George Takei: The most terrifying part of internment of Japanese-Americans for his family was being released
The Broadway musical Allegiance was inspired by the real-life story of George Takei’s family being among the Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps during World War II
Their lives were completely disrupted for four years as incarcerated American citizens. There were no charges, no due process. Takei’s parents were both born in California but because they were of Japanese descent, they and others were sent to the camps for ‘national security.’
It was a shameful chapter in US history and the suffering was not over once Takei’s family was released from the camp. He tells Towleroad about that next part of their life:
But when the war ended and we were released, we lost everything. They gave us a one-way ticket to wherever in the United States we wanted to go, plus $25 each. So when we came back to Los Angeles, our first home was on Skid Row. To both me and my siblings, a brother a year younger and a baby sister who wasn’t even a year old when we were taken to the internment camps — that’s all she knew, her whole life was shaped by the internment camp. So coming home, in quotes, was the most terrifying part of our growing up.
In fact, one day we were walking down the sidewalk, and this derelict came right toward us, staggering, and we were just petrified. We just stopped and froze, and then he collapsed right in front of us and barfed, and my baby sister screamed, “Mama, let’s go back home!” meaning go home behind barbed-wire fences, because that became home for us, and Skid Row was terrifying.
That really gave me an understanding of what internment meant — to be penniless and to be living like that. I saw how hard my parents worked their fingers to the bones to get back on their feet, and that was a life-shaping experience, coming home.