Essay, Research Paper: Farewell To Manzanar

Literature: World War

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In spring of 1942, immediately after the United States entered war with Japan,
the Federal government instructed a policy where hundreds of thousands of people
of Japanese ancestry were evacuated into relocation camps. Many agree that the
United States government was not justified with their treatment towards the
Japanese during World War II. This Japanese-American experience of incarceration
is believed to be unconstitutional, demonstrating racism and causing social and
economic hardships for the evacuees. The location of one of the camps in
California, Manzanar, “was representative of the atmosphere of racial
prejudice, mistrust, and fear, that resulted in American citizens being uprooted
from their homes, denied their constitutional rights, and with neither
accusation, indictment, nor conviction, moved to remote relocation camps for
most of the duration of the war” (Daniels et al., 1986, p.148). As the
Japanese people were being removed from the West Coast, it was obvious that some
economic loss would occur. “In a movement of this was probably
inevitable that some mistakes would be made and that some people would suffer”
(qtd. In Daniels et al., 1986, p.163). After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the
Japanese lost a lot of money and personal property through forced, panic sales.
Failure to protect the property of aliens by the Department of Justice, during
their evacuation, resulted in distress and anguish for the Japanese people. The
evacuees were required to signed a property form stating that “no liability or
responsibility shall be assumed by the Federal Reserve Bank...for any act or
omission in connection with its [the property’s] disposition” (qtd. In
Thomas, 1946, p. 15). This policy encouraged the liquidation of property and led
many Japanese merchants and businessmen to sell their property at ridiculous
prices or to place them in storage at their own expense and risk. Buyers were
unwilling to pay reasonable prices for their properties because they were fully
aware of the fact that a sale would have to be made, at any price, if the owner
wanted to receive some kind of profit from it. Many buyers took advantage of
this situation. In addition, the use of land and crops, previously owned by the
Japanese in America, underwent some changes as a result of the evacuation of
Japanese owners, farmers, and labor. Evacuee farmers were in the worst
bargaining position possible. Even though Japanese Americans were allowed to
continue their farming activities, farming was a disadvantage of the evacuees.
One reason for this was the fact that farming operations required payment for
sprays, fertilizers, labor, and other farm necessities. Unfortunately, because
of the evacuation, Japanese farmers did not have these resources and made it
impossible to harvest crops. This led to the destruction of their crops.
“Landlords, creditors, and prospective purchasers were ready to take advantage
of the adverse bargaining position of Japanese evacuees, even at the cost of
serious loss of agricultural production” (Thomas, 19046, p. 17). This critical
episode in America’s evolution brought about racism in which a minority group
was being mistreated. Once the United States found itself at war with Japan,
Japanese Americans were considered the “enemy aliens.” World War II was a
“race war”(qtd, in Daniels et al., 1986, p. 81), and America felt it had to
protect itself and keep apart these “enemy aliens.” The isolation and
segregation of Japanese immigrants from the life of the general American
community were repeatedly emphasized during World War II. Japanese and Japanese
Americans were constantly being singled out on the basis of their ethnicity. On
February 19, 1942, ten weeks after the Pearl Harbor tragedy, President Roosevelt
signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the exclusion of all people of Japanese
ancestry from the West Coast of the United States and relocating them into
concentration camps. It is revealed that “not the military necessity but
primarily racial prejudice provoked such unprecedentedly drastic measures,
indiscriminately applied to the whole national group” (Klimova). Prior to
their forced evacuation, racial bias of the American white majority toward the
Japanese minority aroused the feelings of distrust and fear, and led Japanese
Americans to live within their own communities, before they were forcefully
removed. During the early 1900’s, before World War II began, the success and
achievements of the Japanese in America aroused feelings of jealousy and
resentment among the Caucasian population. This resentment led to the myth of
“yellow peril” (Klimova). According to this myth, “the supreme mission of
Japanese Americans was to establish ascendance over the whites by driving them
first, out of business, and then, out of country” (Klimova). Most Americans
believed the nation had been “pushed around by a slanted-eyed people to whom
[it felt] racially superior” (qtd. In Daniels et al., 1986, p. 80).
Ineligibility to citizenship was a constant reminder of another form of racial
prejudice of the dominant group. An example of such bigotry is a statement made
by a racist politician, saying “once a Jap always a Jap” (qtd. in Daniels et
al., 1986, p. 81). In other words, this American, having similar beliefs to many
other politicians during that time, believed that you cannot turn a person of
Japanese ancestry into an American. According to this false belief, no matter
how loyal a Japanese American may be to the United States, there is still a
chance of disloyalty, due to their “dual citizenship” (Klimova). Therefore
Japanese Americans were not able to become, or remain, American citizens. Their
ineligibility of American citizenship is another factor of the American
government’s injustice towards Japanese people, led by racial animosity. The
imprisonment of Japanese Americans against their will in internment camps was
also unconstitutional. The victims of Executive Order 9066, including all
American citizens of Japanese descent, were prohibited from living, working, or
traveling on the West Coast of the United States. Similarly, Japanese
immigrants, “pursuant to Federal law and despite long residence in the United
States” (Smith, 1995, p. 292), were not permitted to become American citizens.
In addition, it was unconstitutional to evacuate only citizens of Japanese
descent. The confinement of the evacuees after they had been removed had no
military justification. According to Ex parte Endo, the evacuation case was held
that there was “no authority to detain a citizen, absent evidence of a
crime” (Smith, 1995, p. 369). To relocate some one hundred thousand alien and
American-born Japanese, to expose them to threats and violence, and to involve
them beatings and murder cannot be excused or justified. Exposed to such harsh
living conditions such as dirty barracks and unsanitary bathrooms, many evacuees
agreed that they “can’t live like this. Animals live like this” (qtd. in
Houston, 1973, p. 26). Over seventy thousand American citizens, “without
benefit of criminal charges, incrimination, or trial, without the benefit of any
hearing at all, and in the guise of national security and military necessity,
were forcibly uprooted from their homes and forced to endure years of
imprisonment in America’s concentration camps” (Daniels et al., 1886, p.
184). As a result, the unlawful confinement of Japanese Americans was
unconstitutional because it clearly violated their freedom rights. “The job of
the Courts to resolve doubts, not create them” (qtd. in Daniels et al., 1986,
p. 184). Emotionally, politically, and racially charged, the issue of the
Japanese-American relocation during World War II is an event that cannot be
justified. Economic discrimination and social segregation imposed by Americans
caused the Japanese- American wartime tragedy. The Executive Order 9066 was not
justified by military necessity, because its historical causes, which shaped its
decisions, were racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political
leadership. Ignorance of Japanese American contributed to “a policy conceived
in haste and executed in an atmosphere of fear and anger at Japan” (Daniels et
al., 1986, p. 5). A grave injustice was done to American citizens and resident
aliens of Japanese ancestry who, “without individual review or any probative
evidence against them” (Daniels et al., 1986, p. 5), were excluded, removed,
and detained by the United States. Furthermore, economic losses, racism, and
unconstitutionalism were all key factors which explain the United States
government’s injustification towards the forced evacuation of Japanese
Americans. Manzanar is “symbolic of a tragic event in American history, an
event that reminds us that a democratic nation must constantly guard and hinor
the concept of freedom and the rights of its citizens” (Daniels et al., 1986,
p. 148).

Daniels, Roger, Sandra C. Taylor, and Harry H.L. Kitano. Japanese Americans:
From Relocation to Redress. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1986.
Houston,m Jeanne Wakatsuki and James D.. Farewell to Manzanar. New York: Bantam,
1973. Klimova, Tatiana A. “Internment of Japanese Americans: Military
Necessity or Racial Prejudice?” 17 Oct. 1999
Smith, Page. Democracy on Trial: the Japanese American Evacuation and Relocation
in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Thomas, Dorothy Swaine.
The Spoilage. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1946.
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