Cartoon by Camille Bautista, published in The Los Angelas Loyolan, the student newspaper for Loyola Marymount University
What started out as a research project for a class turned into a labor of love for a group of people that I have come to greatly admire. I was taking a class on cultural rhetoric during my master’s studies, and was approached by a member of my cohort to collaborate on a project surrounding the Minidoka concentration camp (located in Hunt, Idaho) during World War II. I had always held a fascination for this oft-overlooked subject in Idaho’s history, so I readily agreed. As the research project progressed, I decided to search for any Minidoka Camp survivors that might be willing to be interviewed for our project. A quick Google search led me to a man that would change everything for me.
I emailed a gentleman in Seattle who had published numerous books and interviews about his family’s experiences while interned in Minidoka. The retired professor responded immediately and agreed to take part in our project. He was born in Minidoka and, while he may not have first-hand memories of his time in the camp, he bears the burden of the generational trauma that haunts him to this day. Our first interview with the professor was a pivotal moment in both my personal life and my academic career. This kind gentleman was willing to relive his family’s nightmare to educate two strangers with the explicit hope that sharing his story will help to ensure that this type of atrocity can never be perpetuated again. By the end of the interview, all three of us were in tears and I resolved to focus my studies on the rhetoric surrounding hate speech. Over time, my relationship with the professor bloomed. He stepped into the role as an advisor and a mentor and has supported me in my studies without ever being asked.
In March, I noticed a post on the professor’s social media about an incident that occurred while his wife was shopping at Pike’s Place Market. A homeless man had accosted her in the market and mistaken her for being of Chinese descent. In an act of prejudice, he spat hot coffee in her face and accused her “people” of causing the Covid-19 pandemic. My heart broke not only for my mentor and his wife, but for all the Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders experiencing violence due to bigotry and misinformation surrounding the pandemic. This pattern was familiar, and the professor’s worst fears were coming to fruition- similar things were starting to happen again.
I wanted to find a way to both help my friend and to cope with the anger, sadness, and helplessness that I felt every time a crime perpetuated against Asian-Americans was reported in the media. I noticed the correlation between the events of the past and current events and decided to take action by creating a pamphlet that outlined a brief history of Asian hate in America, provided statistics surrounding recent hate crimes against this community, and offered resources for those currently experiencing hate crimes in American due to Covid-19. My hope was that this document could be printed and distributed at Stop Asian Hate protests or to serve as an online resource for anyone needing help and support when facing anti-Asian hate in America today.
Download/view the pamphlet below and distribute widely (click image, and pdf will open on a new page).
Miranda Kuehmichel earned a B.A. in English Literature and is completing her M.A. in English Technical Communication at Boise State University. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Rhetoric. Miranda's current research surrounds Japanese-American concentration camps during WWII. She lives in Meridian, Idaho, with her daughter and their two dogs.