Racial relations has always been a topic of discussion throughout the course of American History. During the second World War, discrimination against certain racial groups was common. Japanese Americans dealt with this unjust discrimination the most during the years the United States was involved in the War. African Americans were another group who were treated wrongly because of their race. World War II affected race relations more negatively than it did positively. The reason America joined the war was because of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This was where the Japanese attacked the US Navy base located in Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack and 1,000 were injured. This sparked a hatred against Japanese Americans living in the states. Many people believed that all Japanese Americans on the West Coast were a threat to the security of the nation.
The evacuation was impelled by military necessity. The safety of the Pacific Coast continues to require the exclusion of Japanese from the area now prohibited to them and will so continue as long as that military necessity exists. The surprise attack at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese crippled a major portion of the Pacific Fleet and exposed the West Coast to an attack which could not have been substantially impeded by defensive fleet operations. Intelligence services records reflected the existence of hundreds of Japanese organizations in West Coast states which, prior to December 7, 1941, were actively engaged in advancing Japanese war aims. These records also disclosed that thousands of American-born Japanese had gone to Japan to receive their education and indoctrination there and had become rabidly pro-Japanese and then had returned to the United States.
This excerpt from General DeWitt’s explanation as to why the Japanese were evacuated from West Coast cities, also known as internment, give you an argument that many Americans agreed
with because of Pearl Harbor. DeWitt believed that every Japanese American who immigrated from Japan or who had relatives who had immigrated in the past were against the American war effort and should be removed. This led to him writing the Japanese Evacuation from the West
Coast, 1942: final report, which was his argument explaining why he believed this. The president at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, agreed with his viewpoint and signed Executive order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which ordered the policy of internment. This allowed for the relocation of Japanese Americans living in so called military areas and placed them in internment camps.
Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander.
Many people thought all Japanese Americans were conspiring against the government. This caused many Japanese Americans to be fired from their jobs and basically made living in America basically impossible for them. Many of them lost their jobs and couldn’t support their families because of the discrimination against them and laws passed to oppress their natural rights as citizens. Pearl Harbor changed the way most American citizens saw the Japanese and lead to racism against these people. The fear that Americans had towards the Japanese is why internment occurred. During Internment, they were treated like prisoners and the camps were called “inland concentration camps” by one Californian congressman. Hearing the term
concentration camp, you usually think of Nazi concentration camps and the holocaust. The definition of a concentration camp is a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities. This means that Japanese internment was basically a
concentration camp since they were considered “political prisoners” due to the attack and the belief the government had. They were also kept in small camps in remote areas. During the time of the war, Japanese Americans were fired from their jobs, their businesses were boycotted, and their licenses to practice certain jobs were taken away and insurance was taken away. Also, in Spring of 1942 they lost their constitutional rights to due process. Due process protects your rights of life, liberty, and property in a court of law. Taking rights away from a certain race is unconstitutional, but the supreme court never ruled that it was at the time. There were two major Anti-Japanese organizations that came about during the war. They were the Remember the Pearl Harbor League (RPHL) and the Japanese Exclusion League (JEL). Most of the members had a hatred for these people because they were threatened by Japanese businesses. Once the Japanese were in internment camps, it allowed their businesses to prosper. Being in the internment camps was difficult, especially if you were located in desert areas. They were only allowed to bring a couple of personal items with them and while in the camps, they received improper medical care and went through a lot of emotional stress.
Being a Japanese American during this time period was hard to handle. Persecution and discrimination was common for them to deal with. The loss of rights and internment were
evidence proving the fact that White Americans were discriminating against Japanese Americans based on their race which is unfair to them as people.
African Americans were also treated poorly by Whites during the War. They played a part in the US war effort. They got involved in the army and the navy and also helped by making parts needed for machines being used in the military. There were many job opportunities White Americans and African Americans had to fight over. Racial violence was common throughout the early 1900s and continued during World War II. It was even more common during this time. White civilians would attack Black military personnel and bring down all their attempts to help defend the country. They attacked many military bases all across America. This also lead to some African Americans to retaliate in other military bases. African Americans joined the war not only to defend the country, but also to gain equality among everyone no matter what race. The racial violence during this time period made people want to move towards the civil rights movement because segregation, which was an issue at the time, was unfair to people of color.
African Americans in the Navy were racially discriminated against as well. On Navy ships, African Americans were segregated from everyone else and had to wear specific uniforms to show their status, which was very low compared to white sailors. Most of them were basically servants to the white sailors. They would load up ammo for them on ships or would work in construction units. Doris Miller was a famous African American steward on the West Virginia. He was there during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He saved the captains life and successfully shot down two Japanese planes using a weapon he was never trained how to use. Although he was acknowledged for his bravery, he was never allowed to be trained to be apart of the Navy. This is one of the biggest issues revolving around racism in the Navy. African Americans were not allowed to share the same status as a white sailor. They were believed to be below the white sailors because of their race. Even in the Navy race was still a major issue.
In the 1940s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was trying to push for equality for all and the cessation of segregation, but the fact that in the South racism was a major issue made it hard for this to occur. The NAACP civil rights leader, A. Philip Randolph, organized a march the Washington D.C. on July 1, 1941. Roosevelt was scared this would be bad for the nation when they are in a time they needed national unity. He issued Executive Order 8802, which created the Fair Employment Practices Committee. They were in charge of getting rid of racial discrimination in the government. After this, racial protests were still happening. These outbreaks would occur until there would be equality among all races.
The treatment of Japanese and African Americans during the War time period was unfair and unjust. Taking away the peoples natural rights is unconstitutional. The internment camps, which were meant to keep away potential threats, wasn’t the right thing to do because the people are American citizens and had rights taken away from them because of their race. African Americans involved in the war effort were treated as less than the White Americans involved when they should have been treated equally. These all show ways that race played a role in the way people treated different races during the time of World War II.