Farewell To Manzanar Essay, Research Paper
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 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.
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,
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.