In the wake of the presidential election, George Takei took a magnanimous position and wrote an op-ed for the Daily Beast in which he asked those opposed to Donald Trump to avoid shunning people in their networks who do. “There is an understandable impulse to disengage, to ‘unfriend’ others on social media who disagree, to demonize whole groups as irredeemable racists and sexists,” wrote Takei. “Our answer must not be to shut them out as uncaring or bigoted, but to address their concerns, to win back their trust by restoring their hopes, to not turn our backs but to open our hearts.” But now, just three days later, he’s having to remind America why the internment of Japanese people during World War II was a really, really horrible idea, and not a precedent for why a Muslim registry would be a totally cool protocol with constitutional precedent that we could implement today. Takei spoke out because a Trump surrogate named Carl Higbie appeared on Fox News’s The Kelly File this week to invoke internment when making the case for Muslim registration, saying, “We’ve done it with Iran back a while ago. We did it during World War II with the Japanese,” and then adding, “The president needs to protect America first, and if that means having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry so we can understand — until we can identify the true threat and where it’s coming from, I support it.”
And now, The Hollywood Reporter has a statement from Takei reminding Higbie and everyone else that internment is a massive black mark on American history. “The Japanese-American internment was an egregious violation of our national values and principles, a terrible event for which Congress apologized in 1988,” said Takei. “To invoke that dark chapter as a precedent for any action against any minorities today is a morally bankrupt and dangerous step, completely out-of-bounds with contemporary notions of civil and human rights.”
It is more important than ever that the story of the internment be told and heard. We must remain vigilant and mindful of our past mistakes, so that history does not repeat itself. Trump’s rhetoric and plans to profile Muslims indicate that he has not learned the folly of the internment, nor the forces of fear and prejudice that propelled it.