Portrait by Ansel Adams, 1943
My mother told me to never talk about religion or politics in public. She said it is impolite, but I have to speak up. The woman in this picture is Nurse Aiko Hamaguchi. Look at her closely. Nurse Hamaguchi is the face of racial profiling.
Nurse Hamaguchi was born in Long Beach, California, and lived in Los Angeles and Redondo Beach. She completed two years at Los Angeles City College majoring in pre-nursing. She then completed her nursing education at Los Angeles General Hospital. Her ambition was to become a public health nurse. She told Ansel Adams, the famous photographer who took her picture, that she was interested in human beings. She enjoyed bridge, tennis, horseback riding, and reading. Then, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and sent from Los Angeles to Manzanar relocation center in northeastern California. Adams met Nurse Hamaguchi at Manzanor. She told him, “Only after evacuation have I come to realize the false sense of security I enjoyed prior to the war.” Eventually, thousands of Japanese Americans were forced into ten relocation centers in Califonia, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Arkansas.
Fast forward to the 21st Century. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he believes in racial and ethnic profiling. He’s not alone. A new Gallup World Religion Survey found that Muslims face more bias in the United States compared to other religions. According to the survey, Americans are more than twice as likely to express prejudice against Muslims than they are against Christians, Jews or Buddhists, and nearly two-thirds of Americans say they have little or no knowledge of Islam. Still, just like Sen. Inhofe, a majority of Americans dislike the Muslim faith. I understand why this is happening, but racial and ethnic profiling is morally wrong. It hurts innocent people, and it won’t keep us safe. U.S. Muslims who feel alienated are more vulnerable to radical ideas.
Nurse Hamaguchi was viewed as a potential terrorist in 1943. Look at her again. Her ghost haunts us. I hope our country can learn the lessons from the past.