Exclusion: The Presidio’s Role in World War II Japanese American Incarceration invites visitors to contemplate what can be learned from the historic events that helps us contend with present-day issues, namely mass incarceration, immigration reform, and racial profiling. In the exhibition, visitors learn how some Americans spoke out in opposition to the incarceration of Japanese Americans, but most remained silent, allowing the voices and actions of those who fueled fear and hysteria to dominate. “Your Voice Matters” stations throughout the exhibition provide a forum for visitors to engage in dialogue about parallel contemporary social issues. Each station includes prompts that examine non-partisan issues of civic engagement in democratic society, including:
Tension between national security and civil liberties remains today. The government must balance these two opposing needs. What circumstances (for example, war) affect the balance? Who and what do you expect your leaders to safeguard regardless of the circumstances?
Exercising your freedom of speech is an act of patriotism. Dissent, resistance, and civil disobedience have a long history in American culture. Challenging the decisions elected leaders make is part of our democratic republic. What decisions have you challenged, and how?
Democracies are dependent on an informed citizenry. We are constantly inundated by information. And we make decisions based on that data that affect our fellow Americans. How do you form your opinions? How do you make decisions about complex issues?
More than 20,000 people have visited the exhibition since it opened on April 1, 2017. Visitor reflections represent a broad range of tone and topics. Here are some selections:
"My grandfather was interned at Manzanar, and through his experience he never stopped fighting for his rights and was a big social justice advocate. Finding his name on the wall behind me made me feel a responsibility to others who don't have a voice, and to stand up and make my voice heard."
"I think it's
so important for the younger generations to learn about controversial topics that have been denied for so long. I am 16 years old and I've only just learned about this subject this year in AP US History."
"I hope this exhibit bears witness to what fear can degenerate into. Let’s not allow this to happen again, i.e. the current hysteria against Muslim-Americans."
"We need more exhibitions like this all over our world to show history and make our future a better place. I hope it isn't ignorant of me to aspire for every person to have their freedom one day." – London, UK
"We have to speak for what we believe or nothing will happen; this exhibit reminds me that I have a voice."
"I come away from this exhibition moved and enlightened. The boutique-size allows for a comprehensive review of the stations. I leave knowing facts and have images burned in my mind -- history has taken hold! Many thanks!"
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