In retrospect, there is no doubt that Japanese Americans were discrimated against during World War II. From almost the first moment they arrived in this country, many white people had negative feelings about them. With the negative feelings of wartime escalating, the Japanese internment seemed just the thing to do in order to be proactive in the war. At least that is what government officials told themselves and sold the American public on. The government was able to intern the Japanese because of a long history of prejudice, wartime hysteria, and economic motives.
The Japanese were discriminated against in many ways. One way is that they were the only group interned during World War II. Japan did bomb Pearl Harbor, but these were Japanese Americans that were interned with absolutely no proof that they were ever plotting against the United States. The United States was also pitted against Germany and Italy and these citizens were never interned. This is because those people has assimilated and become part of the population at large.
Interning Germans would have included interning people like icon Joe DiMaggio’s father. The Japanese were much easier to identify and single out as a group. They could not assimilate because government policies had singled them out and they were not allowed to marry or otherwise mix with the general population. Many United States citizens had always harbored negative feelings toward the Japanese. As early as 1900, the San Francisco mayor James Duval Phelan spoke out publicly against the Japanese.
He said, “The Japanese are starting the same tide of immigration which we thought we had checked twenty years ago…Personally we have nothing against the Japanese, but as they will not assimilate with us and their social life is different from ours, let them keep a respectful distance” (Yancey 15). ). By 1905, being greatly influenced by all the sensationalism in the newspapers, Western legislators made statements like “Japanese laborers, by reason of race habits, mode of living, disposition and general characteristics, are undesirable…They contribute nothing to the growth of the state.
They add nothing to its wealth, and they are a blight on the prosperity of it, and a great and impeding danger to its welfare” (Daniels 11). This is to say nothing of the fact that they were stripped of all their civil liberties when they were interned. They were herded like cattle into first assembly centers and then internment camps. They could pack only what they could carry; they were forced into tight quarters with little or no privacy. They were surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire fences. They had basically no rights for as long as four years.
Most of the Japanese Americans did not struggle or resist in any way. They went along willingly with the government orders because they wanted to prove their loyalties to this country. They resisted this discrimination by doing exactly what was asked of them. Once they were in the internment camps, they went about coping with their lives the best way they knew how. Typically this included how to improve their situation. they formed. Mary Tsukamoto describes a typical day at the camps. “A typical day in an internment camp such as Jerome would begin with families getting up.
Remember we did not have any water in our rooms. We just had one light bulb and a small stove. We had to get dressed and go to the middle of the block to use the toilet, wash up and take showers. Usually there were people waiting in lines. After you brushed your teeth and cleaned up, you had to go to a separate building for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They had two sessions. If you were late or forgot your ticket, you could not eat. We stood in line for the food, which was served on metal trays, and we sat at long wooden tables with benches.
There really wasn’t much to do the rest of the time. My dad ran the recreation center for our block. Mother organized and coordinated YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) and USO activities. The USO was organized to welcome Nisei soldiers who were visiting their families. At night we would stay in our room. We didn’t have TV in those days. And we did not have a radio” (Tsukamoto). In Farewell to Manzanar, Houston points out other details, like the kitchens being badly ventilated so that food spoiled quickly so that many people constantly had the “Manzanar runs” (Houston 27).
There were many other ways in which Manzanar totally upended their lives before the camps. Because they had to endure this unusual treatment, they were discriminated against. One of the ideas Tsukamoto highlights is that people had to wait in line for everything—to eat, to use the bathroom, etc. Life was basically one monotony after another although internees did all kinds of things to improve their environments from beginning educational courses to starting baseball leagues to planting gardens. They actually built baseball fields themselves and formed leagues to play baseball.
They did everything they could to make their lives seem as normal as possible. They formed their own neighborhoods inside the walls of these camps that functioned much like neighborhoods on the outside with their own beauty shops, produce stores, newspaper, etc. It has been proven in retrospect that the Japanese were discriminated against. According to information from the web site densho. org, “In 1983, however, a U. S. congressional commission uncovered evidence from the 1940s proving that there had been no military necessity for the unequal, unjust treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
The commission reported that the causes of the incarceration were rooted in “… race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership. “ Works Cited Recommendations section, Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. (1982. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997), page 459. Tsuakamoto, Mary. And Justice for All: an oral history of the Japanese detention camps. Houston, James. Farewell to Manzanar, Japanese American Legacy Project. http://www. densho. org