Does US Citizenship Really Matter In A Time Of War?
From as early as 1885, immigrants from Japan came to America seeking jobs and new lives. Facing discrimination throughout the years within the community and workplace, nothing compared to Executive Order 9066. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued this executive order just twelve days after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1942. Fearing that citizens with a Japanese background living in the western states were loyal to their homeland and served as spies for the Japanese army, “FDR issued EO 9066 which gave the military the power to exclude whomever it saw fit as a military necessity” (densho.org). Because of the recent attacks by Japan’s army, the executive order mainly focused on immigrants, and even American citizens, with a Japanese background.
Upon receiving notice of their relocation, those with Japanese ancestry only had a week to get their affairs in order. Only allowed to bring what they could carry in their arms, “All Persons of Japanese Ancestry” (Visions of America 23.2.2) had to sell their remaining possessions and at a small portion of its true value. After the short notice, Japanese immigrants and U.S. citizens got onto a train headed to one of ten internment-camps where they would live the coming years during the war.
Arriving at one of the ten camps, those forced from their communities found their temporary homes fenced in and guarded by the military. Inside, living conditions were anything but ideal. Japanese families were crammed into small living areas eliminating any sense of privacy, community mess-halls and bathrooms, and although having the chance to work, the pay was minimum. The children attended school, and the camps hoped to be self-efficient by growing and producing their own food, but with bad soil farming became a challenge.
Fighting that being evacuated from their homes and put into internment camps was a violation to their constitutional rights, Japanese citizens took the matter to the supreme court in the trial of Korematsu vs. United States. The results from the case was “the constitutionality of relocating and interning Japanese Americans as a justifiable military measure” (23.2.2).
Out of all the Japanese decedents placed in the internment camps, two thirds were native-born American citizen that simply came from Japanese ancestry. This statistic alone proves how wrong this executive order was and questioned what U.S. citizenship really meant. These American citizens worked for their citizenship along with their possessions, and in parallel to the case of Korematsu vs. United States, order 9066 violated the constitutional rights of these Japanese people. With the military not using the same precautions on Italian or German immigrants, it is easy to side and feel the pain of the Japanese American citizens and in 1988 the United States government responded by apologizing and giving $20,000 dollars to every living Japanese-American that had been interned in the camps.
Imagine being in the shoes of a Japanese immigrant, it is easy to see how unjust the actions of the U.S government really were. Take the scenario of recently moving to the United states, looking for a job and a new life. After finding a stable income and a nice new home you get married and have a child. By working hard, you develop and produce a good life for your spouse and child by sending them to school and filling your home with new furniture. After 16 years of living in the United States, you and your family are US citizens, and life is going smoothly. Then, on December 7, 1942, you read about Pearl Harbor, and within a month, the United Stated army knocks on your door, telling you and your family have only one week to sell your belongings, and are being relocated to an internment came, hours away from your home and community. You have a number pinned to your shirt, carrying what little of your possessions you have left, and you and your family are put on a train and taken to your new home for the remaining years of the war.
Although opposite to the concentration camps ran by Hitler and the German military, it is still clear to see how the relocation of hundreds of thousands Japanese civilians to camps was a violation of their constitutional rights and challenged what it really meant to be an American Citizen.
Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019.
“Japanese American WWII Incarceration: The Core Story.”Densho, http://densho.org/core-story/. Assessed Feb. 28, 2019.
8 thoughts on “Does US Citizenship Really Matter In A Time Of War?”
This was a very informative post. It is crazy to think that with all the criticism Americans have about concentration camps that we had on of our own. In a way, it is understandable why the government would do this. They weren’t trying to hurt any of the Japanese, but rather protect themselves. It just isn’t a very logical way to do it because it punished many innocent people and people that weren’t even Japanese just from that heritage. Also, I liked how you had the reader imagine what was done to the Japanese people because it creates a different perspective.
I tend to agree with your statement of, ” They weren’t trying to hurt any of the Japanese, but rather protect themselves.” I feel it accurately sums up the fear brought upon us during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the torpedo bombing of an American ship, and the air raids over the west coast. I’d say we acted quickly without and understanding on the true consequences set before us by placing Japanese-Americans into internment camps. We didn’t truly evaluate the treatment in which they would endure just because of their ancestry not because of their actions.
This is something that most history classes do not talk about when it comes to Americans having their very own concentration camps for Japanese-Americans due to their heritage. The crazy part is that most of these Japanese descendants were born in America. Something that has caught my attention lately is the concentration camps occurring in China as they are putting Muslims through these camps to change their views on religion and only feeding them pork, it is very concerning that this is happening in today’s world in 2019. Great post!
I agree that the internment of Japanese Americans is something that most history classes do not teach, along with a lot of other topics that portray America as the “bad guy”. I think a lot of history books shadow the bad things America did in the past. However, I think it is something they should talk about. I certainly was not aware of what happened to the Japanese Americans until now. I like that you talked about the concentration camps in China today. It’s crazy to think some countries are still putting citizens through these terrible conditions.
Making the connection to present day issues that is happening in China right now was excellent. It is crazy to think that China has been doing this for sometime now and have locked up hundreds of thousands of Muslims. I just recently read a good article about it and I will add the link at the bottom.
I really liked how you painted a picture of what it would be like as a Japanese-American one day compared to how your life would have drastically changed the next. Comparing our internment camps to a variation of a concentration camp also depicted how our government acted towards a violation of our rights as American citizens. I feel we acted more out of fear towards what could happen due to the tragedies we faced with Pearl Harbor being attacked. We were so determined not to let it happen again that we lost sight of what it meant to be an American citizen.
Exactly, although some fought back, most Japanese-American citizens stayed loyal to the US and I feel like that shows the most when the citizens complied when the US government relocated so many of them. Also, I agree with your statement that we “acted more out of fear towards what could happen due to the tragedies we faced with Pearl Harbor being attacked.” There was most likely a better way of taking precautions against the opposing Japanese, but by being driven by fear resulted to the relocation of thousands of Japanese-American Citizens.
You did a very good job writing your blog post, very well informing and explaining the situations that the Japanese Americans had to go through. I agree with you about how it is easy to see that the government was wrong in what they did and how they handled the situation. It is good that the Japanese Americans that were in the internment camps received $20,000 dollars for their troubles.