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George Takei Talks About Japanese Internment

 
 
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 06:20 pm
George Takei was 5 years old when he and his family were "relocated" to internment camps. He shared his memories of growing up in the camps with NPR.

link

Having grown up with stories of my own family in the camps, hearing him talk about his own parent's reluctance and shame to talk about the experience is familiar and hits a wound close to home. None the less, I think it's very important that these stories survive and are told.

Takei is a very noteworthy Asian American actor, and I find myself reflecting on the media portrayal of Asians a lot. When I listen to this, I have to say that Takei's role on Star Trek is far more bold than I had thought. He spoke without an accent, and was an executive member of the crew who was trusted to make many decisions. His character was one that had a variety of intellectual interests, and was very gregarious.

In many ways, I feel we may have less to show for the Asian community in modern media. I can think of few male characters who exist outside of violent action roles, or are put in the background of a lab scene. Few men are ever shown in interracial couples. For women, it's the hyper fetishistic roles that get screen time.

I often wonder if the "model minority" cultural acclimation of Asians is largely due to a generation having to humiliate themselves to prove their worth, identity, and status as citizens. My father doesn't sspeak a single word of Japanese. My grandparents didn't want him to stand out and be bullied any more than would already be. That's a cultural loss, and for little. My father would still be bullied every year on Dec 6th. He told me about how after the war, on a road trip, my Grandfather was arrested in every town they stopped for gas in. Two generations beat into submission, and then called the "model minority."

It makes me sick.

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Type: Discussion • Score: 6 • Views: 2,658 • Replies: 9
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Butrflynet
 
  0  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 07:15 pm
@failures art,
Quote:
He told me about how after the war, on a road trip, my Grandfather was arrested in every town they stopped for gas in. Two generations beat into submission, and then called the "model minority."


It is still happening today...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-ap-us-soldiersdeathinv,0,2209122.story
Quote:

8 US soldiers charged in death of bullied comrade

By CHRIS HAWLEY Associated Press

2:45 p.m. CST, December 21, 2011
NEW YORK—
Even before the Army sent him to Afghanistan, supporters say, Pvt. Daniel Chen was fighting a personal war.

Fellow soldiers at a base in Georgia teased him about his Chinese name, crying out "Chen!" in an exaggerated Asian accent. They called him "Jackie Chen," a reference to the Hollywood action star Jackie Chan. People would ask him repeatedly if he was Chinese, even though he was a native New Yorker.

At one point Chen wrote in his diary that he was running out of jokes to respond with.

Then he was sent overseas, and the hazing began: Soldiers dragged him across a floor, pelted him with stones and forced him to hold liquid in his mouth while hanging upside down, according to diary entries and other accounts cited by a community activist.

On Oct. 3, the 19-year-old Chen was found dead in a guardhouse in Afghanistan with what the Army said was apparently a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
...
Activists said Chen's case has highlighted the military's poor treatment of Asian-Americans, who remain a tiny percentage of new recruits even as the percentage of blacks, Hispanics, women and other groups has grown.
...
Butrflynet
 
  0  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 07:19 pm
BBB has written previously about a childhood friend of hers and their family's experience with the internment camps.
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thack45
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 07:43 pm
@failures art,
I've been wondering for some time why there has been no outrage about the overt racism toward Asians and Asian-Americans in America. My best guess was that, as far as the national mood was concerned, the market on racism was pretty well cornered. And so they found other ways to pass their time.
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hingehead
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 08:29 pm
@failures art,
George is a legend. His facebook page is a hoot.

My favourite 'Asian' TV character is Cho on the Mentalist.

I'm not aware of it being as bad here as over there - of course there is racism and dickheads, and among the aging a fair deal of 'unforgivingness' for WWII actions. But our economic ties (and our tourism) have been so tied up with East Asia for so long that I think the european part of us is just about over it.

A big influx of vietnamese in the 70s helped us get used to epicanthic folds and straight black hair I guess - the otherness lessened I guess.

And we have a very well respected lesbian mother finance minister (yay Penny Wong!) There aren't many Asian faces in local drama, but some in the media (Lawrence Leung, Lee Lin Chin, Annette Shun Wah, Caroline Tranh). In Cairns there's a huge Hmong community. And every Thai restaurant is run by an Australian husband and his Thai wife.

We've had a chinese influence since the 1800s courtesy of the gold rush (like the US). I have two co-workers with Chinese ancestry (but they had to tell me).

That said our internment camps held over 30 nationalities mostly (in order) Germans, Italians and Japanese (lots civilians from Java) - and we were so smart that we interned refugees from Nazi Germany with Nazis. All the Japanese (even Australian born) were repatriated to Japan in 1946.

Which kind of explains why I can't find any first hand accounts of being a Japanese ex-internee in post war Australia. We are a historically racist nation.

MonaLeeza
 
  2  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 09:03 pm
@failures art,
There's a beautiful book called 'The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942 - 1946' by Delphine Hirasuna. Definitely worth a look.
0 Replies
 
failures art
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 10:56 pm
In popular media it's also okay to let Asian characters be played by white actors. The most recent case being the Avatar: The Last Air Bender. The cast was "yellowfaced" and their ethnicity was casually overlooked. Takei also was a major voice in the halt of the live action film adaptation of the graphic novel Akira. The new movie would have no longer been set in Neo-Tokyo, but in Neo-York with an all white cast. Takei called it a white washing.

Similar Hollywood norms are to take mixed race actors and simply ignore they are in any way Asian.

Justin Long
Keanu Reeves
Dean Kane
Mark-Paul Gosselaar

The message seems to be that the more you can pass as white (or hide that you are Asian), the more successful/appealing you can be.

In a strange coincidence, I think one of the most stand out Asian American actors today is John Cho. Cho was the actor chosen to play Sulu in the most recent Star Trek adaptation by J.J. Abrams.

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failures art
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 10:58 pm
@Butrflynet,
That story is awful. I used to have people come up to me and say something like:

"Ting chong ding dong sing song... Yo, what did I just say?"

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JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Feb, 2012 04:27 pm
@failures art,
Quote:
"Ting chong ding dong sing song... Yo, what did I just say?"


And what did you say, Art, "Ting chong ding dong sing song"?
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Feb, 2012 04:28 pm
@hingehead,
Quote:
All the Japanese (even Australian born) were repatriated to Japan in 1946.


Was the Aussie government ever sued for those actions, HH?
0 Replies
 
 

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