Farewell To Manzanar 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 kind..it 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 propertys] 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 Americas 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 1900s, 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 governments 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 “cant 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 Americas 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 governments 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). Bibliography 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 http://www.odu.edu/~hanley/history1/Klimova.html 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.