Essay on Japanese Prejudice in Fact and Fiction

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Japanese Prejudice in Fact and Fiction


The novel Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson is about the way Japanese Americans were treated in the United States during the time of Pearl Harbor and afterwards. Guterson got his inspiration for a novel about a court trial full of prejudice from Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. His father was a lawyer, so Guterson was able to reenact a realistic trial that could have occurred during the late 1940s in the book (Sherwin 1). Kabuo Miyamoto, the man accused of murder in the book, is presumed guilty because he looks different. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, most Americans became fearful of the Japanese. The Japanese-Americans didn’t have as many rights as other
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In 1945, California “vigorously enforced the Alien Land Law of 1920 against the Japanese” (Chuman 201). The law was intended to drive the Japanese out of the West Coast state. The government hoped the Japanese would not return after losing their land. For example on August 28, 1946, Yeizo Ikeda was accused of violating the Alien Land Law and lost seventy-two acres of land to the state under Superior Court Judge H. G. Jorgenson (Chuman 202). More than eighty Alien Land Law cases were taken to court in California between 1944 and 1948.

The land of Japanese-Americans was not the only thing taken away. Their freedom was revoked by the relocation of all Japanese people to internment camps. An entire race of people was locked away because of their looks. It was a “mass incarceration, on racial grounds alone, on false evidence of military necessity, and in contempt of their supposedly inalienable rights, of an entire class of American citizens” (Adams 9). President Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9102, “authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas” (Adams 48). In March of 1942, the government started moving people of Japanese decents to camps. These Japanese had committed no crime other than looking like one of the enemies. Most of the people in the camp had never been to Japan and couldn’t read or write in Japanese.

“No official of any city, county, state, or federal government had ever advised any of them,…