That’s what Japanese Americans declared as they fought for an apology and redress from the government for the mass incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II. That same feeling animated the speakers at a candlelight vigil in San Francisco’s Japantown just before Thanksgiving. One speaker declared that if the government were to create a registry for Muslims, she would sign up in solidarity. The crowd cheered for her, but when she asked if we would do the same, my conviction wavered.
When I was in college and learned about my grandparents’ detention, I grew angry that no one had stood up for them and that they had not stood up for themselves. But that night in the cold, as I thought of the crescendo of fear and hostility after Pearl Harbor, a feeling that seems to be growing now, I wasn’t so sure if I could have resisted.
What would it have been like to see an Executive Order nailed to telephone poles or to wait for soldiers going door-to-door with a list of our names? Did fighting seem like a possibility? I worried that my courage had left me, that I could not stomach my name on another registry.
As the vigil came to a close, I watched my children play, oblivious to the speakers or the moment. I knew that I must summon my bravery for them, but from where and from whom?
And then, I thought of the cast of ‘Hamilton’ requesting that Vice President-elect Pence work on behalf of all of us, or the protesters in North Dakota protecting their sacred land with their bodies, or Colin Kaepernick creating a “Know Your Rights” platform inspired by the Black Panther Party. Here are three:
You have the right to be free.
You have the right to be brilliant.
You have the right to be courageous.
I realized that fear had caused me to forget the power of our collective beliefs. I thought of those who fought for Redress and how they fought for a world that they wanted for me and that I now want for my children, a world that deserves and needs our courage.
With a Perspective, I’m Scott Hoshida.
Scott Hoshida is a 4th generation Japanese American, a novelist and member of the faculty of Berkeley City College.