Land of the Free…Or so we thought.

Imagine being separated from your family, taken and put into a camp, and arrested because of the color of your skin. This is exactly what happened with the internment of Japanese Americans from 1942-1945. After Pearl harbor took place, President Roosevelt thought it to be best if people of Japanese descent be contained. Roosevelt signed an executive order that would command the relocation of Japanese ancestry. Most of those who were detained were Americans, but because they came from Japanese descent they were still held.

The internment camps were awful. They were overcrowded and cramped, there was hardly any room to breathe let alone live a manageable life. Their “house” was built from simple framework that had no source for plumbing usage, so we can only imagine the smell, and no where to cook. Nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were in these camps. The rations of food were nowhere near a dietary plan, some people would go days without eating.

The fact that these people were citizens of America probably made it very hard for them to see America as the promise land. The last camp was closed in 1945 and almost 24 years later, the Japanese Americans were compensated by congress for their property they had lost. So, we were trying to apologize, but it was a little late I’d say. I think their conception of citizenship has been obliviated. They had been here for years and we decide to ruin their lives because of Pearl Harbor? Because they look or could be related to those who hurt us? If I was in that position, I know I wouldn’t trust any type citizenship I was a part of.

If I was in their position, I think I would feel betrayed. I would feel as if I didn’t matter to my country and that they did not care about my freedom. I think being detained for something that I didn’t do, but could potentially do because of how I looked is insane. I think Justice Frank Murphy was right when he said internment was basically legalized racism. Being a hard working American, paying taxes and abiding by rules, should be treated as such, not a criminal, especially because of my heritage or my looks.

I’m sure at the time it seemed like a good idea, maybe even the best idea to keep America safe, but really we just looked like cowards. We could have done better. Haven’t we repeated history enough?

Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019

13 thoughts on “Land of the Free…Or so we thought.

  1. I definitely agree that there should have been a much better option on how to handle the presence of Japanese- Americans. I believe that if they were legal citizens who were law-abiding than they should not have to be messed with. I understand that part of the reason for the internment camps was to keep the Japanese- Americans safe, but also it was almost barbaric to put humans through something like that. I can’t imagine being a Japanese- American during that time, but I would be disappointed in how the government was treating the people. The compensation for lost property was a nice gesture, but it was nothing close to an apology that all the Japanese-Americans deserved. Nice post!

  2. I couldn’t even imagine, being a Japense American during this time, jailed for something beyond my control. It’s hard to think that these citizens were still Americans, but just because they were of Japanese descent they got treated this way. I completely argee that Roosevelt’s actions did not portray America as the “promise land” for the Japanese Americans. I also understand that his intent was to keep America safe, however I don’t think sticking them into camps was moral in any way. If Roosevelt felt like it was the right thing to do at the time, he should have at least gave them proper and fair living conditions. Lastly, it is good that the citizens got compensated for their land, but I believe any nice gesture would never make up for what America put those people through. Sami, you have some really great points in your blog, good job!

  3. When you look at World War II after the fact, the United States treated Japanese people similar to how Germany treated several different types of people. We uprooted these people without reason, put them in horrible conditions, and expected them to be okay with it. The only major difference is that in the United States camps, we did not intentionally hurt the prisoners. When people think of Germany, they immediately think of Adolf Hitler and his atrocities. When people think of the United States, they do not think of the war crimes that were committed during World War II. Great post, Sami!!

  4. Your post is great and I definitely agree with you. I can’t imagine being in that position. We criticize Germany for putting the Jews in internment camps and yet we did the exact same thing, granted not nearly on the sane scale as Germany. It wasn’t right to treat them like an enemy just because their ancestral land attacked us. I think we can relate that to today with our attitudes toward Islamic people. We can’t treat everyone like terrorists and criminals just because of how they look or what they believe.

  5. The treatment of Japanese Americans following executive order 9066 was terrible. Like you, I cannot imagine being in their shoes. I feel there had to of been another way to handle the presence of Japanese Americans. Great job explaining the internment camps and exactly how these citizens were treated. Your description of the horrible conditions of these camps was very insightful. Good job.

  6. I can’t imagine being in a time like that and all of a sudden getting taken away from everything we know, our homes,jobs, family etc. These internment camps were very horrible conditions. They were so overcrowded, diseases spread rapidly, people couldn’t even sit down or anything to eat. Many people ended up dying of these bad conditions or even getting shot.

  7. I really enjoyed reading your post about the executive order and how negatively it effected Japanese-American citizens. After reading I totally agree that this has happened before, yet we still continue to do the same things. You’d think after we write these things in history books it would result in change? Although we tried to compensate them for what they endured I believe that this was only the least we should have done for these people. The things these people endured and staying loyal to the United States was so moving and I believe that there should’ve been more done to compensate them and there should be more done to stop it from happening in the future! Great Post!

  8. You did a great job with your post, I like the time that you put into it, I defiantly shows that you worked hard and put a lot of effort in to it. I liked the detail that you put into it. I is a hard thing knowing what the Japanese Americans had to go through and what they suffered through. The time that they were criminalized was quite a while to be living in a camp that you are over crowded in. Overall good work, I really appreciate it.

  9. Japanese Americans has it rough during the time period for 1942 to 1945. Personally, I could not imagine what it would be like to have this happen to me. These people lost everything they had worked for and were left with only what they could carry. America is always criticizing Germany for what they did to the Jews, but what America was doing wasn’t much better. However, Americans weren’t exactly harming the Japanese Americans it was more of a way to prevent what they didn’t want to happen. Overall, I thought this was a great post. You made lots of good points and made it easy to understand an important topic that is neglected in history.

  10. You could almost compare the internment camps to Nazi death camps, although their creation was not based on the extermination of a race of people. I do agree that the camps were quite harsh and inhumane but on the other hand an individual must be incredibly naive to think that action shouldn’t have been taken to ensure that there were no radical Japanese. If you look at today’s statistics we find a similar story with Muslims. A overwhelming majority of them are peace loving people but at the same time most terrorists are Muslim. Of course we are not rounding them up and putting them into camps.

  11. Well written, and you really put it into perspective. It is terrifying to think about being taken away from my family. Then having my entire life being rooted up, and being treated like a criminal all because of looking like someone that did something bad. It is very unfair. I agree for sure, we need to stop repeating history!

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