RABBIT RAMBLINGS: Will Day of Remembrance events disappear?


bioline_Chizu OmoriAnother Day of Remembrance has come and gone and another commemoration was presented in San Francisco’s J-Town, an observance of that Day of Infamy and the day President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

This year’s theme, “Out of the Shadows of Infamy: Resistance Behind Barbed Wire,” was especially welcome, as it highlighted a subject that our community hasn’t always been openly addressed. Rep. Mike Honda and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi spoke and a video, “A Community Divided,” from archival interviews from Densho and filmmaker Frank Abe presented the conflicts inmates faced way back at the time that our community was behind barbed wire.

Family therapist and activist Satsuki Ina gave a thoughtful and insightful talk: With “public acknowledgement and … community action” that embraces the “full complexity” of the wartime experience, the story will become “a source of strength” rather than shame.

These programs are the result of hundreds of hours of hard work by a dedicated group that wants to keep this memory alive, this history that had such a devastating effect on our community. It happened 73 years ago and soon, all who were lived through it will be gone.

We have only been doing this for the last 30 years or so; attention to that date and the traumatic time of life in the camps were not a big part of our communal activities until the redress movement took place. I do like the direction that we’re taking as stated in the program: “The Bay Area Day of Remembrance events have evolved into a unique opportunity for Nikkei to join with diverse communities to reaffirm our common belief in the importance of civil and human rights and to remind us of our collective ability to act upon that belief.”

These are admirable sentiments and worthy goals, and all the hard work and effort in putting this event together is greatly appreciated. But some questions come to my mind. How much longer will these dedicated people be able to continue doing this? Who comes to it, and what age groups show up? Do younger Nikkei participate, and most importantly, are some stepping up into leadership roles?

Is Day of Remembrance doomed to disappear as the younger generations decide that they are not going to support it? Will the meaning of it become lost because fewer and fewer people bother to understand what it is all about? I personally want to see this Day of Remembrance continue for years to come. In fact, I would like to see this day acknowledged nationally. It is really important for the nation to remember and to acknowledge what our community went through. And I would also like to make it more inclusive and bring in and involve the greater community.

It’s sad but true, there are a lot of Americans out there who don’t know about our mass incarceration and many who do still can’t see it as damaging to our Constitution and legal system. Many apparently think that it was justified on the grounds of national security. I hear anecdotes about that reaction regularly and it is difficult to counter such remarks quickly and decisively.

In this country, it seems to me that racism is really a white problem. It is white people who seem to feel the need to hate and scapegoat others. I admit that this is a simplistic way of putting it, and this need to see some others as inferior seems to be part of the human condition. But here in the USA, whites have been the dominant group with the most power and perpetuating racism has economic and psychological benefits. Powerful people don’t want to change and we have lofty ideals and give a lot of lip service to them, but the reality is that racism has been part of the DNA of our country from the very beginning. Our treatment at the hands of the government is something that should never be forgotten.

Chizu Omori, of Oakland, is co-producer of the award-winning film “Rabbit in the Moon.” She can be reached at chizuomori@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.


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