American Governance And Japanese Internment During World War II Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Japan, United States, Criminal Justice, America, Court, Crime, Race, Citizenship

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/01/23

Japanese internment further underscores how whiteness has been the perquisite for American citizenship since the inception of the nation during the eighteenth century. Forced incarceration merely because of their race represents a blatant example of alien citizenship in the history of the United States. During internment Japanese men and women faced harsh racism and family strain on a quotidian basis due to the government forcibly and hastily uprooting all Japanese and Japanese Americans from their homes. Assessing and judging the legality of this government, according to official policy, requires clear-cut proof that the Japanese residing in the West Coast were a “clear and present danger” to national security and thus required safety measures be put in place. In his report to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Chief of Staff General C. Marshall in 1943, J.L DeWitt steadfastly defended the internment of the Japanese and Japanese Americans as necessary for military purpose. Fred Korematsu, in response, challenged this unconstitutional removal and relocation of 110,442 Japanese and Japanese Americans living on the west coast based on the premise that they posed a threat to national security because some of them may be spies working to tear American society asunder. Through various laws, remarks by members of the Supreme Court, and federal court case decisions, it is clear that Japanese internment was not carried out and enforced for military purposes. Rather, it was symptomatic of the racial anxieties and suspicions the American government had towards a racial group constructed as wholly Other and alien and whose presence threatened American global hegemony and riled up nativist sentiment.
During the Roaring Twenties, the court case Ozawa vs. United States elucidates the paradoxes that have been grafted into U.S. immigration law. The court case demonstrates how race as a social construction played a central role in similar court cases veiled by their rendering as “just” causes. Takao Ozawa was a successful and rich by contemporary standards as a landowner and businessman. Moreover, he displayed his loyalty and nationalistic fervor when he participated in World War I on the American side. Ozawa, a Japanese male, sued the court not to directly challenge the constitutionality of the racial restrictions implemented by arbitrary immigration laws but rather to classify the Japanese as white due to their pale skin tone. Assimilated and Acculturated in the U.S. which his participation during World War I reveals, Ozawa contended that he already proven his loyalty to the United States, and, invoking racial logic that permeated eugenics discourses that proliferated at the outset of the twentieth century, his white skin further emphasized his whiteness. As such, Ozawa fit the prerequisites for American citizenship. In addition, Ozawa argued that race should not be the prerequisite for receiving the full protections provided by having American citizenship. Rather, he asserted, acquiring wealth and owning land should be the barometers by which fitness for citizenship is assessed. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Ozawa American citizenship on the premise that he was not white by scientific principles since the Japanese descended from the so-called Mongoloid race.
The United State Supreme Court sanctioned this blatant abridgment of civil rights, which various court decisions made during the 1940s elucidate. The renowned court case Korematsu v. United States firmly established the legality and constitutionality Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 by removing any and all language of citizenship when discussing Japanese citizens. The decision upheld the exclusion, evacuation and relocation of the Japanese while also spatially containing Japanese bodies vis-à-vis the enforcement of a stringent curfew within a circumscribe area surrounded by barbed wire because of military necessity. The decision on Korematsu v. United States conveys the precept that social alienation, classification, discrimination, and prejudices based on nationality and race could serve as a premise for violating constitutional principles. Fred Korematsu refused to vacate his house even though it was located in a locale where Japanese were excluded from. Moreover, the plaintiff attempted to escape from government by turning to extreme measures of self-fashioning a new identity by getting plastic surgery and change his outward appearance. The Supreme Court deemed Japanese internment constitutional because the U.S. military rendered it a necessary measure for national security purposes, thereby concurring with DeWitt’s defense rational. Taking into account official rationale of military necessity, the Supreme Court concluded that Korematsu’s case fell outside of their authoritative purview. Justice Hugo Black was charged with the responsibility of articulating the majority opinion in which he declared: “The military authorities charged with the primary responsibility of defending our shores, concluded that curfew provided inadequate protection and order exclusionin accordance with congressional authority to the military to say who should who should not remain in the threatened areas.” Justice Felix Frankfurter proffered a concurring opinion based on the premise that the U.S. Constitution legitimized any and all actions to be taken no matter how extreme if circumstances such as war called for it. However, some of other justices decried Japanese internment as an unconstitutional measure because it overtly legalized and enshrined racism.


W. Wheeler, Discovering the American past: A Look at the Evidence (2nd ed.) (Boston: Houghton Mifflin: 1990).

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