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Unique ExperienceI am Carmen Emanuels, a 92 years old Dutch survivor of multiple Japanese-run internment camps during their occupation of the Dutch Indies in WWII. AMA!

Feb 21st 2017 by blikk • 11 Questions • 4439 Points

Hello everyone! I’m Fabio Rojas, Sociologist and Professor at Indiana University Bloomington.

I’m the author of “From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

In honor of Black History Month, I thought it would be fun to visit Reddit for a conversation on this topic, on the history of the civil rights movement more broadly, and how these play into the social change we are seeing today.

Ask me anything!

EDIT: I’m going to wrap up the AMA for now. Thanks to everyone who participated—the questions were great! I may check back a bit later today and answer a few more questions if any new ones have trickled in. And thanks to Learn Liberty as well for arranging the AMA. If you’re interested in learning more about my work relating to the civil rights movement, I would invite you to check out the episode of Learn Liberty Live that I recently did with them. You can see their other videos at /r/learnliberty.

Q:

You look amazing for 92! I know very little about the Japanese-run Dutch camps. What was your experience like?

A:

Hey Frank,

I just found out yesterday that you were a writer on INVADER ZIM! What was it like writing on that show? Love you guys and your work!


Q:

Hello, Dr. Rojas.

How do you think the Black Lives Matter movement will be viewed 25 years from now in the context of civil rights?

A:

I learned that there are two types of people. Bad people and good people. I have seen terrible things. Maybe I have pushed away things. But the most important thing for me is that I discovered that there are a lot of good and sweet people that help each other. Especially in the camps where we could sleep in spots of 65cm from each other and were heavily undernourished with no prospect.


Q:

Working around the designers and animators of Invader Zim was truly inspiring. -Frank

A:

Great question. In some ways, BLM will be seen as a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement. BLM seeks racial equality and pushes back against policies that are thought to target African-Americans. In other ways, BLM might be seen divergent from the Civil Rights movement because of its focus on cultural nationalism.


Q:

How do you view Japan now?

A:

HI everyone! I love you guys! Thank you so much for MST3K. You helped me and my kids through some really rough times. Thanks for getting the band back together, you may not realize how much this show means to us fans but the whole cast kinda feels like family. Frank, I love your quips on Facebook about our butthead in chief keep up the good work. Anyway my question , do you all feel rather overwhelmed by your fans? Have the cast stayed in touch over the years? I always got the feeling that there was a closeness to the cast.


Q:

How can you compare all the good Martin Luther King did to what these people do?

note the sign that reads kill cops

A:

Normally. Like every other country with different cultures. They are our allies now and you should be respectful to allies. I will not go there though.


Q:

No, we love all the fan support. -Frank

Yeah, the cast has stayed in touch. Except Frank and I are no longer on speaking terms. -Trace

I met everyone at the MST3K reunion and everyone was super super cool. -Carolina

A:

Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and BLM were deeply concerned with how the police interact with minority communities. Furthermore, many BLM activists adhere to a philosophy of non-violent protest advocated by King and his allies in the Southern Christian Leadership Council. There are clearly points of departure between classic civil rights activism and BLM, but there is overlap as well.


Q:

With your brother and father taken separately from your mother and yourself, how long did it take to reunite the four members of the family? Were you together in the camp, or were you only able to reunite after the war?

A:
  1. What are each of your personal favorite host segments?

  2. Is the lab in good hands with Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt?


Q:

What are those policies that are thought to target black people?

A:

We were separated for three years from each other. After the war we were reunited. My father was placed in a military camp. My brother in a civilian camp. My mother and me in a female camp. There were no phones or any other form of contact.


Q:

RE: host segments, mine is the Rat Pack Chess set. I'm a big fan of both of Patton and Felicia. The lab is in good hands. -Frank

A:

The most common example is racial profiling.


Q:

Have you visited Indonesia since being interned? If you have, did you go out of your way to see what the areas that used to be internment camps turned into?

A:

Will you guys ever make it to seattle? And how does carolina feel about parquet floors?


Q:

Hi professor,

What role does class play in race relations?

Have you ever experienced an uncomfortable situation/setting when discussing your research or race in general with a group ? Thanks

A:

Yes I have. 29 years later. I haven't been to the locations. I saw no reason in revisiting the awful memories. But I did enjoy the contact with the population, the atmosphere and the mountains. It was like coming home but unable to stay.


Q:

You say parquet, I say butter. -Frank

Parquet floors? At first indifferent, but now strongly opinionated. - Carolina

A:
  1. Among sociologists, it is commonly believed that social class can change racial dynamics. For example, a wealthy person may feel less discrimination than a working class person.

  2. Yes. I think a lot of academic feel uncomfortable talking about race. But we work hard at trying to be professional when discussing sensitive topics.


Q:

That must have been a confusing feeling. To be honest, if I were you I probably wouldn't have the courage to return. You've lived with amazing courage. Thank you so much for taking the time to relay your experiences to strangers on the Internet!

Another random question: I remember a friend's grandmother who was indonesian tell her that as soon as the Japanese invaded, they were all forced to learn Japanese in school and all Dutch lessons stopped. Did they force you to learn Japanese in the camps? Or was it all focused on heavily working the interned?

A:

Frank, I have your book "Twenty Five MST3K Flims That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever" and enjoy it very much - so what MST3K film did change your life? (And to make it more difficult "Manos" doesn't count, because we all know you changed the course of world history by finding that stinkburger.)


Q:

What is government's proper role in race relations? Has government done more to help or hurt our progress towards unity and understanding?

A:

Thank you for your compliment.

It wasn't confusing because I am a sober person. I savored the Indonesian people who asked whether I liked it there and I could speak Malay again.

What your friend's grandmother said is true. People were forced to learn Japanese but we weren't.


Q:

No MST3K film changed my life. But meeting with and working with the cast and crew of MST3K did change my life. -Frank

A:

When the state ensures the protection of all people in society, it is a great help. When the state is asked to choose and pick certain people, then it can be problematic.


Q:

What experience can you tell about cooperation between prisoners? How united or apathetic were towards each other? Thank you in advance.

A:

It's truly amazing how big the concept of riffing movies has gotten, considering it was basically nonexistent when you guys started


Q:

What is your opinion of race relations today and to what do you credit the current state?

A:

There was a lot of smuggling in and out of the camps. As much as it was possible. Most people traded for food. But there were also people who smuggled not for themselves but for others.


Q:

RE: deep sadness. Santa Claus vs. The Martians. -Trace

A:

I believe that we are in much better shape than we were decades ago. For example, legalized segregation is thankfully a thing of the past. It is hard to find people who would say that we would be better off returning to the pre-Civil Rights era. At the same time, there are some bad developments. For example, mass incarceration mainly affects African Americans and Latinos. There is also the issue of immigration. The harsh and draconian immigration policies of the last few years have fallen mainly on Mexican and Central American migrants. So, yes, I am clearly happy that we live in a post-Civil Rights world. It is a huge improvement. At the same time, there is still a lot of work to be done.

In terms of causes, there are many. Scholars who study mass incarceration note that it stems from concerns about drugs, harsh sentencing aimed at specific populations, and the public's willingness to tolerate these policies.


Q:

What kind of meals did you eat in the camp?

You look amazing! Thanks for sharing your stories!

A:

Love the podcast and hope to see you live soon. Did you guys discuss how much the podcast would focus on good vs. bad movies? I like how much of it is positive despite your background in snark.


Q:

Thank you so much!

A:

Sajur (soup) drawn from intestines. A little bit of vegetables where sometimes you would find a piece of intestine. In the morning we ate muddy porridge. In the evening the blackest rye bread. It was never clean.


Q:

A lot of it depends on which movie came out that week. If it's good, it's good. If it's bad, we shit on it. -Frank

We're fair. -Carolina

And I like that we don't always agree. -Trace

Agreed. -Frank & Carolina

... -Trace

A:

You are welcome!


Q:

How did you get through day by day?

A:

Thinking about your episode on Ed Wood (and your careers in general,) it's prettt obvious that movies as a medium are particularly special to you guys. So my question is simply- why? What is it about movies that has compelled you for all these years?

Another question for Frank in particular, are you planning on doing anymore essays or blog on a regular basis? I enjoyed your book but that old blog you had on Cinematic Titanic just sticks with me as one of my favorite things you've ever done- especially pieces like "Wonderful Horrible" or "It Was a Very Good Year." Thanks for the ama!!!


Q:

I read Outliers of his and loved it! If you don't mind me asking, what are some critiques you have of Outliers? I reference it frequently.

A:

In a workgroup. We did gardening. We worked in the kitchens. We carried wood. We digged holes. We loaded an unloaded cars. Feeding pigs. I was also an assistant to a dentist for a couple of months. Later when we were freed I continued that in the ravaged hospital. It convinced me to become a dentist.


Q:

Thank you for the kind words. I have more books in the works, with one being published next month. Details TBS. -Frank

A:

I really enjoy Malcom Gladwell's work, so I don't want to be too harsh, but I think there is more to be said about how to move from average to above average. Very few of us are outliers - by definition!


Q:

What is your favorite food?

A:

First off thank you for everything! I havent heard of Movie Sign with the Mads but it is now on my list.

If you all had a superpower what would you want it be? And would you use the powers for good or evil?


Q:

Hello Prof. Rojas! As a fellow academic from Brazil we have now a black movement and a distinctive black aesthetic afirmation which are both mainly centered in black American(USA) culture and social movement simbologism. How do you think relationships work on this national level, do you think that there is a movement of reciprocity? Moreover, what are the effects of this simbolic influence in your opinion? And (last question!) do you feel that we should regain inside the black movement and studies the importance of Ancestrality, African roots and tradicional oral knowlegde? Thank for the great debate proposition, hope i didnt arrive too late! A sincere LatinoAmefrican hug!

A:

Sigh... I love everything. But I especially love meat and fish.


Q:

I don't know. But I would NOT BE EVIL. -Carolina

The power to answer rhetorical questions. -Frank

A:
  1. The movement for Black freedom has always had an international dimension, from King using Ghandi's nonviolence to Black Power activists appropriating Mao's socialism. Each generation has to figure out for themselves what they can take from the movements of other nations and what they need to develop on their own.

  2. Oral tradition is extremely important, especially in the Diaspora. I would see it as a positive development if Black Studies more fully integrated oral traditions into its repertoire.


Q:

What is your favorite meat?

A:

Hey gang! @jypsy from twitter here, three quick questions: First any chance of you guys going and doing live podcasts at all? (Bring Travis for the trivia) maybe doing Godfather or something you all love?

Secondly, what movies would you all love to do but pass on for various reasons?

Finally I discovered some mst3k trading cards and other merch is coming out soon but learned (thanks to Mary Jo Pehl), the original cast doesn't see anything from the items, so I am passing on them. Is there a chance we can get some merch to support the podcast and all of you guys? I'd gladly rep some Movie sign gear!

Keep up the great podcast, between this and the Purple Stuff Podcast, my wife and I are always entertained.


Q:

Are you glad that Frederick Douglass is getting recognized more and more these days for the work he's doing? /s

On a serious note, was there much cooperation between the black power movement and the SDS, and if so how did those movements effect each other?

A:

Kogelbiefstuk (round steak). As red as possible!


Q:

We mention the Godfather every episode. But we may do an episode. Frank

All of the podcast episodes link together to form the Godfather Saga. -Trace

We invite to stitch those pieces together. - Carolina

A:

The SDS and Black Power movements did overlap in time and there is evidence that people in one movement attend events in the other movement. I should not that by the time the Black Power movement appeared circa 1966, SDS was already getting shaky.


Q:

What freedoms did you have in camp?

A:

Is there a movie that you would consider both "good" and "riffable"? Or do only stinkers merit that treatment?


Q:

Hello Dr. Rojas! I was reading I've Got the Light to Freedom by Charles Payne, and one thing he said really interested me. Essentially, he said that the fact that lynchings were happening all over the south in the 1950s-1960s was not unique by any manner, but what was unique was that the national news actually started covering them.

Frankly, it feels similar to what is going on now with Black people and police brutality/violence. I'm sure there's no more or less of it happening now that in the last 20 years or so, but all of a sudden people/the media care enough to pay attention.

Anyway, just curious about your thoughts. Does the media need to cover these events for them to grow into a social movement? Does social media kind of negate the "mainstream media"?

Lastly, Payne also argues that grassroots movements are really what drove the Civil Rights Movement. That these smaller movements acted as a coercive pressure on federal government. Thoughts on how that mimics today's political atmosphere?

A:

We had practically no freedom. The guards could intrude anytime but we illegally practiced pastime. We did have a sports day once but everything was unpredictable. You often wouldn't know what the reaction of the guards would be on your behavior.


Q:

Personally, I like to riff "stinkers", I don't like to riff good movies. The only riff I came up with while watching a good movie was "Shut up, I'm watching this." -Frank

One time Frank and I were in a movie theater and Frank shushed somebody. I thought that was funny. -Carolina

A:

Excellent point. A major argument in research on social movements is that movements need allies in the media. This was certainly the case in the Civil Rights movement.

Well, BLM is grassroots by most accounts. We'll have to see if they develop in a way that allows them to systematically apply pressure for state and federal agencies.


Q:

What are your thoughts on your Japanese captors? Were there good people among them?

A:

I just wanted to say that you're awesome <3.


Q:

Yes there were good people among them. But they were our enemies. We had as little contact with them as possible. Because they did not speak our language (however sometimes they spoke Malay, which I could understand) there were a lot of misunderstandings. That often resulted in awful confrontations.

A:

That's my kind of question. -Frank

Your username is awesome, PEPE. - Carolina


Q:

Are you part of the group that is still seeking restitution from the Japanese Government? Do you ever expect to get it?

I don't have a great question, but thanks for doing this.

My grandmother and her family also suffered in these same camps, as her father served in the Dutch navy, in Indonesia (his boat sank at sea). She lost some sisters and her mother, but she survived and moved to Canada to start a new life. She doesn't ever expect the Japanese government to ever apologize or acknowledge these camps.

A:

Where should I start if I want to get into the music of Laura Nyro? And who among contemporary artists do you consider to be her equal?


Q:

No I am not in that group. I understood long ago that it's not possible by law. I did follow it a little bit.

It's my pleasure :)

What is the name of your grandmother, maybe I can remember her or her family.

A:

Frank gasps Start with the album "Eli and the 13th Confession". Any of her first five albums really. Laura Nyro has no equal. Although I love Kimbra and St. Vincent. -Frank

I have that first one on vinyl. Rilo Kiley is among her only equals. -Carolina


Q:

while i don't want to bring in politics, whats something in your experience, that is important to always keep in the back of our head as we move further into the future, to make sure past atrocities do not happen again?

A:

We can't prevent these atrocities to happen. It happens everyday still. With the knowledge we have now we can be more aware of what is happening though. The only thing you can do is reach out to the person next to you. Be good to your children and parents and treat every person around you with respect and honesty.


Q:

Have you ever had the ability to sit down with a Japanese American who was interned in the USA during the war to compare your experiences?

A:

No I haven't. I have read about it. I don't believe that they have been treated as bad as us. I can imagine however that for them it was just as horrible. And that is terrible.


Q:

Denk je er nog vaak aan terug?

A:

Ik denk elke dag maar ik wil het niet. Het hoeft niet van me. Meestal is het in positieve zin want ik heb ook veel geleerd en ik heb veel goede en lieve mensen gekend.

english

I think every day but I do not want it. I don't have to. Usually it's positive because I have learned a lot and I have known many good and kind people.


Q:

Do you have ptsd? What do you think about Kung foo movies

A:

I don't think so.

I find kung fu movies flauwekul (baloney)