“THEN THEY CAME FOR ME”

A dark moment in America’s history re-visited by New York’s senior senator. Chuck Schumer is here with his reaction to the International Center of Photography’s exhibition about Japanese internment camps here in the U.S. He’ll explain why he feels the exhibition is particularly timely.

Aired on January 29, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> THERE'S A NOW-FAMOUS POEM WRITTEN JUST BEFORE WORLD WAR II BY MARTIN NEMUELLER WHO BECAME A CRITIC OF HITLER.

IT READS, FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALIST AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT BECAUSE I WAS NOT A SOCIALIST.

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE TRADE UNIONIST AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT BECAUSE I WAS NOT A TRADE UNIONIST.

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE JEWS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT BECAUSE I WAS NOT A JEW.

THEN THEY CAME FOR ME, AND THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO SPEAK FOR ME.

CHILLING WORDS AS CLOUDS OF FASCISM FORMED OVER EUROPE AND HAS SEEN GERMANY EMBARKING ON CONSTRUCTION OF CONCENTRATION MANY CAMPS WHERE NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF EUROPE'S JEWS WERE MURDERED.

HERE IN AMERICA CONCENTRATION CAMPS WERE ALSO CONSTRUCTED.

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERNED JAPANESE AMERICAN RESIDENTS.

THIS WAS ONE OF AMERICA'S DARKEST AND MOST SHAMEFUL MOMENTS.

THERE WILL BE AN EXHIBITION ENTITLED 'THEN THEY CAME FOR ME'. 'METROFOCUS' CONTRIBUTOR CAUGHT UP WITH A VERY SPECIAL GUEST, SENATE MINORITY LEADER, CHUCK SCHUMER.

WE'RE TALKING TO CHUCK SCHUMER, THE SENATOR HAS JUST TOURED WITH A GROUP OF PEOPLE HERE AT THE ICP MUSEUM.

THIS EXHIBIT 'THEN THEY CAME FOR ME', INCARCERATION OF JAPANESE-AMERICANS DURING WORLD WAR II.

YOU SAW THIS FIRST F CHIN CHICA THIS EXHIBIT.

WHY DID THIS MOVE YOU.

FIRST, THESE ARE FINE PEOPLE, IMMIGRANTS.

CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS.

THEY LOOKED A LITTLE DIFFERENT, HAD DIFFERENT LAST NAMES, BUT THEY'RE AS AMERICAN AS ANY OF US.

AND YET OUT OF A DARK PART OF HISTORY, WE TOOK THEM OUT OF THEIR JOBS AND HOMES AND LIVELIHOODS AND PUT THEM IN CAMPS, AND THE PICTURES ARE SO MOVING.

TO USE THE CLICHE, A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS.

YOU CAN READ ABOUT IT, BUT SEEING THESE YOUNG PEOPLE,

I SAW YOU PAYING ATTENTION ON THAT TRAIN.

BECAUSE IT'S ALL THESE PEOPLE BEING PUT IN CARS, RAILROAD CARS TO BE MOVED TO CAMPS.

IT JUST BRINGS HOME WHAT WE WERE DOING.

AND, YOU KNOW, WITH WHAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW WITH THE D.R.E.A.M.ers AND WITH IMMIGRATION AND THAT CERTAIN WING OF POLITICIANS LED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP TEND TO WANT TO MAKE IMMIGRANTS SCAPEGOATS, THAT'S A DARK, DARK SIDE OF AMERICA THAT WHEN YOU SEE PICTURES LIKE THIS, IT MAKES YOU WANT TO FIGHT IT WITH EVERY ATOM OF YOUR BEING.

AND THAT'S HOW I FEEL.

TO PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE.

WE'RE TALKING ABOUT 120 AMERICANS.

THOUSAND.

THANK YOU, SENATOR, 120,000 JAPANESE AMERICANS TAKEN FROM THEIR HOMES AND BUSINESSES.

AND WHEN THEY CAME BACK, WHAT WAS THERE FOR THEM?

BY THE WAY, AFTER PEARL HARBOR, THIS IS WHEN IT STARTED.

AFTER IT WAS OVER, WHAT WAS THERE?

THIS JOBS WERE HOME,GONE.

AND THEY CAME BACK AND BECAME GOOD AMERICANS ONCE AGAIN.

AND WHEN YOU READ ABOUT THEM AND TALK TO THEM, SOME ARE BITTER, BUT MOST HAVE JUST MOVED FORWARD WITH THEIR LIVES, GLAD TO BE PART OF AMERICA ONCE AGAIN.

SO SENATOR, FOR THOSE WHO SAY IT'S FOR NATIONAL SECURITY.

THAT'S WHAT WE DID THEN IN THE '40S, AND WE NEED TO DO NOW WITH A DIFFERENT GROUP OF PEOPLE.

MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT.

IN BOTH CASES AND TECHNPARTICUL NOW.

THAT'S A TOTAL EXCUSE.

THE D.R.E.A.M.ers AND THE IMMIGRANTS THAT WE HAVE IN AMERICA ARE BY AND LARGE SOME OF THE FINEST PEOPLE THAT WE HAVE.

THEY WORK HARD.

THEY JUST WANT TO BE PART OF THE AMERICAN DREAM AND THAT'S WHAT'S MADE AMERICA GREAT, WHETHER IT WAS IN THE '40s OR TODAY OR WAY BACK WHEN, YOU KNOW, 1892 WHETWHEN MY ANCESTORS CAME HERE.

MY MIDDLE NAME IS ELLIS, NAMED AFTER ELLIS ISLAND.

MY DAUGHTER'S MIDDLE NAME IS FROM THE POET ON THE STATUE OF LIBERTY.

WHAT THEY'RE DOING NOW IS JUST SO, SO UN-AMERICAN.

IT CURDLES YOUR STOMACH.

THERE'S A LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE GATHERED AT THE ICP MUSEUM AND THESE PHOTOGRAPHS, YOU'LL SEE IT THROUGHOUT THE SEGMENT WE'RE DOING HERE.

THEY'RE EXTRAORDINARY.

SOME GREAT ARTISTS, GREAT PHOTOGRAPHERS.

WELL, THERE'S AN ARTIST NAMED MR. MIYATAKA.

HE'S A PHOTOGRAPHER.

THEY DIDN'T ALLOW PICTURES IN THE CAMP.

THEY WERE ASHAMED.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT YOU MEAN.

THAT'S CORRECT.

BUT HE TOOK THOSE PICTURES, AND A GOOD NUMBER OF THEM ARE HERE.

SOME BY ANSEL ADAMS AND OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT BUT THE MEANING IS DEEPER THAN THAT.

BY THE WAY, FOR OUR PUBLIC TELEVISION AUDIENCE AND OTHERS WATCHING THIS INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR SCHUMER WHO ARE GETTING A SENSE OF THESE PICTURES, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON THAT YOU AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, SENATOR, BECAUSE YOU ALREADY GOT THE LESSON, THAT OTHER AMERICANS WHO MAY NOT EVEN SEE THIS EXHIBIT BUT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT, WHAT SHOULD THEY TAKE AWAY FROM THIS?

WHAT THEY SHOULD TAKE AWAY IS NUMBER ONE HOW IMPORTANT WE ARE AS A MELTING POT.

PEOPLE OF ALL DIFFERENT BACKGROUND, ALL DIFFERENT PLACES, RELIGIONS, RACES, CREEDS, COLORS, COME TO AMERICA AND WANT TO BE AMERICANS AND ARE GREAT AMERICANS.

SECOND, THAT WHEN PEOPLE USE THEM AS SCAPEGOATS, AS POLITICAL FOOTBALLS, WE HAVE TO FIGHT BACK AND FIGHT BACK AND FIGHT BACK.

BECAUSE AMERICA CAN, WE ARE STILL A COUNTRY WHERE IF YOU FIGHT BACK AND APPEAL TO THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE,QUE SUCCEED.

SO FINALLY, SENATOR, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US, AND THE SENATOR WILL BE JOINING MY COLLEAGUE, RAFAEL IN ANOTHER SEGMENT IN THE GATEWAY TUNNEL AND THE DRAMA GOING ON IN WASHINGTON.

BUT THE FINAL QUESTION IS THIS, FOR THOSE AMERICANS WHO SAY WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR COUNTRY FROM QUOTE, THEM.

THEM IS US.

THOSE PEOPLE ARE US, WHETHER IT'S IRISH IMMIGRANTS DISCRIMINATED AGAINST,

ITALIANS.

ITALIANS OR JEWS OR POLES.

HISPANICS NOW, ASIANS NOW.

AMERICA WINS WHEN WE ARE UNITED, WHEN WE WELCOME PEOPLE.

YOU KNOW EVERY IMMIGRANT IS SPECIAL.

COULD HAVE HAD NO MONEY, NO EDUCATION, BUT THEY HAD THE GUMPTION, THE DESIRE TO SAY I WANT TO MAKE A BETTER LIFE OF AND THAT'S A RISK SOMETIMES, CROSSING DESERTS OR OCEANS.

I AM GOING TO SETTLE IN A WHOLE NEW COUNTRY, BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE A BETTER LIFE FOR ME AND MY CHILDREN.

EVERY IMMIGRANT'S SPECIAL.

IN FACT, 'THEN THEY CAME FOR ME' IS SO APPROPRIATE GIVEN WHAT SENATOR SCHUMER JUST SAID.

I WANT TO THANK YOU AND THE CROWD THAT HAS GATHERED HERE AT THE ICP MUSEUM.

[ APPLAUSE ]

YOU TELL THEM WHERE IT IS?

I WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE KNOWS.

SO YOU CAN COME.

250 BARRY NEW YORK, LOWER MANHATTAN.

IT IS AN EXTRAORDINARY EXHIBIT.

SO THRILLING THAT IT'S HERE IN NEW YORK.

THANK EVERYONE HERE AS WELL.

[ APPLAUSE ]

THANK YOU, EVERYBODY.

THANK YOU, STEVE.

AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO HOSTING SENATOR SCHUMER HERE AT 'METROFOCUS' IN THE COMING WEEKS.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019