How did the internment of the Japanese affect the Japanese-American community?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a part of American History that is only in recent past being explored.  For so long, the narrative of America's entry into World War II was played up by the idea of Pearl Harbor that it clouded everything else.  At the same time, I think that the injustice of Pearl Harbor might have some competition with the injustices perpetrated on the Japanese American Community afterwards.  Examine the immediate impact of internment on those Japanese living in America:

Within hours after Japan’s bombing attack of the United States naval station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began arresting community leaders, teachers at Japanese schools, and anyone who had business ties to Japan. Most of the two thousand men arrested were Issei (born in Japan, immigrants to the United States). Their status as resident aliens was changed to that of enemy aliens. The two-week period of arrests along the Pacific coast was also a time of search and seizure of Japanese American households. Homes, businesses, and personal property were lost.

It is a lengthy quote, but might go very far in illuminating the impact on the Japanese- American community.  Internment was with such force, such a coordinated effort, that individuals impacted could only grasp at trying to figure out why it was happening, what was happening, and what it would mean.  Relocation to camps in the middle of the desert, far removed from society and any rights that might go along with it, had to have been a transition of nightmare proportions.  In the end, this had a profound impact on the Japanese- American community, compelling them to distrust what the government was doing and White society, in general. The ironic element in all of this was that, for the most part, the Japanese- American community was one of the most passive communities of color in America.  They were hard working, followers of both the opportunity ideology and the American Dream, and simply sought to remain in the private realm.  No doubt that this cultural capital caused more confusion when they were the targets of governmental power and abuse.

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Farewell To Manzanar

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