This holiday season started with a sobering series of events. Terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Mali reminded us of the very real threat of violence from radical groups. The aftermath of those attacks, though, have also left me deeply saddened. It’s been nearly impossible to avoid the news of state governor after state governor saying that their doors are no longer open to Syrian refugees, with politicians and pundits chiming in to support these extreme measures. As many of you likely heard, a Virginia mayor even went so far as to suggest that FDR set a positive precedent in his mass incarceration of U.S. citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry.
What’s deeply troubling about all of this is that the language used to justify the exclusion of Syrian refugees sounds strikingly familiar to the language used to cast all people of Japanese ancestry as “the enemy” in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Yes, the scenarios are quite different: Syrians are seeking to come here after being driven from their homes by war, while the majority of those targeted during WWII were already American citizens. Even so, the similarities should trouble all of us who said we’d never let anything like mass incarceration happen again because here we find ourselves in a climate in which people are being persecuted and profiled based solely on their nationality, religion, and race.
If the events of the past few weeks show us anything, it’s that we have a lot more work to make sure the injustices we suffered in the past aren’t inflicted upon another group. Now, more than ever, we need your support to make sure that we can continue to document the incarceration experience, share that story widely, extend our educational outreach, and respond to current events quickly with messages that call attention to the pitfalls of resorting to fear and xenophobia in times of crisis.
There is no better time to support our efforts than now. Today is Giving Tuesday and we’re in the midst of our Winter Appeal, with some attractive incentives available in exchange for your donation. If you value what we do but haven’t yet made a donation, I ask that you please do so now. Thank you, as always, for your support.
I wish you peace and time with those you love this holiday.