We’ve been marching all year.
It started with the women’s march in January 2017 when an eye-popping 700,000 of us crowded into downtown LA and millions more filled the streets in cities across the nation. Since then there have been marches for science, marches to protest gun violence, marches to support immigrant rights.
Then in June, we learned the Trump administration was separating young children from their parents who were seeking entry into the United States. We saw videos of children in cages, wailing toddlers, subdued pre-teens sitting silently or walking in lines with their heads down. Demonstrations flared up in more than 600 cities in all 50 states where hundreds of thousands poured into the streets.
Two weeks later, we were still marching. Downtown LA again, this time from MacArthur Park.
I felt I had to join them because I am a Japanese-American seventy-something. In my family, we’ve had experience with “detention” during World War II. The long lasting effects of fear, anxiety and isolation has stayed with us for all of these seventy-something years.
My mother was just 16 when she and her family were forcibly removed from their home in Long Beach to the Santa Anita Racetrack and finally to a “Relocation Camp” in Jerome, Arkansas. She never talked about it, except to complain about the food they were given (balony and steamed rice) and how she had to give away the dog the family had somehow managed to sneak in.
But she gave up everything else. The life she had in California, including her friends, classmates, the kindly teachers. Upon release from Jerome, she met and married my father who was going to college in Chicago on the GI bill and when he graduated, they left the mainland for good. They raised me and my brothers in the insular Japanese community in Honolulu, where we were protected from overt racism.
And she refused to look back, drawing more and more inward as time passed.
I had a recurring nightmare as a child, where Mom and I were in a “camp,” standing in a long line. We were ordered to count off by fives…and we knew that every fifth person would be separated to a gas chamber. Mom was a number five. My nightmare consisted of frantic efforts to change places with her while she stood peaceful and stoic.
“Kodomo no tame ni.” It means “for the sake of the children,” and was the mantra of the immigrants from Japan who had to endure brutal racism, harsh labor conditions and economic deprivation. And we children reaped the benefits of their sacrifices.
So when I see families separated and isolated, when I see parents and children ripped apart by cold, calculating racism, I’m grateful for a chance to demonstrate and to chant and to lend what meager support I can.
For the sake of the children.