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Japanese Internment Essay, Research Paper

Jesse Tawil

History Term Paper

In the United during the Second World War the Asian population, the Japanese in particular, were unfairly and unjustly treated by the American population due to the influence of the American government. The internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II is a disgrace and embarrassment to all Americans today. It was unconstitutional in many ways; firstly it simply denied citizens their natural born rights as Americans. The Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were merely disallowed their unalienable rights to freedom, they were taken from their homes and lost their jobs in only a few days. How could such a tragedy have occurred in a democratic society that prides itself on individual rights and freedoms, America is supposed to be the Land of the Free. The past can not be changed but the actions taken by the American government gave off the impression that Hitler s insane actions were okay, and that it was even okay if they were imitated in our homeland.

America the supposed land of the free, but if free is being forced out of your homes and taken away to relocation camps than yes, this statement could be true. However proved to be the land of the oppressed for a period of time. To be free is to not be bound, confined, or detained by force without due process of law. Yet in 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 120,313 Japanese Americans were relocated to ten internment camps. Still even before the tragic bombing there was a pre-existing hatred for the Japanese people that came to settle. There was a large flood of Asians who came to America during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution who were willing to work for less money than the Caucasian groups that had lived in the U.S. longer than them. The Asian takeover of railroad labor only made their hatred grow more until the Japanese were suddenly removed from society. 90,491 Japanese Americans were transferred from assembly centers , 17,491 were taken directly from their homes, 5,918 were born to imprisoned parents, 1,275 were transferred from penal and medial institutions, 1,118 were taken from Hawaii and 219, mostly non-Japanese spouses, entered these camps voluntarily. To most people this would not be considered free, showing that the Japanese lost their rights as American citizens simply because of their heredity.

Although the Civil Liberties act of 1988 was issued, acknowledging that a grave injustice was done , the Japanese Americans still suffered from the mental and physical health impacts of the traumatizing internment experience. Health studies have shown two-times greater risk of heart disease and premature death among former internees compared to non-interned Japanese Americans. Long term health effects also included psychological anguish. The youngest detained reported more posttraumatic stress symptoms of unexpected and disturbing flashback experiences than those who were older at the time of the incarceration.

As victims of prejudice and racism, along with having the status of second class citizens, the Japanese Americans had to learn how to cope with the feeling of powerlessness and impotence. The Japanese Americans had to deal with the shame, hardship and tragedy of being imprisoned and considered a risk to national security.

The Fifth Amendment of the constitution states that No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a Presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation. It is plain to see that removing 120,313 Japanese Americans from their homes, two thirds of which were legal citizens of the United States never showing any disloyalty, is unconstitutional. There was no due process present in the American s actions. Due Process is the right to confront those that are accusing you and the right to a hearing before your life, liberty or property is taken. In February of 1942 Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, stripping the Japanese in America of their rights shown above as citizens of the United States.

The actions taken by the American government showed that the constitution, the laws we live by are nothing more than a piece of paper that can be nullified at any time by authority. Even when we were fighting against the very same thing we were creating new branches of government to control the yellow peril, such as the War Relocation authority (WRA). How could the Japanese Americans suspect that their own government would treat them as they did, since many of them felt that they were loyal citizens? After the way the American s treated the Japanese they felt betrayed, indeed they were; they were betrayed and lied to.

Inside the camps the resident s Constitutional rights were suspended. Their quality of life was also reduced greatly, since before their imprisonment the Japanese were able to apply to all types of work opportunities, they were shocked when there were rare opportunities to work inside the camps. Even when a member of a family did receive a job the wages were so low it was impossible to rise up in the society. Quality of life was also depleted when a member of the community had to go to a hospital. The hospitals inside the camps were often dimly lit and didn t even have sufficient supplies to keep the residents healthy. Often times the Japanese questioned whether they would rather be outside the camps where they were safe from the ridicule and persecution of the people or inside the camps under the horrible living conditions they were provided with. If the camps were designed to protect the Japanese why then were the guns and barbed wire pointing inward? Internees were confined more like prisoners. The camps were surrounded with barbed wire fences made to keep the Japanese Americans in.

A problem arose when the United States government finally decided to remove the exclusion act one year later, the Japanese had been removed from their homes and normal society that officials feared the reintroduction of the Japanese into society. Once the relocation act was removed the Japanese had no problem remembering how to survive in America again, but they all still faced the horrifying memories, and terrible treatment of the results of the wars turmoil. In fact studies have shown that due to the trauma and injustice served to the Japanese people that they are at two times the risk of heart disease and premature death as non-interned Japanese Americans. There were also numerous cases of posttraumatic stress symptoms in many of the people who were incarcerated.

When the Japanese returned back to their homes, many found them looted and destroyed by the old Americans who were left behind after the Japanese left. Perhaps the worst part of the entire operation was that the Japanese were not once protected by the United States government, they only supported the ridicule and disrespect shown to the Japanese simply because of their roots.

The Japanese were never readily accepted into American society, they were forever looked upon as Japs or Chinks that were responsible for the war and death of American soldiers. The Japanese created several Civil Rights groups to insure that this could never happen again, not only to Japanese, but also to any race of people in the United States. However there were several places where old Americans were still not ready to accept the Japanese into society, such as in California where schools were still segregated and most were free of Japanese students altogether.

The American government did not have a response for their actions until recently; when in 1988 the Civil Liberties Act was issued, confirming that a grave injustice was done. In 1993 President Clinton offered an apology to Japanese Americans who were interned on behalf of all Americans. Clinton admitted the actions taken during the war were wrong and publicly apologized, offering $20,000 to each victim who was relocated and interned during World War II. Although $20,000 is not fair compensation for the pain and embarrassment the Japanese Americans endure it was finally recognized that the United States were wrong in their actions. Yet $20,000 can not buy off the disturbing memories forever etched in each Japanese American s head. Roosevelt said he passed order 9066 because it was a necessity to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage. Although, it was later proved that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage and not one had committed any act of sabotage. Proving the real reasons behind this terrible act in America s history were racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a failure of political leadership.

In President Roosevelt s Executive Order 9066 he states, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States I hearby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whenever he or any designated commander deems such actions to be necessary to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded and with respect to which, the right of any persons to enter, remain in . The above statement shows that authority has too much power to exclude others. This declaration allows the President of the United States to be able to deny someone their constitutional rights, rights that are supposedly unalienable and God given. This shows clearly that these actions, stemming off prejudice and racism, are justifiable by the authority vested in one man. In the case of Japanese internment it is possible that one man having the power to exclude a certain peoples can be later found as an injustice. It is very possible that the United States system of governing during wartime is faulty, as proven in the situation of President Roosevelt and World War II. If another possible way of governing during such a time were created it is likely that these injustices can be avoided.

The U.S. Government set a bad example, Firstly 120,313 innocent Japanese Americans were denied their fifth amendment showing that the constitution, which is supposed to be set in stone, can be nullified at any time. Next, the U.S. government lied about the reasoning behind the Internment of the Japanese Americans. Then, it took fifty years for the government to recognize that what was done to the Japanese Americans during World War II was wrong and unconstitutional. To make things worse, the president expected $20,000 to erase the past. Interestingly enough there were polls taken after the war that asked if what the United States did to Japanese Americans was right, and the results showed that 98% felt it was the right thing. Showing the ignorance of the people of that time and how easy it was for a majority in this county to take control over the government, there were hardly any that felt remorse for the hardship they had just made an entire race endure.

Perhaps the most disturbing fact of all is that what occurred in the United States during the second World War is that it goes against exactly what the principles of the Constitution of the country are based. These people were denied their basic rights simply because of their race, precisely what we were fighting against at the very same time. How is it possible not only for the first time, at the time this country was founded, with the slavery of Africans, but also for another time that people are so blatantly disrespected because of their heritage. The history of the United States seems to be filled with occurrences that would make most American citizens ashamed of their ancestry. Unfortunately we cannot change time, instead we must make a conscious attempt to disallow events like this from happening. We must stand up for what we believe in, and try to live our lives so that we will not be ashamed of ourselves if we were to look in future history textbooks at what we have made of our country.

Jesse Tawil

History Term Paper


April 9, 2001

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