"Star Trek" actor George Takei slams mayor for using internment of Japanese-Americans to justify rejecting Syrian refugees.
Takei was 5 when he and his family were rounded up and sent to an internment camp.
One day, when he was 5 years old, actor George Takei’s parents woke him and his baby sister up very early in the morning. They hurriedly dressed them, and told them to wait in the living room.
“We were gazing out the front window and we saw American soldiers with bayonets on their rifle march up our driveway, two of them, stomp up the front porch and with their firsts banged on the front door,” Takei said, in an interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
“My father answered it, and literally at gunpoint, we were ordered out of our home,” he said.
That was Los Angeles in 1942. Takei’s family was taken from their home to the horse stables of a racetrack, where they were housed before the internment camps were built. The stalls were ripe with the scent of horse manure.
For a young boy, it was kind of fun to sleep where the horses slept.
“But for my parents, it was degrading. It was debasing, it was painful, and that was just the beginning of that whole experience,” said Takei.
Takei is known for playing Mr. Sulu on the original “Star Trek.” He is now on Broadway starring in “Allegiance,” a musical based on the internment camps.
The ugly chapter of U.S. history resurfaced this week, when the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, used the internment of Japanese-Americans to justify rejecting settlement of Syrian refugees.
“I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then,” Democratic Mayor David Bowers said in a statement Wednesday.
Takei responded on Facebook, where he has more than nine million followers.
“If you are attempting to compare the actual threat of harm from the 120,000 of us who were interned then to the Syrian situation now, the simple answer is this: There was no threat. We loved America. We were decent, honest, hard-working folks. Tens of thousands of lives were ruined, over nothing,” he wrote.
The internment happened because there “was lack of political leadership. Political leadership failed. And the same thing is happening now,” Takei told CNN. The actor said Bowers showed a “galling lack of compassion” for people fleeing terrorists.
Reps. Mark Takano and Mike Honda, both Democrats from California, also criticized the Roanoke mayor’s comparison.
“Can’t believe this needs clarifying, but the internment of Japanese-Americans (including my parents) was not a model policy,” Takano wrote on Twitter.
“I am outraged by reports of elected officials calling for Syrian Americans to be rounded up and interned,” wrote Honda, who was himself raised in an internment camp.
On Friday, Bowers retreated from his statement.
“I apologize to all those offended by my remarks,” Bowers said.
Mayors and governors do not have the authority to reject refugees, only the president has that power, Takei said.
“So they are just wind bags on that issue,” he said.