questioned, enduring insults and prejudice and vandalism, fearing what might happen next. I wish, I hope, those who say we are better than this are right. Principles–of equality, of justice, of what America is supposed to be–are not principles if they can be abandoned in times of crisis. And if we abandon our principles that will not make us safer. It will only make us more afraid. It will only make us weaker. It will only give encouragement to those who wish us harm.

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