Japanese Internment: Military Necessity or Racism

Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States committed one of the most deplorable acts in its brief history. Between 110,000 and 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced out of their homes and into internment camps heavily guarded by military officials. The government argued that these acts were militarily necessary, but a closer examination reveals that racism and discrimination played a crucial role in the detainment of Japanese-Americans. With racism already a problem in America during the War, the government perpetuated the problem by singling out those of Japanese descent and separating them from the rest of society. Not only did this destroy many traditions of the Japanese family, but it also stripped Japanese-Americans from their homes and livelihoods. In John Okada's No-No Boy, the father believed that the benefits of America outweighed the drawback of racism. I was interested to find out if this belief was warranted, or whether the government was not fulfilling its promise of opportunity to Japanese-Americans because of their heritage. The internment of Japanese-Americans was provoked by a largely racist and discriminatory American society, which led to a direct violation of American ideals.
The internment of Japanese-Americans appears to be racially motivated because it was unique to the Western region of the United States where there was a long history of discrimination. For example, in 1932 federal agencies in the United States began surveillance of the Japanese community in America. Institutions such as Buddhist temples, Japanese language schools, business associations, and Japanese farmers and fishermen were considered suspicious by officials and were targets of this surveillance (Sandler 268). The theme of racism existed long before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor; the attack merely gave the American government and society a reason to show their racism publicly. It is also interesting that Japane…


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