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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  November 21, 2021 11:30am-12:01pm GMT

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tournament, don't prove she's genuinely free. fires and fighting on the streets of the hague — lockdown protesters clash with dutch police in a second night of violence. in the uk, an investigation is being launched into whether there is racial bias in the design of some medical devices used by the national health service. the health secretary said people may have died as a result of the issue. now, on bbc news — hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. turn on the tv or go online, and it's not hard to find political content of all kinds, often delivered with all the nuance of a ten—tonne truck. rare is the tv show, which offers commentary on the human condition, which is both entertaining and wildly popular.
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but it can be done, and my guest today knows it from personal experience. george takei was a fixture on the original star trek series as lieutenant sulu. the show�*s progressive values dovetailed with his personal activism, which continues to this day. do the values of star trek still resonate? george takei, welcome to hardtalk. good to be here. you're known to many around the world as an actor. do you see yourself more these
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days as an activist? both, as a matter of fact. i am an actor and an activist, as well. which is more important to you? acting is my passion, the theatre is my passion. but i was defined by my childhood imprisonment, and that has made me an activist in my adult life, so they're both equally important to me. you mentioned your childhood already, and i think we have to talk about it at the beginning because it is in so many ways extraordinary that, given what happened to you as a little boy, that you made it in america in the way you did because you, at the age of five, were defined as an enemy alien, somebody to be locked up. just explain to people exactly what happened. well, on december 7, 1941, japan bombed pearl harbor. the next morning, the president
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of the united states, franklin delano roosevelt, declared war onjapan. and overnight, americans, japanese—americans, american citizens of japanese ancestry were looked at with suspicion and fear, and outright hatred simply because we looked like the people that bombed pearl harbor. and we were...we were spat on and attacked on the street. our homes, our cars, our businesses were graffitied with ugly, racist slogans. the government imposed a curfew on us — we had to be home by 8pm at night, and stay home until 6am in the morning — we were imprisoned in our homes at night. the next morning, if we went to the bank to make a deposit or a withdrawal, we discovered that our bank accounts were frozen.
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our life savings was taken from us. we were financially straitjacketed. so there you were — your father, who was actually born injapan, your mother, who was ofjapanese origin, but she'd been born in the us, and you and two siblings — and you were taken to a camp. exactly, because of race. we were of japanese ancestry. the only immigrants to the united states... immigrants coming from all over the world were qualified to become naturalised citizens, except for immigrants from asia. and despite my father's rearing in san francisco, his education there, he was considered an ineligible immigrant. do you remember going to the first camp, which was actually a converted horse stable where you were kept and then progressively to a couple of other internment camps? i do, but that memory is that
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of a 5—year—old child. we were... the camps were still being built in some of the most godforsaken, desolate places in the country — the desert of arizona, blisteringly hot, or the swamps of arkansas, or the windswept cold plains of wyoming, idaho, utah. but they were being built, so we were first taken to the horse stables of santa anita racetrack. each family was assigned a filthy horse stall, still pungent with the stink of horse manure. for my parents, it was a degrading, humiliating experience, taking their children into that filthy horse stall. but to 5—year—old me, it was exciting. we got to sleep where the horsies slept, so i do have memories of the same experience my parents were enduring, but totally
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different coloured memory. we were there for about four or five months, until the building of the camps was finished. and then, it was announced that we would be transported by train to the swamps of arkansas, the farthest eastern of the ten camps, and the trip would be four days and three nights. my father told us that we were going on a long vacation in the country, and so i thought every vacation by train would have armed soldiers at both ends of each car. but i wondered why the grown—ups felt...looked sad and just devastated. some were even crying. i endured that trip, but for my brother and me, it was a lot of fun, crawling underneath the benches...
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as you say, the perspective you had as a little boy was very different from that of your parents. but, ultimately, your childhood was disfigured by barbed wire, by searchlights, by armed guards at gates. the sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us. this was your reality. and here you emerged after the second world war was over. the gates were thrown open — suddenly and as irrationally as we were rounded up — but we were impoverished. the government had taken everything from us. they gave us a one—way ticket to anywhere in the united states, plus $25 to build life anew — $25. i would imagine that as a young man, there was a lot of anger in you. anger at the united states for what it did to your family, maybe some feeling of anger at your parents that they hadn't been able to protect you.
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mentally, how did you deal with it? it wasn't anger because i didn't understand my childhood imprisonment, and i had a very specialfather. i didn't realise that then, but he was an extraordinary man for a person of that generation. he knew about american democracy, and he told us that the ideals of our democracy are noble ideals — equaljustice under the law, government rule by law, due process is a central pillar of our justice system. all of that disappeared for us simply on the basis of race. and my father told us we have to be engaged in the process. and he encouraged my brother and me to be active in student government. and so, i was — i was a student body president at mount vernonjunior high.
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my father took me to volunteer at a presidential campaign, adlai stevenson for president. i volunteered in countless political campaigns, and so i became aware of how citizenship in a democracy works. and so rather than anger, i was engaged in the democratic process. so, i'm already hearing that george takei was becoming the young, liberal progressive activist, and that's something, of course, that has...you've pursued throughout your life. you also, much later in life, just a couple of years ago, wrote this book or co—wrote this book. it's a sort of illustrated cartoon version of experiences of you and otherjapanese—americans in the second world war — they called us enemy, it's called. do you think america has learned the right lessons from what it did then and how it treats immigrant populations today? we have not.
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and because we didn't learn that lesson, we keep repeating it over and over again. when we were imprisoned, there was the sweeping generalisation, or presumption that because of our race, we were all potential spies, saboteurs and fifth columnists, which we were not. and there was no evidence of that and we were imprisoned. i noted this quote from one senator at the time, he said, "there is not a single japanese in this country, who would not stab you in the back." senator from tennessee. there's that fundamental fear of the other. exactly, and it still exists. for example, when trump became president, there was his sweeping assumption that all muslims are potential terrorists, and he tried to get an executive order accepted called the "muslim travel ban".
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the deputy attorney—general had learned the lesson, that chapter of american history where japanese—americans were imprisoned, and she said — sally yates is her name — "i will not defend this case." there are many americans, who sympathised with those muslims who were, in their view, being discriminated against. but there are also many millions of americans, who backed donald trump's immigration policies. that's correct. and, indeed, we see thatjoe biden, to a certain extent, has kept in place many of the measures that donald trump put, particularly, on the southern border. there are massive detentions happening today under the biden administration. the camps, the centres for those "illegal immigrants" are still full. not all the children have been reunited with their parents. this is this is an issue, which in america today, goes beyond, far beyond donald trump.
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i just wonder if you feel you're out of tune with today's america. because of the damage done by trump, president biden has had a massive job to clean up after trump. and, yes, what's happening on the southern border is quite close to what we experienced, and to deal with... the migration is again still massive because central america now is in turmoil. people are literally fleeing for their lives. women have seen their husbands shot before them, and they're fleeing with their children. and so, the rush to our southern border is great. and trump will. .. i mean, biden will deal with that. i want now to turn to george takei, actor. and having gone through the background you went through, it was pretty remarkable that you made a very successful acting career in the 1960s. and by 1966, you'd met gene roddenberry, and he had invited you to take part in a new series.
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he was calling it star trek. he wanted you to be lieutenant sulu. it changed your life. but did you take it — and this is where it links the actor and the activist — did you take it because you felt in roddenberry�*s vision there was something idealistic, something progressive that combined your acting and your beliefs? his vision was the magnet. but also, i was a scrambling young actor for every opportunity to act, and i saw that this opportunity, being a member of the leadership team on board the starship enterprise, which he told me was a metaphorfor starship earth and the strength of this starship is in its diversity, coming together and working in concert as a team, each contributing his or her vantage point, background, experiential
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history, cultural background. but what you say is fascinating because in a sense, you're acknowledging that your casting in the role of sulu was, to use a blunt and arguably a difficult word, tokenistic. you were something of a token. it was an amazingly positive token at that time. it was notjust casting an asian face because he was a leader. he had interesting qualities about him. his hobby was fencing of all things. initially, the script had me going crazy with a samurai sword, but i told the writer, "that's ethnically consistent because i'm of japanese ancestry." but when i was a kid, i saw the adventures of robin hood starring errol flynn, and i was enamoured of swashbucklers. and i said, "why not put a fencing foil in sulu's hand?" and he said, "yeah,
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this is science fiction. why not?" and that was one of my most successful episodes. i remember that episode. i mean, you were a very prominent character, and so was lieutenant uhura, the black woman played by michelle nichols, who also had a key role on the starship, also did something which many viewers around the world and listeners will remember, that is, shared a kiss with william shatner, captain kirk. now, that, again, broke barriers. indeed, it did. and ijust wonder for you as a cast, all of you as a team, were you aware that — that you were actually doing something that, culturally, was something of an earthquake in the united states of america in the late 1960s? we were very profoundly aware of it. gene roddenberry told us that he is using metaphors placed in the 23rd century to deal with the issues of our times, which was the civil rights movement,
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african—americans demonstrating for equality, orthe vietnam war, so... and i just want to interject. martin luther king, it turns out, was an avid viewer. yes, he was. nichelle nichols tells this extraordinary story about how, when he, dr king, learned that she was intending to leave the show in the fairly early days, he said... silly woman! well, but she didn't do it because king said to her, "you mustn't do that, the show is too important." in fact, the exact words were, "don't you understand "what gene roddenberry has achieved? "for the first time on tv, we will be seen" — he meant black people — "will be seen as intelligent, "quality, beautiful people who can go into space. "roddenberry has opened a door for the world to see us. "if you leave, that door will be closed." i just wonder if you felt pretty much the same way. from the very beginning, i saw that that was going to be
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a breakthrough opportunity for me personally as an actor, but also as an asian—american, representing the people of asia. and the same thing with uhura, of africa being represented as part of the leadership team. and we also had a young russian lieutenant, chekhov, in the middle of the cold war. absolutely. here's the tough question — if there was all of this positivity, idealism, hope on the set, why were personal relationships so bad, so difficult, sometimes toxic? why, for example, did you and william shatner, captain kirk, not get along? not get along at all? you know, it was all of us. leonard nimoy — mr spock. jimmy doohan — scotty, the engineer. nichelle, chekhov. all of us had our difficulties because of his personality. you mean with shatner? shatner, yes.
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i spoke to shatner a few years ago. shatner said to me, he said, "i had no idea until much later "when i was actually writing a book and spoke to george "and others, i had no idea that they didn't like me." he was totally oblivious of his behaviour. you know, he's an engaging man, charming, witty on the surface, but he is a prima donna star. and he had to have his way, even at the cost of his colleagues. we mature actors knew that to make a scene work, it's a two—way street. it isn'tjust one person. and he didn't have that understanding, so he would whisper to the writers or directors — and suddenly a line would be missing and it'd be ours, or suddenly the direction of the scene is changed. these whispered conversations with the director or the writer off camera resulted in the focus
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on the captain. well, you portray the problem as his ego, but you, to be fair to him, have been sniping at him for many years. you have an extraordinary social media following and, even to this very day, you go after him. you were sniping at him even when shatner went up into space in the rocket the other day. you said, "he's boldly gone where loads of people have gone before." that is a fact. that is the truth. but why, what's this animus? it's not animus, a statement of fact. he answered by saying, "don't hate, george." hate? he's so obsessed with being hated that he finds hate where none exists. it was a statement of fact. and i added, "he's a good guinea pig. "actually not a good guinea pig, because he's not as fit as a good guinea pig should be." well, he's 90 years old. 90 years old. you're in your 80s, you're
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both doing pretty well. i'm six years behind, you know. no, i know. but i intend to be there too. well, we'll see if one day you may get to space too, but talking of boldness... i've already been. i took the parabolic flight and i've been in zero gravity, floating. you've been weightless? weightless, and he would not float because of his weight. he stood right by that window, looking out at the dark galaxy, talking about death. we've perhaps talked enough about captain kirk. we've just talked about boldness and here's a thought for you — i just think in your activism, you've reflected a great deal on the different causes that you've fought for over the years. you didn't, for a long time, fight for perhaps the cause most dear to your own heart — that is gay rights, equality for gay people, because you were a gay actor in hollywood for an awful long time who stayed in the closet. why?
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because i wanted to be an actor. i passionately wanted to be an actor. when i was a teenager, my heart—throb was a handsome, young blonde actor named tab hunter. he was starring in almost every warner... he had a warner bros contract, every movie coming from the warner bros studio — battle cry, damn yankees. i went and saw every one of them until he was exposed, by one of our scandal sheets as being gay, and suddenly he disappeared. it was forcefully made... it forcefully made me understand that you cannot be gay and be hired as an actor. and so i spent my childhood behind barbed wire fences, but as an adult, i self—imposed an invisible barbed wire fence on myself.
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and i was closeted and still active on all these other social justice issues, except for the issue closest and most personal to me. and that was torture in itself. torture ? because there are all these other people, young men and women out there fighting for my cause, the gay liberation movement, and they were sacrificing their lives, their careers, theirjobs. and you stayed silent. and i stayed silent. they lost their families. i wanted to keep my family with me, and i stayed silent until their success, the gay liberationists. we don't have much time, so just to finish this thought, you came out in 2005, you now married your partner, america has embraced gay marriage. it's backed by the supreme court. it seems it's backed
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by american public opinion. and here's the final thought for you — star trek was an immensely positive, hopeful, idealistic show. yes, indeed. when one thinks about what america has achieved in terms of gay rights, perhaps less so in terms of attitudes to immigrants, do you still have that deep optimism about human nature that was so obvious in star trek? 0r over the years, particularly recent years, have you lost that optimism? no, not at all — because we have made progress. from my imprisonment because of racial prejudice to my self—imposed imprisonment in barbed wire, invisible barbed wire fences, we have made amazing progress. at the beginning of my career, i could not have had a career as a gay man. now, we have marriage equality. we have equality on so many issues.
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the transgender issue is the big sticking point now, but when i compare myself to my teenage days when i was aspiring to be an actor, and today, we have made amazing progress. certainly, there have been setbacks. three steps forward, two steps back, three steps forward. it's progress and i am proud of where we are today despite the challenges that we still face. and you continue to boldly go... ..where others have gone before too. yes, i know! george takei, it has been a pleasure. thank you for being on hardtalk. the star trek vulcan greeting — live long and prosper. thank you so much.
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hello. it is a weekend of two halves, weather—wise. yesterday, many of us were still in the mild air, we had temperatures up at 1a degrees, but today it is a colder, fresher—feeling day. this was the picture a bit earlier on as the sun rose above eastbourne. now, through the course of today we are expecting a chillier feel wherever you are. sunnier skies in general but also some showers in the forecast and the bulk of the showers today are going to be towards the east. and that's because higher pressure is sitting out to the west. here you can see the winds are rotating around that area of high pressure, so coming in from a northerly direction, bringing us that cold air mass and that wind—chill you will notice out there, particularly close to those east coasts. so the northerly breeze driving some showers in across eastern scotland, wintry over the higher ground. rain showers, perhaps some hail
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mixed in down across the east coast of england in particular, for the likes of east yorkshire and northumberland as well right down towards kent and east sussex. but further west, most places are looking largely dry for much of the day. you will notice the wind gusts could be as high as 30 mph, a0 mph close to that east coast. so temperatures between 7 degrees to 11 degrees but feeling a bit cooler than that where you do notice that wind—chill around. into this evening and overnight, most of the showers will ease away. we will continue to see some filtering through the english channel here, affecting the likes of kent and east sussex. and a little bit more cloud for the north of scotland but in between these two areas, a cold night with temperatures a few degrees either side of freezing, a touch of frost certainly first thing monday morning. a mostly dry settled sort of day on monday. we have got more cloud and patchy rain for northern scotland and a few showers in the far south—east as well. most places avoiding the showers with temperatures between 7 to 10 degrees. we do it all again on tuesday. another dry, settled sort of day with sunshine for most areas. cloudier in the far north—west. the chance of a few passing showers
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in the far south—east as well. highs on tuesday between 8—11 degrees for most of us. feeling cooler again where you are exposed to the north—easterly breeze, particularly for east anglia and the south—east. as we head through the middle of the week, you will notice things turn colder once again because a second cold front works its way south, so that will introduce another northerly blast of winds as we move through into thursday in particular. temperatures not as mild as they have been recently. we are looking at single figures through the middle of the week and turning more unsettled by friday. bye for now.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. the women's tennis association says videos released by chinese media showing missing player peng shuai, including one at a tennis tournament, don't prove she's genuinely free. 0le gunnar solskjaer has been sacked as manchester united's manager, after senior figures at the club met last night.

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