|AGW Welcome||The Witness Magazine|
Racial Profiling Will Not Create Peace
Recollections of a whole series of experiences that extend to this day begin from when I was a child of 10 in December of 1941. About one-half year later, as one books title describes it, I became, "A Child in Prison Camp." I was banished by government order to one of the mountain valleys of Canadas deeply forested British Columbia, 200 miles north of Washington States Spokane, at the headwaters of the Columbia River far away from my native Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.). Canada is more mountainous, but these places are not too remote from Seattle. I suppose that today this would be called an action occurring from "racial profiling."
The forced disruption of life by "evacuation" and "relocation" of our family also extended to over 24,000 Japanese-Canadian people young and old women and men, and children. The U.S. Presidential Executive Order 9066 mobilized the U.S. Military Western Command to dislocate the lives of over 110,000 the entire people of Japanese Ancestry along the U.S. Western coastal area. It became a military action against many people in their own country because many Japanese Americans were citizens.
The term "camps" probably originated in the U.S. because military "camps" were used to house Japanese Americans. People were first evacuated from their homes and sent to the horticultural barns in places such as Puyallup, Washington, or the Santa Anita Racetrack in California, before being dispatched to a "camp." In Canada we were rounded up to stay in the horticultural barns of Hastings Park (the present location of the Pacific National Exhibition), then sent further inland to the silver and gold mining "ghost towns" that had thrived in the days of the gold rush at the end of the 19th century. The term "camp" enabled us to speak of our common experience within our community and be instantly understood. We would speak of "before camp," "during camp," or "after camp."
The most highly decorated U.S. soldiers during World War II (WW II) were the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who using the phrase, "Go For Broke!" a Hawaiian expression, for many were from Hawaii. How ironic that they were joined by many mainland Japanese Americans, who volunteered for military service out of those camps.
Some people justify our incarceration as happening for our own protection. In reflection, this reasoning would be tacit admission of the racist climate. Why, then were the gun turrets pointed in towards the U.S. camp?
As WW II wound down, the people in the U.S. who had been removed from the West Coast were allowed to begin returning, even before the war ended. In Canada, however, the law banning us from the "protected area" along the coast was not lifted and we continued to be disallowed from returning for four more years. The war ended in 1945 but we could not return until 1949. An additional effort was made to maintain a "Keep Canada White" policy, and an attempt made to "repatriate" us to Japan. As one Canadian-born, it was galling to think I might be "repatriated" when Japan was not my "patria" as far as I was concerned. A public outcry stopped the action, but 1/6 of the population had already been sent.
When I write this I am reminded of refugees. When refugees are from an immediate nearby country we tend to be less interested and even intolerant towards them. When they come from farther away we tend to be more compassionate and caring of them. The question, "Who is my neighbor?" hits close to home, as well as far away.
I cannot remain silent any longer about present actions going on in our land. I am protesting the costly and unfruitful registration of people in these United States by the Department of Justice. I am protesting the racial profiling that is taking place again in our nation. I am protesting all the actions and innuendoes that keep occurring and mounting against people based on race. I am protesting the mounting deportations that are occurring and continue to be under-reported. I am protesting so that the promise of "Never Again!" will be kept in our nation, otherwise the redress and reparations we received was only insincere lip service to wrongful war-time treatment.
As a baptized Christian, I write these things. As a naturalized citizen of the USA and as a patriot (St. Paul admonishes us to be patriotic), I write these things. As a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, I write these things.
Let us continue to pray for peace, love and justice for everyone.
The Rev. Timothy Makoto Nakayama is an Episcopal priest who has served in pastoral work in urban and rural settings with different racial/ethnic communities in three countries. He was born and raised in Canada, ordained in the Diocese of Calgary, and then emigrated to Seattle. Tims ministry of over 40 years of social change includes regional community organizing, assisting in the formation of the national Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry, and welcoming refugees from around the world, especially Southeast Asians in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. He served as a missionary in Japan in the 1990s, and is now retired in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (Seattle, Washington). Tim may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org