I grew up in the small town of Tooele, Utah, near an army base that was used as one of the sites for the detainment of Prisoners of War during World War II. On a family vacation to Delta, Utah, my mother took me to tour the abandoned Japanese Interment campsites.
The wooden shacks and barbed wire fences looked exactly like the Jewish concentration camps I'd seen depicted in movies and history books, but here was a similarly abandoned prison in a tiny town in Utah, a stark reminder of our fatal mistakes caused by fear, mistrust and racism.
I asked the question any child would ask, "What did they do wrong, mom?"
My mom, wearing a red sleeveless top, white slacks and white Keds, fell to her knees and cried. I remember what she was wearing because the dirt covered her new pants. The isolation and grief of that place haunted me.
I am brought back to that memory of my mother, sobbing in the dirt when I read the terrifying racist reactions filling social and traditional media regarding Muslim Americans and the war on terrorism.
Franklin Roosevelt acted in what he believed was the best interest of his nation after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But, many of those locked up were American citizens. Some of those serving a sentence behind bars had children serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In the Journal Human Rights Quarterly, Allison Rentein argues virulent racism was partly responsible for the occurrence of one of America's worst civil liberty disasters. She says the confinement in the filthy and unlivable concentration camps led to the loss of Japanese property, the separation of families, and numerous deaths due to the condition of the camps.
My mother's grief over the actions of her government stuck with me. So does a quote by George Santayana, 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."