While reading the ‘”YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US”: The American Mentality’ blog post, I was struck by the description of the Japanese-Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II. The post described how, with regards to Shklar, the internment signified the Japanese-American’s loss of standing and citizenship. Immediately, I wondered if one can lose standing, and therefore citizenship by Shklar’s definition, can it ever truly be gained back. At first I thought that there was absolutely no way, but now I believe you can make a case for either way.
Such losses of either standing or earning are indicative of societal values, and more important than they seem. After all, a society that can take away your standing can always do it again. The internment of Japanese-Americans present an interesting case study, as their situation is unique in modern American history. The Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II because they were believed to be a threat to America, as America was at war with Japan. As this was an blatant exercise of racism, Executive Order 9066 has been condemned since, but how much remorse was there really? The Japanese-Americans who were interned during WWII had to wait until 1976 for an apology from President Ford, who said that the internment was “wrong,” and 1988 for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which granted $20,000 to the surviving detainees as per the recommendations of the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians’s Personal Justice Denied report of 1983. Even though the detainees eventually received reparations for their internment, they had to wait nearly 40 years for this small measure of justice. This small measure of justice likens the Japanese-Americans to second-class citizens, lacking the standing necessary for citizenship, even after the internment was over.
The plight of the detainees makes me agree with Shklar’s proposition that standing is an integral part of citizenship. The Japanese-Americans lost their standing, and were unable to earn at the same time, so they could not be fully considered citizens. But, what Shklar does not address is whether one can regain citizenship if it has been lost. Once the Japanese-Americans were out of the internment camps, they were able to earn again, and received reparations, showing that they regained partial citizenship in the form of earning. But did they ever truly regain their standing? The people who were detained had to wait over 20 years for an apology, which shows that the government did not consider the Japanese-Americans who were detained important enough to apologize to. Even following the apology of 1976, it took 12 years to receive reparations for the internment. Though the government has tried to make amends for this terrible violation of the rights of the interned Japanese-Americans, they did not do what they had promised, nor enough that would have equated the Japanese-Americans to full citizenship. Though the government might not have granted the standing that the Japanese-Americans deserved, most people nowadays would agree that the internment was completely wrong and would have recognized the Japanese-Americans, giving them standing and citizenship. So, does a person have citizenship, by Shklar’s definition, if the people grant you standing but the government doesn’t?