On December 7, 1942 Japan attacked a naval base in Hawaii called Pearl Harbor. After the attack, Japanese Americans were shunned by the United States simply because they were of Japanese ancestry. Over 120,000 United States citizens were imprisoned because they were looked at as a national security risk (“Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015). Imprisoned because their loyalty to their country was being questioned merely because of their race. Men, women, children, and even United States veterans were part of this internment. Two thirds were legal United States citizen, the rest were denied citizenship but still living in the United States (‘Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015).
Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in February of 1942. This order permitted the military to move Japanese Americans to internment camps. They were forced to sell their homes and assets for amounts not nearly close to there worth. There were 10 relocation camps total. Families were given identification numbers and could take only what they could carry (“Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015).
Living conditions at these camps were not the greatest. They were surrounded by barb wired fences and military police. Cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were provided. Very hot summers and very cold winters were part of the dessert environment (“Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015). No privacy for going to the bathroom or showering had to be so humiliating. It is a disgrace that these innocent people had to endure up to four years of incarceration because of something completely out of their control. For those who were waiting for citizenship, I wonder if that was something they still wanted? Would they want to be part of a country that could turn on their own people just because of their race?
In 1944 the supreme ruled that these people cannot be held against their own will. In 1952 Japanese immigrants were allowed to become United States citizens. $20,000 was granted to 82,000 internees as an apology in 1988. How could any amount of money erase the fact that these people were discriminated against for the way they look? It is amazing that so much can change and yet so much remains the same (“Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015).
“Japanese Americans at Manzanar.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 28 Feb. 2015, https://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.