By Korematsu Institute
Here’s the audio clip and text of Khurshid Khoja’s moving speech on Feb. 21, at the Bay Area Day of Remembrance. Khurshid is an attorney at Reed, Smith LLP, and a board member of the Asian Law Caucus and Asian American Bar Association. Full text posted with permission from the author:
As-Salaam Alaikum. Peace be upon you, brothers and sisters. I am grateful to be here speaking to you on this Day of Remembrance.
Grateful, because I am surrounded by fellow Americans who suffered greatly and sacrificed much but refused to write-off the highest ideals of our Constitution as a myth, and struggled to make them a reality, not just for themselves, but for future generations of Americans to come.
Grateful, because we live in an era of national amnesia, a forgetting which permits our liberties to be traded cheaply in times of fear, a forgetting which empties the word “America” of all its meaning, and turns it from an ideal to just a place where WE live and THEY do not belong, a forgetting which makes folks confuse national shame for national pride, and a forgetting which allows myth to replace reality.
For the Issei and the Nisei, it was the myth of military necessity, a thin veneer for the racism and war hysteria of the masses in the Western states, which lead up to February 19th, 1942 and the shameful national history that followed.
Despite repeated findings at the highest levels of government that Japanese-American citizens and residents were loyal Americans, the myth of military necessity recast the Issei and Nissei as potential saboteurs, recast their American hometowns into theatres of war, and obliterated the reality that they too were attacked at Pearl Harbor.
For your fellow Americans in the Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities since 9-11, it is the myth of Homeland Security. Better than any other community of Americans, YOU know that America is OUR homeland too, that we love it and will defend it against all enemies, that it doesn’t need to be defended from us, and that there is no genuine “security” in our homeland while we fear to exercise the rights of citizens and residents of these United States.
It is Remembrance that allows lived experience to shatter myth and transform reality. It is Remembrance, by this community in particular, that is the antidote to the amnesia affecting the rest of our body politic.
Since 9-11, it has been that Remembrance that has helped to replace despair with hope in Muslim, South Asian and Middle Eastern communities, and has provided the comfort that we are not alone, that YOU are here with US.
When our government began indiscriminately rounding up and detaining Muslim, South Asian and Middle Eastern immigrant men for “special registration” in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, it was a Remembrance of the baseless round-ups and detentions in the dark days immediately following Pearl Harbor that brought the Nissei to the special registration sites in defense of their fellow man.
Today, even as I speak to you here, our FBI is engaged in “undisclosed participation” otherwise known as infiltration of Muslim-American houses of worship and civic groups.
By its own admission, federal law-enforcement is actively mapping Muslim, South Asian and Middle Eastern communities across this great land. These facts are now in the public record, disclosed in heavily redacted copies of the DOJ’s Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines or DIOGs.
I wish I could provide at least some cold comfort that these DIOGs were instituted during the hysteria that followed immediately after 9-11, and have since been rescinded. I cannot. These DIOGs became effective in 2008, despite numerous and repeated findings since 9-11 that Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities are loyal and law-abiding.
Were it such that we thought our government’s actions were unprecedented, the despair could easily overwhelm us, and the myths underlying the DIOGs would allow the narrative of Homeland Security to dominate and subsume all truth.
However, we know, and we Remember today, that this is not new. Thus we are armed by this Remembrance with the courage to fight for the truth, to fight for our Constitution, to fight for our American-ness, and to fight for our humanity.
Indeed, this Remembrance is an act of resistance to tyranny and a blow to demagoguery.
This Remembrance today is among the highest acts of patriotism we can aspire to.
Thank you for your Remembrance. We will never forget.
(The radio clip, from KPFA, also includes other great stories from Assembly member Warren Furutani, author Victoria Law, ALC staff attorney Veena Dubal, ALC Communications director Peter Swing, and legendary activist Yuri Kochiyama)