When 80-year-old Jim Matsuoka hears about the recent wave of hate crimes against Muslim-Americans, it feels deeply personal. As one of 120,000 people incarcerated by the U.S. government during World War II because they were of Japanese descent, and suspected of disloyalty even though most, like Matsuoka, were citizens.
Fast forward seventy-five years and for Matsuoka, he is concerned that Muslim-Americans are facing the same type of xenophobia and discrimination. “A lot of people think we’ve changed a lot but as far as I’m concerned there was racism then, and there’s racism now,” Matsuoka said.
On Wednesday night, Matsuoka drove from his West Covina home to show solidarity with Muslim-Americans and other immigrants at a vigil in Little Tokyo that was followed by a march. Nearly 200 people participated in the ceremony which was timed with the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, after which the U.S. started building internment camps. “Looking toward the future as Japanese-Americans, I hope we can pledge that this will not happen again no matter who that group of people is,” said Sean Miura, who co-emceed the vigil in the plaza of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.—Agencies