To succeed in the rounding up and incarceration of 120,000 people, it was necessary to mark Japanese Americans as visibly “other”. Thus, as war-time hysteria spread, explainer diagrams depicting perceived differences between Japanese and Chinese people were commonly referenced. Once ordered to incarceration camps, U.S. government registration tags made Japanese Americans hypervisible. In the present day, Japanese Americans are largely celebrated as “model minorities”, which is a label afforded in response to their perceived success following WWII incarceration, a label that was conveniently promoted to discredit the historical struggles of African Americans. This myth has benefitted systemic racism in the U.S. by strategically creating divisions among people of color. We firmly reject the idea of Asian Americans as a model minority.
It is therefore important to understand how our particular type of governance, a so-called democracy, has depended upon the oppression of people who have been identified as “others”. For Japanese Americans, it was the otherness of black hair and the shape of Eastern Asian eyes, a language foreign to the cadence and tone of American English speakers, and a cultural context that drew from Buddhist and Shinto traditions. Now, for Muslims, it is a hijab, a beard, or the tones of Arabic, the phrase inshallah (God willing). (See this article for commentary on Muslim identifiers, including a connection made between JA incarceration and Muslim registry.)
By donning these clothes we embody a political statement through the visual assertion that the proposed actions of the Trump administration build upon the injustices of a previous period of American “greatness.” Therefore, we understand calls for a Muslim registry to be intrinsically connected to--although not the same as--related injustices of deportations, mass incarceration, racial profiling, and continued efforts to dishonor the indigenous peoples on whose lands we now inhabit.