Explore the top countries of origin for immigrants in each state from 1850 to 2013.
2017 marks 75 years since the first Japanese Americans we forced into assembly centers and then to concentration camps throughout the United States.
Here in Western Washington American citizens and their parents were held at the Puyallup Fairgrounds– renamed Camp Harmony and then most were sent to Minidoka camp in Idaho. “Except in Portland, Pinedale, Sacramento, and Mayer, large fairground or racetracks were selected to minimize the need for building extra housing. At the racetracks, stables were cleaned out for use as living quarters. At the Portland Assembly Center over 3,800 evacuees were housed under one roof in a livestock pavilion subdivided into apartments.” (Densho Project Website)
Tanforan was a racetrack.
When we consider the events and the rhetoric of today’s electoral race, the importance of memorializing this tragic era of American history is not simply a message for those whose families share the direct legacy: It is for all the country to consider whether we will be complicit in this happening again, or not.
“The Asian-American voter pool is remarkably diverse, ranging from Pakistanis and Indians to Chinese and Koreans.” That is the ethnic breakdown in the state of Virginia in an article from the Wall Street Journal. In Washington State we would add the populations from the Pacific Islands as well. This means the diversity of the Asian and Pacific American voting public is as varied as any other groups. Outreach by both major political parties will need to contend with this diversity. To the list we can confidently add: Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Japanese, Thai, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Hawaiian, Fijian, Maori, Samoan, Tongan and a dozen other ethnicities.
The reality for political campaigns is that there is an assumption that if you reach one of these groups, you’ve reached them all. I very clear terms, that simply is not the effect.
In 2012, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans were a major factor in the elections; some have argued that we collectively were the most significant swing vote in that national and state-level elections.
Yet in the subsequent years, voter turnout in these populations dropped.
I pointed this out at the dinner table this past summer. I was happily surprised at how interested my kids were in the topic.
My daughter entered her fourth grade class with the expectation that she would learn everything she needed to know about voting, elections and the Constitution. We are several weeks into the school year and I am trying to manage her expectations a bit. What I am struck by, is that she is committed to this idea of voting. Participation in elections, for her, is as important as her own interests in sports, arts and music. In essence; being a voter is an important part of her identity. She was disappointed that the right to vote wouldn’t be hers until she turned 18, because as she stated, “I’m a citizen now.”
What this triggered was a series of questions of whether the American voter– in particular Asian and Pacific American voters– saw the right to vote as inherent to their identity.
- Does the right to vote coincide with the identity of being a citizen?
- How do our next generations see themselves within our political process?
- What is so important about voting?
Her words raise the question of sacrifice for, and even the responsibility to, a belief that America is a plural society. In front of the nation she and her husband recounted the painful loss of their son, Army Captain Humayun Khan who died during his military tour in Iraq. Mrs. Khan’s own legitimacy in mourning the loss of her son, and even being “allowed” to express her own opinions was challenged by a major party presidential candidate simply because she is of Muslim faith. Read her response to a major political party candidate here.
While not everyone who has sacrificed for this nation-building project called the United States of America served in the military, her words echo a larger call for the recognition of millions of contributions by everyday American people.
Students can be challenged to consider the notions of civic responsibility; of belonging to a country; citizenship; and of nationality versus ethnicity or religious beliefs.
In 1943, despite their incarceration in numerous concentration camps throughout America, 4,000 Japanese Americans
volunteered to fight in the war against the Axis powers. Compiled into a stunning graphic novel, 6 veterans’ stories take on a whole new life; trying to make sense of personal sacrifice, family honor and bravery. Here is an animated version of the Shiro Kashino story. The full graphic novel is available for sale and the corresponding curriculum guide can be found here.
The novel is appropriate for 5th graders and above, though teachers may use their discretion in presenting this material to 4th grade students.
The museum helps students explore the experiences of Japanese Americans during the war years by:
- Taking them on a historical walking tour of old Japantown (Nihonmachi); or
- An historical immersion into family life in 1936 Nihonmachi through character plays, object triggers and a young woman’s diary.
To schedule a tour or educational experience contact firstname.lastname@example.org.