SAN JOSE — For older Japanese-Americans, the discrimination and attacks on Muslims and Sikhs are opening afresh an old wound that never healed.
To show support for Arab-Americans, the South Bay's Japanese-American community held a somber candlelight ceremony and procession at San Jose Buddhist Church on Sunday evening, linking diverse faiths through similar fears.
The "Day of Remembrance" is an annual commemoration of Feb. 19, 1942, a day that changed the lives of Japanese-Americans forever. Citing concerns about wartime sabotage and espionage, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an order that led to the internment of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry at 10 camps scattered across seven states.
But the gathering evoked memories of more recent horrors, such as the murder of the six worshipers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc., and the burning of a mosque in Joplin, Mo.
"We have common issues in terms of justice, equity and fair treatment under the Constitution," said Congressman Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who was interned in Colorado as a child.
There is no justification for racism or denial of civil liberties, not in 1942 and not in 2013, said Honda. He also urged the acceptance of Latinos, gays and lesbians and others suffering from discrimination.
No politician has called for en masse roundups of Arab-Americans. Unlike 1942, many leaders urge
But bias crimes against Muslims are growing a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The number of such instances annually, as tallied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had been falling steadily from nearly 500 in 2001 to 107 in 2009. Then, in 2010, the most recent year for which the FBI has data, the number leapt by 50 percent, to 160, according to The New York Times.
Hundreds of times since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sikhs have been the victims of bias crimes. Investigations found that perpetrators assumed that Sikh men were Taliban, because they wear turbans and have beards.
With such violence, as well as racial profiling, Japanese-Americans sought to share their wartime experiences to warn against history repeating itself.
"I stand, head high, with those who endured this hardship ... treated as disloyal based only on ethnicity and heritage," said Molly Kitajima, who was interned to a Canadian sugar farm. "I charge my descendents to raise loud voices."
"As Americans, we have a moral responsibility to defend our neighbors, our friends, our classmates and our community when they are the targets of discrimination," said Will Kaku of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee, which sponsored the event.
'Paved by suffering'
The mayor of East Palo Alto also participated, signing a proclamation in support of the symbolism of the day. "We call for continued justice and peace," said Ruben Abrica . "I encourage East Palo Alto to embrace the spirit of the day, and apply it in daily life."
To the beating of taiko drums, about 200 participants walked the dark streets of San Jose's Japantown, their diverse faces illuminated by candles.
Among them was Sara Jaka of the South Bay Islamic Association, who said: "Atrocities take place ... in the days following 9/11, with the deleterious effect of fear-mongering, perpetuated by our politicians."
"Let us stand up together and turn target into a turning point for our nation," said Simran Kaur of The Sikh Coalition.
The lessons of the day, this year dubbed "The Changing Face of America," are not just about events in the distant past, but wrongs that occur on a daily basis, participants agreed. As America becomes more diverse, they said, tolerance must grow.
"Change does not come easy," Kaku said. "Accompanying our demographic shift is an increased backlash of intolerance, xenophobia and even violence."
"The road to a better future," said Kaku, "has been paved by the suffering, pain and aspirations of earlier generations. "
Contact Lisa M. Krieger at 650-492-4098.