During World War II, the United States government forcibly and unjustly incarcerated more than 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans without due process. Half of them were children.
In this short film by Frank Chi, produced for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, young Muslim Americans read letters written by Japanese Americans while incarcerated in camps during World War II.
Although these two groups are separated by generations, it's a powerful reminder of the parallels -- of prejudice, persecution and perseverance -- between these two communities, and our tenuous relationship with the past, which is constantly on the brink of only a few simple, dark turns from repeating itself.
Chi says he centered the piece on children, because "when hate overtakes our debates, it’s children who suffer the most. It's when they’re taught at an early age that the American promise might not include them."
The film closes with Louise Ogawa's letter, who was 11 years old when she wrote: "We all know that there are people all over the world who hate certain races and just can't help it. But I'm sure when this war is over, there will be no racial discrimination, and we won't have to doubt for a minute the great principles of democracy."
Are we any closer to young Louise's hopeful vision of the future?
The film will be on display at Smithsonian's upcoming exhibit, "Crosslines: a culture lab on intersectionality," on May 28 and 29 at the Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building in Washington.
More here: I filmed Japanese-American internees reading letters to Muslim kids. Here’s why.