Ethics of Identity: Japanese-American Internment Essay

2040 Words Feb 3rd, 2008 9 Pages
Ethics of Identity: Japanese-American Internment
Since 1893, when Fredrick Jackson Turner announced that the American identity was not a byproduct of the first colonists, but that it emerged out of the wilderness and only grew with the surfacing of the frontier, America has placed a great emphasis on the notion of a national identity. However, the paradox of the American identity is that although the United States is a melting pot of many different traditions, motives, and ideals, there are nevertheless, distinctive qualities that define the "American." It usually takes a crisis to cause an individual, or a nation, to renew itself. However, sometimes it takes a fight for survival to induce it. The incarceration of a numerous number of
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This instills a feeling of revenge within Esther, which Sasaki also felt. As a direct result of the racial discrimination and the internment experience, Sasaki renounced her Japanese name and made a conscience effort to be as "American as possible." Although Sasaki was forced to assimilate to a more Americanized identity, many factors may have influenced her decision. Pak suggests that being compliant and accepting the American identity may be one of the Japanese cultural characteristics; however, it may also be the result of the "democratic citizenship education" that the Washington School was advocating. Pak argues, "Seattle had a tradition of steering a moderate course in response to Americanization pressures while stressing loyalty and Americanism" (44). However, despite the strong push for Americanization – involuntarily substantiating the "melting pot" theory – mainstream America could not distinguish between the Japanese of Japan and Japanese Americans who had lived in the United States for more than a generation. To further complicate this notion of the "American" identity, place of origin also assists in discriminating upon many of the Japanese Americans – especially the Nisei and Sansei, second and third generations respectively. Caught between the ideas of tolerance and American citizenship and the national propaganda of hatred against Japanese, many Japanese Americans, specifically the Sansei ended up suffering an identity crisis. One story

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