Joey Slavik

Japanese internment was a phenomena that arose after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. However, prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, America had already concocted a villainous image for the Japanese, which was, above all other Axis powers, portrayed as foreign, brutal and animalistic, often times shown with a bloodied knife, as opposed to the guns their German and Italian counterparts carried.

Such demonization, aided by the shock of the attacks of Pearl Harbor, led the American public to quickly change views towards those with Japanese heritage. A mass fear of a secret Japanese attack on the West Coast spurred the desire for action against someone or something. In turn an executive order was put into place, Executive Order 9066, which gave military commanders the power to declare exclusionary zones, from which anybody can be denied access or forcibly be removed from. These designated military zones were largely placed along the west coast, where a majority of Japanese descendant Americans lived at the time. These orders forced more than 100,000 people of Japanese heritage to relocate to “internment camps,” more than 60% of whom were American citizens, essentially given an indefinite sentence without trial. Anti-Japanese sentiment sparked during these times, largely due to the negative stigmas left by Pearl Harbor but many people admitted to not supporting Japanese interment because of a possible war threat, but simply because they felt the Japanese had ‘taken their land’ (ironic considering that’s how the USA was formed). Many other racist sentiments towards the Japanese were adopted by American culture at this time as well, more than likely a result of constant negative exposure by means of propaganda and the ostracism of normal, hard working Japanese-Americans, which left a gap in the understanding of another culture, only to be filled in with hatred and fear.

The internment of the Japanese during WWII had shown a fundamental shift in our society’s perception of outside groups, rewriting social standards, as well as break in one of our political systems most prized creeds: that an American citizen shall never be indefinitely detained without proper accusation and trial. Two things which more 100,000 individuals were denied.