Prisoners Without Trials: Japanese Americans in World War II
One could make the argument that the internment of the Japanese Americans was not as evil and cruel and prolonged an injustice as those which were perpetrated against the African Americans or Native Americans. The question, however, is whether slavery and genocide are standards by which to assess the relative goodness or evil of the actions of the government of the United States. Clearly, it does not excuse or minimize what the United States did to the Japanese Americans to simply say that it was not as bad as slavery or genocide.
The question of whether the internment was a fluke is also easily answered by a study of the history of the United States and its government's habitual maltreatment of minorities, especially minorities whose appearance mark them as "different" from most Americans (i.e., white Americans). Daniels points out that Asians and Asian Americans had been the target of racism since the nineteenth century in the United States, beginning with the Chinese and extending into the twentieth century, culminating with the internment of Japanese Americans.
In other words, by the systematic discrimination against Asian Americans on the part of the government and the acquiescent American people, the stage had been long set for the internment of the 1940s. The government and the people had been discriminating against the Chinese since the mid-nineteenth century, when hundreds of thousands of Chinese came to make money in the Gold Rush, a situation in which the Asian immigrants were gravely exploited economically and legally deprived of their rights.
When Chinese immigration stopped, Americans found it easy to shift their racial prejudice to the new immigrants, the Japanese. Still, the Japanese constituted a minuscule part of the population even when the internment occurred, so the fear of the Japanese threat to national security was still unjustified.
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