Friday, April 10, 2009

George Takei and the Japanese American Relocation Camps

Few actor's voices have as great affect on me than George Takei. Like Morgan Freeman's, his voice is calming and soothing. I could listen to this man read the dictionary. I wish I had a voice like this. It didn't surprise me to learn that he got his start in acting doing voice over. He is fluent in Japanese, English and Spanish so would do the dubbed voice over for many famous Hollywood actor's foreign releases. Like many Japanese actors of his era, he got his start in front of the camera in war films playing the enemy. You could imagine how excited he was when he landed his role as Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek TV series. Gene Rodenberry understood that a crew that represented the planet Earth should have more than just a Caucasian crew. He is more recently known as Kaito Nakamura on the NBC show Heroes.

When he was the age of five, Takei's family was notified that they (an American family) were to be escorted out of their homes to an interment camp for Japanese Americans. A few days later some uniformed men appeared at their door with guns and brought them to a truck that brought them from their Los Angeles home to the Rohwer War Relocation Center in south eastern Arkansas. Over a period of two years, close to 8,500 Americans of Japanese descent were kept in this camp. The Takei's were eventually moved to the Tule Lake Relocation Camp in Newell, CA. He lived in an interment camp until he was eight. Takei says of the experience that they were treated reasonably well but the fact that they were surround by guards with machine guns gave them all a sense of fear. They didn't know what was going to happen to them. When they were eventually released after the war, some had difficult recovering their valuables and property.

There are not many situations in American history that make me frustrated than stories of our fellow citizens were treated this way purely because of their ethnicity. Some of these families were here for a century, yet that didn't stop the government treating them all like traitors. German Americans were not treated this way. Some German Americans were thrown in jail, but only if they were confessed German nationals. In recent years, after seeing how some Middle Eastern Americans are treated, I can't say we have changed that much. FDR may be one of my favorite US Presidents, but this does seem like one of his gravest errors.

No comments: