Contemporary Islamophobia—including politicians’ calls for increased policing of Muslim communities, as if Muslim faith automatically makes someone a possible terrorist—looks a lot like American government and society’s treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. A new video, featuring Muslim-American youth standing alongside Japanese-American internment camp survivors while reading letters written by internees, makes that connection explicit.
“Of course, we know that good friends like you would be glad to have us back,” reads one hijab-wearing girl, standing beside a seated, stoic camp survivor. “But others who do not know us or understand us may not be glad to see us.” The “you” in the aformentioned excerpt is Clara Breed, a White American librarian whose correspondence with interned children provides insight into a generation of Japanese-Americans that the wartime government treated as enemy combatants. “Letters From Camp,” which you can see below, pairs several youth and camp survivors as they read excerpts from letters to Breed.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center released “Letters From Camp,” directed by filmmaker Frank Chi, in anticipation of its upcoming free event, “CrossLines: A Culture Lab On Intersectionality.” CrossLines will feature more than 40 artists and scholars across disciplines for what the organization describes as ”a creative convening of artworks, performances and dialogues that explore identities in intersection.”
Check out “Letters From Camp” below.