American History / Incarceration Of The Japanese Americans

Incarceration Of The Japanese Americans

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Autor:  anton  14 December 2010
Tags:  Incarceration,  Japanese,  Americans
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Erica Schlecht

HST 123 – E1

October 28, 2005

Incarceration of the Japanese Americans

Japanese immigrants and the following generations had to endure discrimination, racism, and prejudice from white Americans. They were first viewed as economic competition. The Japanese Americans were then forced into internment camps simply because of the whites fear and paranoia.

The Japanese first began to immigrate to the United States in 1868. At first they came in small numbers. US Census records show only 55 in 1870 and 2,039 in 1890. After that, they came in much greater numbers, reaching 24,000 in 1900, 72,000 in 1910, and 111,000 in 1920.(Parrillo,287) Most settled in the western states. The promise of economic prosperity and the hope for a better life for their children were two main factors in immigrating to the US. They filled a variety of unskilled jobs in railroads, farming, fishing, and domestic services.

The Japanese encountered hostility and discrimination from the start. In California, a conflict with organized labor was due to their growing numbers in small areas and racial visibility. White workers perceived Japanese as economic competition. Their willingness to work for lower wages and under poor conditions brought on hostility from union members. The immigrants became victims of ethno violence.

More discrimination by the dominant group soon followed. “In 1913, the California legislator passed the first alien landholding law, prohibiting any person who was ineligible for citizenship from owning land in the state, and permitting such persons to lease land for no more than three years in succession.”(Parrillo, 287) This was of course aimed at keeping the Japanese in the working class. Their native born children, second-generation, were automatically US citizens. They had land put under their children’s names directly or by collectively owning stock in landholding companies. Discrimination against the Japanese continued after World War I. The California legislature passed a law in 1920 “prohibiting aliens form being guardians of a minor’s property or from leasing any land at all.”(Parrillo, 288) This was another attempt by the dominant group to preserve power. Japanese American children also suffered racism and discrimination. In 1905, the San Francisco School Board of Education passed a policy sending Japanese children to a segregated Oriental school in Chinatown.

Japanese immigrants being extremely racially distinct, had different cultural customs and religious faith, and tended to chain migrate and stay within their own small communities. This aroused distrust and the idea that they could not be assimilated.

Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 fueled the irrational distrust and prejudice. It led to the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1908, secured by President Roosevelt, which “Japan agreed to restrict, but not eliminate altogether, the issuance of passports.”(Parrillo, 288) This attempt at reducing Japanese immigration had a huge loophole, it allowed wives to enter. Many Japanese practiced endogamy and sent for “picture brides.” “Several thousand Japanese entered the United States every year until World War I, and almost 6,000 a year came after the war.”(Parrillo, 288)

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. When news of the attack reached the west coast, Japanese neighborhoods were surrounded by police. Within the first day, the FBI arrested 1,300 dangerous aliens. They had jailed nearly 2,000 more by the end of December. Most of them were business executives, leaders of Japanese associations and community leaders whose only suspicious act was visiting relatives in Japan or contributing to the Japanese equivalent of the United Service Organization. Those arrested were thrown into county jails and then transferred to detention centers run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service The fear of bombing or even an invasion caused rumors to spread about treachery and deceitfulness by the Japanese Americans. The allegations of sabotage and espionage were twisted by racial bias and lacked any evidence or rationale. Some were absolutely ridiculous, such as poisoned vegetables and planting tomatoes parallelism needed so that they formed arrows pointing at US military objects. The anti-Japanese paranoia held by the dominant group echoed in the media. Newspapers printed unfounded racist reports about Japanese Americans, starting in December 1941 and more throughout February 1942. Common examples of racist articles, some openly using degrading headings, these headlines from the Los Angeles Times: “Jap Boat flashes Message ashore” “Two Japs With Maps and Alien Literature Seized” “Caps on Japanese Tomato Plants Point to Air Base”(Spickard, 96)

The fear and hostility toward the Japanese Americans was accompanied by a wide spread hysteria. People began to call for their removal from the western states. White farmers were among those advocating their evacuation. By now, Farmers of Japanese origin had turned dessert into some of the most fertile farmland, which was less than 4 percent of the California farmland, and produced 10 percent of the total value of the states farm crop. Austin Anson of the Grower-Shipper Association of Salinas, California, made this statement while lobbying for the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans: “We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well be honest. We do. It’s a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over.”(Spickard, 97) This terribly racist statement explains the conflict over the limited resources available. The dominant group wants the competition removed and deep the minority group with as little as possible. Lieutenant General John L. Dewitt, the head of the Western Defensive Command, Major General Allen W. Gullion, and other high ranking officers, all guided by their own racism, also campaigned for the Japanese American Population to be removed. Dewitt said: “A Jap’s a Jap. They are a dangerous element, whether loyal or not. There is no way to determine their loyalty, it makes no difference whether he is an American; theoretically he is still Japanese, and you can’t change can’t change him by giving him a piece of paper.”(Spickard, 98)

They claimed the evacuation was a military necessity; however, such a necessity was never demonstrated. The Department of Justice defended the rights and liberties of U.S. citizens guaranteed by the constitution of the United States. J. Edgar Hoover also opposed the mass evacuation. He argued that all the dangerous Japanese Americans were already jailed. (Spickard, 98) Despite the protest, the Roosevelt administration supported the evacuation. On the 19th of February, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order No.9066, authorizing the War Department to prescribe military areas and to exclude any or all persons from these areas. More than 110,000Japanese were removed from their homes and placed in relocation centers in Arkansas, Arizona, Eastern California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Some of the preceding 2 sentences in quotes in original. They lost everything they owned.

After World War II, Japanese Americans were demoralized and in economic disarray. Because all of their possessions and property had been taken away, they simply had to start all over again. There were emotional and psychological consequences for the Nisei. It took decades for them to overcome a lingering shame.

The Japanese Americans have indeed prospered since the 1940’s. Their numbers are increasing in the professional fields. The higher education achievements equate into their having higher incomes than any other ethnic group, including all white Americans. But of course some prejudice and discrimination still exists today, not only with Japanese immigrants but with other foreign immigrants as well.

This appears to be the start of your commentary and reaction to what you have read. All the previous material appears to be summary. Please see assignment. Early Japanese immigrants came to the United States in search of economic prosperity. They were met with hostility, prejudice, and discrimination. Everything they worked so hard for was taken and their rights violated. The dominant group demonstrated total economic exploitation. After enduring such injustices and hardships, many are now enjoying the life they dreamed of for their families.

Works Cited

Parillo, Vincent N. Strangers to These Shores: Race and Ethnic Relations in the United States. 2000

Spickard, Paul R. Japanese Americans: The transformation and Formation of an Ethnic Group.1996

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