Freedom Based on Race


There are many aspects of history that can be viewed as being immoral, and one of these includes the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were taken captive and sent to internment camps located throughout the United States because they were seen as threats. At this point in time, America was fighting a war in the Pacific against the Japanese. Americans believed that the Japanese Americans and immigrants were a threat because of the fact that they were Japanese. Some of these citizens were born and raised in the United States, but this didn’t make a difference in the end. Internment camps were some of the more racist actions that Americans took during World War II because of the racial discrimination, living conditions, and loss of assets.

First, racial discrimination was one of the main issues involved when it came to the internment camps that the Japanese Americans and immigrants were subjected to. The United States was beginning to imprison their own citizens because of their racial background. “About two-thirds of all Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth” (National Park Service pg 1). The others imprisoned were, for the most part, denied citizenship. American’s way of justifying the internment was that the Japanese were potentially threats to the other citizens because of their race. In the end, this most likely had a bad effect on the Japanese Americans mindset. The internment camps would have had an effect on their conceptions of citizenship, and this wouldn’t have been a pleasant one. They were betrayed by a country they thought they were a part of which, more likely than not, made them value citizenship less. The citizenship they thought they had before was crushed, for the government treated them like foreigners. Japanese Americans were put in internment camps because of something that was entirely out of their control. The Executive Order 9066 even allowed the internment to continue because it was a matter of national security in their eyes. Racial discrimination was one of the main causes of internment, and another reason internment was so horrible was because of the living conditions they had to go through.

The living conditions among the Japanese Americans and immigrants were another issue that contributed to the internment being so horrific. A few aspects of internment camps that made for unwanted living conditions were the sleeping arrangements, lack of privacy, and how crowded it was. “Any combination of eight individuals was allotted a 20-by-25-foot room. An oil stove, a single hanging light bulb, cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were the only furnishings provided” (National Park Service pg 1). Those who were put in the internment camps were locked in like animals. There was a fence that went all the way around the camp in order to keep everything contained. The care that the Japanese Americans got was slim, and this even led to death at times. Japanese Americans often died because of the lack of medical services that were provided. Even the medical services that were provided weren’t good. One Japanese American that was interviewed even said “I think liberty and privacy is what I miss the most” (American Concentration Camps pg 1). This just shows that the Japanese Americans were no longer treated like citizens even though they deserved to be. There were many issues involving the living conditions, but more problems began when they left the camps.

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The effect of the internment camps was another aspect that led to them being as horrible as they were. Before the Japanese Americans were taken to these camps, they began to sell everything they owned. They weren’t sure whether or not they would still own them when they were released. At the end of the war in the Pacific, the Japanese Americans were released. They ended up losing time that they could have used to build their lives and make money. Instead, they sold everything they owned for a fraction of its actual value because they were being sent to an internment camp. “In 1948, the government offered some restitution to those who had lost homes or businesses. It took until 1988, however, for Congress to offer an apology and a reparation payment of $20,000 to each of the 60,000 surviving internees” (Keene pg 699). If I was in this position, I would be furious. These citizens put all of their faith into a government that turned on them because of their race. The United States is suppose to have this diversity, but they turned their backs of the Japanese Americans during the war with Japan in the Pacific. There were many issues that arose after the release of the Japanese Americans from the internment camps, and these issues revolved around losing assets.

In conclusion, Internment camps were some of the worst aspects of history that Americans were involved in during World War II because of the racial discrimination, living conditions, and loss of assets. Many Japanese Americans and immigrants were taken to internment camps throughout World War II because of the fact that they were Japanese. Americans believed the Japanese Americans were dangerous because the United States was fighting a war with Japan in the Pacific. Internment camps and the war in the Pacific gave Americans a reason to be racist towards the Japanese. There were many actions taken throughout history that have had negative effects on a group of people, and the Japanese internment camps is one of them.

“American Concentration Camps.” Japanese American Incarceration and Japanese Internment, Densho, densho.org/american-concentration-camps/.

“Japanese Americans at Manzanar.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 28 Feb. 2015, http://www.nps.gov/manz/learn/historyculture/japanese-americans-at-manzanar.htm.

Keene, Jennifer D., et al. Visions of America: a History of the United States. Pearson, 2015.

10 thoughts on “Freedom Based on Race

  1. Imagine working hard for your whole life only to have everything you worked for quickly taken from you, and at a fraction of the price. The Japanese-Americans certainly got the shorter end of the stick when it came to the internment camps. They were denied proper living conditions after being forced to give up their own, they also were forced to sell everything they owned and to give up years of their life so the American Government could feel safe. Internment camps during times of war, might not be a bad thing when it comes to the safety of the people, however, the least you can do is treat them like human beings. Good medical service and food, and keep their stuff safe until they are allowed to return home.

    1. It’s wrong the way American treated the Japanese durning the time of the internment camps. It makes me wonder what would of happened if we tried that with the Muslims during 9/11. Whould we have treated them any better or worse?

  2. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is considered to be one of the worst Executive orders in United States history. Japanese were taken “prisoners” just because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is difficult to imagine being taken to an internment camp just because of your race. It makes it even worse than the American Public wasn’t fully aware of what was actually going on in the camps. Once the Japanese Americans were “freed” they literally had nothing to go back to. Today if a time machine existed it should be used to undo the wrongdoings the American government committed against the Japanese Americans during World War II.

  3. I did not recall hearing this before, it appears there was way more racism then I could have ever imagines. This is wrong on so many levels. I do not think the world will ever fully get over racism of people that are different then them. I also believe that the way Japanese Americans were treated would make them think twice about wanting to be a citizen. The way they were forced to live remind me of prison.

  4. Racial discrimination is something that has always had an effect on people. We faced it during the Civil War, and with time we slowly made progress out of it. However, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II helped to reintroduce a lot of aspects of discrimination. Yes, Americans had the right to be afraid. They had just experienced something terrifying and devastating. The way they handle it though, was far from being okay. Placing Japanese and Japanese Americans into camps that were like prisons, when many of them had absolutely no control over anything that had happened. They were just as shocked as Americans, yet we felt like they were all a threat. The camps were by far the worst part, but even after being released they still went through so much hate and racial discrimination that they probably wished they were not American citizens, which is not a feeling that one should have. I believe that some racial discrimination will always remain just because of people’s different views, however it should never turn out in the same manor as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II..

  5. The conditions of these camps were terrible. People should never be treated this way. I wonder if Americans were all supporting this at the time or if some felt it was wrong but could not say anything? How much did the average American know about what was really going on? News was slow in coming and it was not like today where we are informed within minutes online of major events in the world. People may just not have realized.

  6. I agree with when you said, “If I was in this position, I would be furious. These citizens put all of their faith into a government that turned on them because of their race.” What an awful time it would be, living in hell on Earth in this time period and to be treated so poorly.

  7. It’s awful to know what happened to these poor people merely because they were of Japanese descent. I can’t imagine living life in an internment camp where living spaces were cramped and dirty. Truly awful.

  8. This act by the US government shows what the fear of war can do to a nations government. The internment of the Japanese Americans was an act of fear due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This was such a bad call by the US government, to make these innocent people prisoners due to their race. Putting them in camps makes this act even worse then what it had to be. The things war can do to a nation is crazy.

  9. It is unfortunate that they were punished for sharing ethnicity with the enemy. America has been considered the ‘melting pot’ for quite some time, and it is morally unfair to assume that the Japanese Americans have bad intentions, especially if they were born and raised in America.

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