Japanese Internment Camps

I had trouble with this Daily Prompt – “Fence.”  I was going to write about one of my students, who was doing the assignment on the map of Mexico with SW U.S., and he asked me, “Can I put a wall on my map?”  I laughed it off because I was going to ask him, “Which side are you going to put him on?” (He’s one of my students who supports Bernie Sanders.)  But that’s a wall not a fence.

Relocation camp in Arizona
Relocation camp in Arizona

Again, I wasn’t going to participate in today’s Daily Prompt until I strolled through the participants’ submissions, one of which inspired me to post something similar – Eternal Friendship by Sure Scribbles.  The picture reminded me of the barbed wires that Japanese Americans were fenced-in by when they were relocated to internment camps in California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Arkansas, and Wyoming (in the regions with desolate desert) for an undetermined amount of time.  Many were farmers who owned their land, were forced to sell their land.  Japanese and Japanese Americans had experiments done on them.

Fred Korematsu challenged FDR’s Executive Order 9066 for the relocation of Japanese and Japanese Americans in 1942.  In Korematsu v The United States, it went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court “justified the executive order as a wartime necessity.”  There was overwhelming hatred and discrimination toward Asians in general because all Asians looked alike, but of all the Asian groups in the U.S., the enemy was Japan.

Many Japanese American young men enlisted in the American army to fight Japan, because they saw themselves as American.  I could be wrong, but it’s possible that some also enlisted because they needed to prove they were loyal to the U.S.

I remember watching a program on PBS to show the brighter side of the internment camps, but this could very well be that it depended on where you were relocated.  Japanese parents were glad that their children were learning Japanese traditions, such as Japanese opera, acting, and dressing in Japanese attire, playing Japanese instruments, etc., basically learning and practicing Japanese culture.  The parents were happy about this because the arts were limited to the middle-to-upper class and upper-class Japanese families in Japan, but ordinary Japanese people in this camp had the opportunity to learn these things.  I tried finding the video after it aired, but to no avail.

Did you know that George Takei was in an internment camp? Watch a bit of him telling of his experience in the musical, Allegiancewhich is loosely based on his experience.  In a different video clip from PBS he said that in this musical he was finally able say to his father, “You led us like sheep to the slaughter.”

(Left to right) George Takei, John Cho, and Garrett Wang.
(Left to right) George Takei, John Cho, and Garrett Wang.

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