Racism: Japanese Americans

Since I am currently attending Auburn University in Alabama and do not have access to a vehicle, I ‘visited’ the Smithsonian National Museum of American History online. I personally really enjoy history-  I am the person who can spend hours in a historical museum reading every little detail. I chose to focus on the exhibition called “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II.” This caught my interest because I enjoy learning about WWII and I am currently learning about it in my World History class.

The fate of Japanese Americans during and after the WWII period is not usually a focal point of history classes at any level of education. One thing that the majority of Americans do know however, is that the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was what caused the United States to officially enter the war the following day. According to the exhibit, “ten weeks later President Franklin Roosevelt signed executive order 9066, under which nearly 75,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry were taken into custody.” Even the President of the US, the leader of our country, turned against the Japanese during this time of chaos and confusion. Partly following the leadership of the President, American citizens became hardened toward the Japanese, even if they had been born in America. The picture that stood out to me the most was one in which a white woman is pointing to a sign that says “JAPS KEEP MOVING- This is a White Man’s Neighborhood.”

http___americanhistory.si.edu_sites_default_files_G0167.jpg

“A resident of Hollywood, California, makes clear her sentiments to any Japanese looking for housing in her neighborhood, around 1923
Courtesy of National Japanese American Historical Society” 

This is somewhat ironic in a sense because of the fact that it is a woman pointing to the sign. We have seen in numerous readings how women have been oppressed because of their sex in the past. Now, it seems as if some of the women forgot how they were treated unfairly and turned right around and did the same to others. Acts were also passed around the first half of the 20th century that made Asians ineligible for citizenship and barred additional immigration. By declaring people ineligible for immigration just because of their race, the ideals of the American Dream are tarnished. The land of freedom and opportunity for the oppressed cannot be that way when the doors are closed. Many years later, the Japanese demanded payment for the way they were treated. While Japanese Americans are treated much better today, there is still some racism used against them.

“Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II.” National Museum of American History. N.p., 01 Mar. 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

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3 comments

  1. While I’ve never been to this museum, I have heard great things and would definitely like to visit someday. The second picture you posted was very sad to look at because I can’t imagine the pain the Japanese people must have felt when they read the sign. I also think you made a very interesting and valid point, the fact that its a woman pointing to the sign really does put the severity of prejudice into perspective. The Japanese people appear to have been looked down upon at the lowest level, and there is so much irony in the picture. I think this is a perfect connection to what we have been discussing in class about racism and prejudice.

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  2. I like how you point out in your passage about the women who seemed to turn an eye to those in need. To me it seems that maybe they women that were following the orders that no Japanese were to be here, could have been out of fear of retaliation from the men or government if they were caught with any of them in their home.
    In the events following Pearl Harbor, I can understand to an extent wanting to protect the States, but to make the Japanese who had been here, were born here or even who recently came here be deported back home; maybe we should have seen the benefit of having some on our side before we just shipped them back to their home. It is sad that the actions of a few can have such a huge impact on the whole group, but this is the racism that exist in this world and the way that many see different races even now a day.

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  3. You are correct, I really did not learn much about how Japanese Americans were treated during the time of war. I can understand somewhat why American people disliked Japanese Americans but they were not responsible for what happened. You have a very interesting connection from the image to the readings, I agree with you that it is ironic that woman were oppressed but then they turn around and to the same to the Japanese American. In many readings we see unfair treatment to people that don’t deserve it. The oppressed are also oppressors and it just doesn’t make sense. I enjoyed reading your post it was very informative an interesting.

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