Farewell To Manzanar

by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston

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In Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, what is the most humiliating thing in the camps for the Japanese people sent there?   

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The most humiliating aspect of the internment of Japanese and Japanese American people during World War II was the U.S. government’s deliberate violation of their constitutional rights through false imprisonment. Using the rationale of war with Japan, the U.S. government rounded up thousands of U.S. citizens and legal residents and moved them hundreds, or even thousands, of miles from their homes and seized their property. In addition to the violation of their rights according to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits false imprisonment, the citizens who were incarcerated were generally denied access to legal counsel. The frustration of finding their efforts to gain release blocked at every turn drove some prisoners to suicide. Ignoring the likelihood that mental health problems would result from false imprisonment, the authorities rarely provided adequate medical treatment.

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In Farewell to Manzanar, the conditions that the Japanese had to experience in the camps were humiliating.

Forced relocation was very humiliating. Once Japanese-Americans were relocated, their humiliation at places like Manzanar continued. Basic services were not even basic. Food was improperly prepared. This contributed to spells of diarrhea which became known as "Manzanar runs.”  To have to endure improperly prepared and spoiled food is an indignity.  It is humiliating for both child and adult alike. In intense detail, Farewell to Manzanar depicts this reality.

The presence of diarrhea highlights another aspect of humiliation that Japanese people had to experience. Using the bathroom at Manzanar was humiliating.  Toilets were backed up.  Jeanne and her mother had to use a bathroom where the floor was covered with human waste.  They had to walk a considerable distance to find a bathroom that did work.  The use of a bathroom is one of the most basic experiences.  Human beings should be able to have a functional bathroom that reflects their dignity. Standing in human waste is humiliating.  It is the type of moment where people have to wonder at what point their lives turned into such a sad and pathetic condition. When the Japanese who were forced to stay at internment camps cannot even experience a working toilet, it is a reminder of the humiliation that many endured in American internment camps.

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