“A Bold Act of Solidarity”

This is just the start of the article from The New York Times. But wanted to share this amazing story of what can truly be called a saintly act–the act of not abandoning those who are suffering.

Overlooked No More: Ralph Lazo, Who Voluntarily Lived in an Internment Camp
Jul. 3rd, 2019

About 115,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were incarcerated after Pearl Harbor, and Lazo, who was Mexican-American, joined them in a bold act of solidarity.

Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

When Ralph Lazo saw his Japanese-American friends being forced from their homes and into internment camps during World War II, he did something unexpected: He went with them.

In the spring of 1942, Lazo, a 17-year-old high school student in Los Angeles, boarded a train and headed to the Manzanar Relocation Center, one of 10 internment camps authorized to house Japanese-Americans under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor a few months earlier. The camps, tucked in barren regions of the United States, would incarcerate around 115,000 people living in the West from 1942 to 1946 — two-thirds of them United States citizens.

Unlike the other inmates, Lazo did not have to be there. A Mexican-American, he was the only known person to pretend to be Japanese so he could be willingly interned.

What compelled Lazo to give up his freedom for two and a half years — sleeping in tar-paper-covered barracks, using open latrines and showers and waiting on long lines for meals in mess halls, on grounds surrounded by barbed-wire fencing and watched by guards in towers? He wanted to be with his friends.

“My Japanese-American friends at high school were ordered to evacuate the West Coast, so I decided to go along with them,” Lazo told The Los Angeles Times in 1944.

By the time Lazo left Manzanar, his social consciousness had deepened and his outrage over the indignities suffered by Japanese-Americans had grown. It would define how he lived the rest of his life, as an activist who sought to improve education for underprivileged groups and push for reparations for Japanese-Americans who had been interned.

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