Today is the anniversary of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt, requiring the internment of all Japanese American citizens after Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan in 1942.
One night, policemen knocked on my family's door in San Francisco and took my great-grandfather without any explanation. For weeks, there was no word of where he was or how he was doing. In the meantime, the rest of the family was notified by flyers tacked to street signs and store windows that they would be relocated to various fenced compounds. They had been deemed a threat, despite their citizen status, to America. Along with 110,000 others, my family spent over three years behind barbed wire fences until the end of World War II.
A few days ago, the NPR program Storycorps interviewed a Japanese American couple, Roy and Aiko Ebihara ,who were held in another camp in Utah. After decades of keeping the story of their experience quiet, they decided that in light of the President's recent movement towards racist policies, to tell their story. "We maintained that silence of our parents... And we regret it very much. Now I just want to accept that pride of who we are."
Japanese Americans of that generation are culturally very reticent; my grandmother was always very quiet about her experience and would answer questions when I asked, but wasn't comfortable with sharing many details publically. History books mention this episode of blatant American racism, but I've never felt it was given the focus it deserves.
As I've been watching, marching in, and drawing the various protests of the past month, I think about how my grandmother would have felt about this point in our country's history. She passed away a few years ago, but I believe she would have seen what I do: America is once again faced with the opportunity to give in to fear and step backwards, or bravely continue to sort out the newest complications of what American democracy means.
The world is such a different place now than in the 40s, and there are so many ways to share stories now. The information sharing and global awareness made possible through technology wasn't possible in my grandmother's time; it was easier for voices to be quieted. When Trump took office, discontent quickly rose to a boiling point around the world. "Resist" has become the unifying battle cry for the surge of activism since Inauguration Day, a short hand for all things deemed racist/unequal/environmentally irresponsible. With the ability to connect causes, to recognize the similarities in our struggles, the collective resistance to injustice can be stronger. The recent Immigration ban and other efforts to legalize racism are meeting opposition on the streets and in government, and the movement is only growing. As I look at drawings from various protests over the past month, I see a resistance that is fierce, powerful, and listening very closely to the messages -- like my family's illegal detainment -- of the past.
To see more artists' drawings protests around the country, please visit: @artistsfordemocracy .