LOS ANGELES — On July 31, 2012, the Rafu Shimpo published George Yoshinaga’s column, “Horse’s Mouth – About Signing ‘Markers’ In Vegas, which opened with one of his typical, misguided, ignorant rants that had nothing to do with the headline of his column.
This time, Yoshinaga railed against the much-publicized exhibit at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center, Esse Quam Videri: Muslim Self-Portraits.
Since Yoshinaga has proven to be unwilling to, or incapable of, considering other points of view, this piece is aimed at those who might be swayed by Yoshinaga’s ravings, rather than trying to convince a lost cause.
As a community, Japanese Americans have a responsibility to be among the leaders of the fight against discrimination and racism, in any form. Those who oppose this exhibit are, at bare minimum, not seeing the big picture. Even worse, they are giving credence to the stereotype that Muslims are exactly what Islamophobes falsely accuse them of…that they are all terrorists.
What a load of…well, you know. After all, that is exactly what so many were saying about Japanese Americans during World War II…that we were all the enemy, and that none of us could be trusted.
We all know what that led to.
The fact is, Muslim Americans are facing very much the same kind of racial profiling, and violations of their Constitutional rights, that Japanese Americans faced prior to, and during World War II. Although Muslim Americans have not been locked up en masse, the similarities are still striking, as the historical record has shown.
Those who support the current victimization of Muslim Americans, along with those who deny that this is happening, or that this is not eerily similar to how Japanese Americans were treated before and during World War II, are, for all intents and purposes, supporting that kind of racist, hateful behavior.
In his column, Yoshinaga did just that.
If anything, our community should know all too well what happens when an entire group or class of people is painted with the broad brush of suspicion. How can we believe or support that after what our community has had to endure?
The exhibit at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center serves to educate people about the similarities I mentioned earlier, and is something that all Japanese Americans, and everyone else, for that matter, should lend their support to. Kudos to the Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation, not only for the exhibit, but for standing up for what is right and just.
Yoshinaga also reported that, “…Two newspapers in the area also challenged the displaying of the Muslim exhibit. Both said it has nothing to do with the former relocation center.”
Yoshinaga also referred to a letter to the editor of the Billings Gazette in Montana, that expressed opposition to the exhibit.
After an Internet search, I found no published editorials that opposed the exhibit. That does not mean that they do not exist. However, the fact that Yoshinaga failed to cite these publications does nothing more than shine a bright light on his failure to live up to his responsibilities as a journalist. After all, this glaring omission only begs the question: do the editorials exist, or are they figments of his imagination?
Moreover, Yoshinaga either intentionally omitted the fact that three newspapers in the area, the Casper Star-Tribune, the Cody Enterprise, and the Powell Tribune, published editorials supporting the exhibit, or, more likely, he did not do his due diligence in terms of researching the issue. Indeed, he failed miserably in terms of living up to his responsibilities as a journalist, especially given the fact that he is a columnist who is responsible for expressing an opinion based on an objective analysis of the facts.
Of course, given Yoshinaga’s track record, I am under no illusion that he gives his responsibilities as a journalist a second thought, and probably not even a first one.
As an aside, a fourth newspaper, the Billings Gazette, did not publish an editorial about the exhibit, but they did give the exhibit favorable coverage.
Mr. Yoshinaga…sir, I challenge you, for once in your career, to explain, in detail, and with historical references, why the exhibit “…does not belong at the learning center,” and why it was a “…stupid decision” by their staff [to] display it at their museum.” Indeed, instead of just publishing your opinion, how about providing us with a detailed, reasoned explanation, based on historical facts, and I’m not talking about your version of history. Instead, give us a credible argument for a change, one based on scholarly work that has been researched, rather than just your own recollections that cannot be verified reliably, such as your usual thing:
“…I chatted with a couple of former Heart Mountain internees, and they agree.”
I’m betting that you will refuse, because the facts would threaten your beliefs…which won’t surprise anyone.
Gann Matsuda, who is the Manzanar Committee’s Director, Communications and Social/Web Edit, is also the coordinator of Manzanar At Dusk, an evening program that follows the (daytime) Manzanar Pilgrimage, held annually on the last Saturday of April. He writes from Culver City, California.
The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
LEAD PHOTO: Muslim Americans, who have been victimized by racial profiling, violence, and violations of their Constitutional rights since the events of September 11, 2011, have participated in the Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk programs in significant numbers since 2007 Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee.
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