Exhibit On Muslims Belongs At Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center

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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7 thoughts on “Exhibit On Muslims Belongs At Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center

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  1. Mr. Yoshinaga recently wrote a column about retired J.A.C.L. Executive Director Floyd Mori, which was so inaccurate, The Rafu Shimpo pulled the story.

  2. Interesting post. I traveled through Wyoming on vacation two weeks ago and picked up the Caspar paper, and brought home an article that caught my eye, about the exhibit, which I have not read yet. I guess I better dig it out. Wednesday night, I was at the West Sacramento Sikh Temple with many members of their community and diverse faith groups, including Muslims. The Japanese American community was well-represented.

    On an earlier trip through Idaho five weeks ago, I followed a line on my iPhone west from American Falls toward what I thought was Minidoka. It may have been the railroad tracks. I ended up at two dead ends, one at a big Con Agra potato plant by the tracks, the other in a farmer’s yard, who was coming into his place just after I turned around, and was leaving, surrounded by his dogs. When I tried to explain myself, he looked down on my mother’s twenty-year-old Honda from high up in his 4WD pickup and said, “you won’t get there in that, not from here.” I made my way back to the freeway, ran out of time, and headed home. Next time…

  3. Although I haven’t read the piece, I like the quote “…I chatted with a couple of former Heart Mountain internees, and they agree.”

    I once addressed our City Council and told the former Mayor (who believes that The City Police engage in racial profiling because several minority residents told her so), “If a hundred little kids told you the cow jumped over the moon, would you believe that too??”

    Mr. Yoshinaga needs to be put out to pasture… he’s an embarrassment to the Japanese American community.

    1. Yeah…and this is my own personal opinion, not that of the Manzanar Committee…the guy is a columnist for a reputable newspaper, yet he writes with absolutely no accountability or responsibility. Never checks his facts. Gets so many things wrong. One of the worst journalists I’ve ever encountered. I’m a journalist, even though the vast majority of my work involves hockey, but I’d be embarrassed if I wrote an op-ed piece that contained factual errors, even worse if I did so as often as Yoshinaga has.

  4. Gann: Sugoi! …timely and to the point. Mary Higuchi and I are en route to Heart Mountain, taking a circuitous route through northern Arizona, Utah, and Colorado–in search of “isolation” sites for alleged “troublemakers” before government officials and their Inu-Nezumi stooges decided that the large number of non-responses and “no-no” replies to the stupid “loyalty” survey required the designation of Tule Lake concentration camp as the Segregation Center for the entire Nikkei gulag. The attempt to dismiss dissenters as “troublemakers” and “disloyals” continues to be a pervasive theme in the so-called “war” on terrorism, and the Heart Mountain exhibit on Muslims has a direct connection to educating visitors about how such simplistic scapegoating is ignorant and wrong. Keep up the pressure. Make him accountable.

    1. Have a safe trip, Don, and thank you! In a way, you inspired my response to the “horse.” Your willingness to express your opinion without pulling punches is a refreshing change from so many Nisei! I generally don’t have that problem, but you still inspire me.

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