Actor and activist George Takei denounced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. during an interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts on Dec. 8.
In one interview, Trump also spoke approvingly of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s handling of Japanese, German and Italian immigrants during World War II, but stopped short of endorsing internment camps. In another interview, Trump said that he didn’t know if he would have supported the internment or not: “I would have had to be there at the time to tell you, to give you a proper answer.”
Takei, who was interned with his family as a child, is currently starring in the Broadway musical “Allegiance,” which is about the Japanese American World War II experience. Following is his response to Trump:
“It’s ironic that he made that comment on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, the very event that put us in those internment camps.
“In the 1980s, Congress organized a commission to look into the reasons why that internment happened, and I did testify at one of those hearings. And they found that it was three things that brought that about. One was racial hysteria, second was war hysteria, and third was failure of political leadership.
“Donald Trump is a perfect example of that failure. It was because political leadership could not educate the hysteria that was sweeping across this country. ‘Get rid of the Japs’ was the most popular political issue at the time.
“They didn’t recognize the fact that two-thirds of us were American citizens. My mother was born in Sacramento. My father was a San Franciscan. We were children then, but we were born in Los Angeles. We were Americans. And yet they thought that we had an organic, genetic loyalty to the emperor.
“So we were all imprisoned, with no charges. It was the most unconstitutional act, and President Ronald Reagan in 1988 apologized for that and pledged a $20,000 redress — a token redress, but nevertheless America apologized for it.
“What Donald Trump is talking about is going to make his logo ‘America Disgraced Again.’ It’s all over again. We don’t know our history, and when we don’t know that, then we don’t learn the lessons from our history …
“Our musical, ‘Allegiance,’ is an uncannily timely production. It’s because we don’t know that history. The mayor of Roanoke, Va. (David Bowers) used that to justify the same kind of thing that Donald Trump is talking about, but he got even that information wrong. He said we ‘sequestered’ Japanese nationals. No, that wasn’t it. We were imprisoned, incarcerated in barbed-wire prison camps, concentration camps. And we were American citizens.
“So we don’t know our history and we are about to repeat it again with Donald Trump.”