Written by Tanner Semple
Reparations are the proposed plans that, through financial compensation, would rectify past systematic injustices towards racial minorities. The most common argument comes in favor of African-Americans with relatives subjected to the Atlantic Slave Trade – the forced removal of Africans, their bondage into slavery, and forcing them to live and work as slaves in the United States. And while this is a completely rational choice, it is not the only possible one.
With Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 in February of 1942, all Japanese/Japanese-Americans citizens within the United States were forced to relocate to Western internment camps (detention camps for suspects during times of war), very similar to the infamous Nazi internment camps (although not as heinous or deadly). Camps were defined by mistreatment by government officials, poor and tightly-packed housing situations, and overall depraved food and living conditions. All individuals were only allowed to carry what they could hold and suffered greatly. In total, 120,000 individuals were placed in these camps and out of this number, roughly 62% of interned individuals being bonafide American citizens. All of this came the loss of jobs, homes, and established businesses for thousands of Japanese families; and on top of all of this, 7 interned individuals were executed by government sentries.
Another massive blow to the Japanese-American community that came from this horrific policy was the feeding of race-based fear – coming from Japanese alliance with the Axis Powers in WWII – and the discrimination faced even after they returned home. While the material losses are certainly the most pertinent towards any arguments supporting reparations, the pain and fear instilled within the Japanese-American community when returning home to “No Japs Wanted” and “Japs Keep Moving! This Is A White Man’s Neighborhood” was brutal as well; deep scars were given during this period, scars that still remain to this day.
In conjunction with the generation-spanning harms faced by African-Americans due to the introduction of the brutality of the Atlantic Slave Trade, Japanese-Americans additionally deserve a case for reparations due to their subjugation during their and their relatives’ internment during World War II. While the irrational fears of populations of racist America were quelled by Executive Order 9066, an entirely new fear was created. Japanese-Americans, and any ethnicities/races related to opposing sides in times of war, now live in fear that the United States government has the means to target, round-up, and brutally intern any of them. The only rational way to make up for this massive issue is to work to financially compensate those of Japanese heritage for the economic and emotional scars left over from the brutal abuse of power by the American government.
If you are interested, attached above is a firsthand account by Japanese-American actor Pat Morita detailing his placement into an Arizona internment camp and some of the mental anguish he suffered because of it.