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Entries in Refugees (1)

Saturday
Dec122015

The Mystery Girl. Thoughts on race, fear, and religious freedom

The photo is by the great Dorothea Lange. Her Internment images were impounded by the US government. Most of these images ended up in the US archives, but weren't published until 2006. Lange died in 1965.In the front of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet there's a photo of a Japanese American girl. She was born in the US, but sent to an internment camp along with her family because they looked like the enemy. 

Now certain politicians are dismissing this injustice. They're vague-tweeting the idea that for the safety of all, perhaps we should be comfortable trampling on the rights of a few.

Do they REALLY believe this? I doubt it. It's political shorthand. It's reductive reasoning, designed to turn complex racial and sociological algebra into 1+1 = vote for me. 

And while I'd like to think we're all smarter than that, we're also stuck with a 24-hour news Kraken that feeds on fear. That hectoring makes us wary of Muslim Americans. Or Sikhs. Or merely brown people with beards. And makes the idea of registering people because of their religious affiliation seem "reasonable" and "prudent."

That's disheartening, because not only do I have Muslim friends, but also my books have been translated into Arabic. 

It's confounding too, because if I were invited to Saudi Arabia for book events, I'd hesitate. Not out of fear, but because I wouldn't be able to keep my big mouth shut with regards to Wahhabism and women's rights. (I have four daughters and when they graduated from high school I suggested Pomp & Circumstance be ditched in favor of Ride of the Valkyries, so yeah, I'm biased too).

But...back to the Mystery Girl.

She's not a mystery to me, because I've had the pleasure of meeting her. I've enjoyed dinner with her family. Her name is Mae Yanagi and she's as American as can be. 

Like my ancestors and yours, her family came to the US to become part of something better. Not to infiltrate.

Think of this little girl the next time a politician suggests we begin registering people -- because freedom shouldn't be a mystery.