Essay on Japanese American Incarceration

Essay on Japanese American Incarceration

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The Incarceration of Japanese Americans is widely regarded as one of the biggest breaches of civil rights in American History. Incarceration evolved from deep-seated anti-Japanese sentiment in the West Coast of the United States. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, pressure from the military leadership, politicians, media and nativist groups in the West Coast eventually convinced the President Franklin Roosevelt that action had to be taken to deal with the national security “threat” that Japanese Americans posed. In reality, Japanese Americans were no real threat to the United States, but the racist sentiments against them prevailed and greatly influenced United States policy during the war.
When discussing the internment of Japanese Americans, it is important to understand the definition of terminology used in association with Japanese Americans and internment. The government policy of removing Japanese Americans from the West Coast has officially been called “evacuation”; this term implies that the Japanese Americans were moved for their own safety. In reality, it was involuntary, and internees that returned to the West Coast faced arrest, making the terms “exclusion” or “mass removal” more appropriate.
There has been considerable debate as to if internment is really an appropriate term for the holding of Japanese Americans. Internment, the term that has typically been used to describe the holding of Japanese citizens, is defined as the legal detention of enemy aliens during wartime. This is inaccurate as about 66% of those imprisoned were American Citizens. Incarceration on the other hand refers to the imprisonment of citizens, not aliens, so it more accurately describes the situation that faced...


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...oluntary relocation had little success and the program was eventually halted. On March 27th, DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 4, preventing Japanese Americans within the West Coast from moving outside of the area, until they were ordered by the military to do so.
When forced to relocate, Japanese Americans were not guaranteed the protection of their property, as a result, they were forced to sell much of their possessions at low prices. One postwar study estimates that Japanese Americans lost $347 million from loss of income and property. Forced relocation was carried out thoroughly, to an absurd degree, almost akin to Jim Crow laws. People who were a little as 1/16th Japanese or previously unaware of their Japanese heritage were subjected to “evacuation.” Even Japanese American infants were not spared, being taken from both foster homes and orphanages.

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