I’m submitting this as a diary rather than a comment because I want to draw attention to a particular moment in  moment in history that was examined in today’s WaPo: For Japanese Americans, the debate over what counts as a ‘concentration camp’ is familiar.

In 1998, there was an exhibit at Ellis Island titled “America’s Concentration Camps: Remembering the Japanese American Experience.” The head of the American Jewish Committee argued in a NYTimes op-ed that since WWII, “concentration camps” meant Nazi death camps, and any other use of the term diluted the horror of the Holocaust.

Ultimately, Jewish and Japanese American groups held meetings to reach an understanding, Schiffrin reported. The exhibit’s title stayed, but with one long footnote on the flier, making clear that it was not an attempt to directly compare the Japanese-American camps to Nazi camps.

It included a definition that both groups could accept: “A concentration camp is a place where people are imprisoned not because of any crimes they have committed, but simply because of who they are.” [emphasis added]

This definition describes exactly the detention centers where the Trump administration is holding people, many of them separated families, who crossed the border legally to ask for asylum. They are being confined in these concentration camps because Trump is a vile racist who is using the machinery of government to express his racism.

AOC might have chosen a different term — dog pound or holding pen — which would have given the GOP less an excuse to focus on her language and thus avoid dealing with the reality of what is being done in the name of our nation. However, in her doubling down, she is turning the narrative away from her and back to that horror. We need to repeat this as loudly as we can and drown out the voices of prejudice and accommodation.

  • June 20, 2019