The Internment of JapaneseAmericans
On February 19, 1942, shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered the relocation and incarceration of 130,00 Japanese Americans living on the west coast. FDR authorized Executive Order 9066 which allowed military commanders to designate "military areas" which they could exclude any or all persons from. This power declared all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast except for those in government camps. Nearly 5,000 Japanese Americans voluntarily relocated outside of the exclusionary zone but the majority were forcibly relocated from their west coast homes in the spring of 1942.
Several types of media were used to reach the american people such as newspaper articles, flyers, and even motion pictures. This propaganda stated that the relocation of Japanese Americans was a matter of national security. Though in 1980 President Carter stated "The promulgation of Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions that followed from it – detention, ending detention and ending exclusion – were not driven by analysis of military conditions. The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership." Though it's reassuring that the government was able to recognize this mistake it's still regrettable that it happened, Carter made this formal apology and authorized a payment of $20,000 to each individual camp survivor.
The media preyed on Americans new fear of the Japanese after pearl harbor, the west coast in particular became very racist. The attitudes of leaders and the lack of perseverance by the Justice Department to protect the civil rights of the Japanese Americans made for a successful relocation of 130,000 Japanese Americans meet with virtually no resistance. This was partially because motion pictures were popular at the time and portrayed a positive image of relocation to non-Japanese movie goers. Newspapers would approach relocation as if it was a necessary inevitability in times of war.
Obviously the media was extremely biased in this matter, the white Americans creating and producing the media that citizens consumed were racist and perpetuated these negative stereotypes about Japanese Americans. They chose to leave out the substandard conditions these people were now being forced to live in and focused on the benefits the camps were supposed to be offering. Though few Japanese Americans actually revived any of the opportunities that were promised.
It's always been apparent in american culture that people love to get on bandwagons, it's human nature to want to be included and to do so most will follow the tide and agree with popular opinions. At the time, in the 1940's, the majority of american citizens supported sending everyone of Japanese heritage to internment camps so and anyone who was on the fence about it was quickly swayed by the media's biased portrayal of the events. People were lead to believe it was a matter of national security, creating unrealistic threats of submarine attacks on the Pacific coast. The media has always thrived on covering peoples fears, they're most successful when there's havoc.
In a historical context these events most likely would not have played out the same in modern times. In the 1940's black people were still segregated and all people of color like Mexicans, Asians and immigrants of any race we're not treated any better. People were raised with much more close minded views and it was acceptable to be more bigoted back then people are today.
- Semiannual Report of the War Relocation Authority, for the period January 1 to June 30, 1946, not dated. Papers of Dillon S. Myer
- "The War Relocation Authority and The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II: 1948 Chronology
- Daniels, R. (2002). Incarceration of the Japanese Americans: A sixty-year perspective. History Teacher, 35(3), 297-311