Julie Otsuka's novel When the Emperor was Divine explores the realities of life in the Japanese internment camps in the American southwest during World War Two. The novel's historical accuracy can be proven by comparing the details in the lives of those who actually did live in the internment camps, as well as with the actual executive orders and decrees used to institutionalize racism in America. The state-sanctioned racism against Asian-Americans during the internment camp phase was of course not an isolated incident, as it paralleled other types of institutionalized racism including the treatment of African-Americans and Native Americans. Moreover, the internment camps represented a culmination of anti-Asian measures. There was historical precedent for the internment camps as a specific manifestation of anti-Asian fears.
One of the earliest legalized forms of racism against Asians was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a reaction against the influx of Chinese laborers that had been participating in major public works and commercial projects including the railroads. Specifically, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 "prohibited (1) the immigration of Chinese laborers, (2) denied Chinese of naturalization; (3) and required Chinese laborers already legally present in the U.S. who later wish to reenter to obtain 'certificates of return.'"[footnoteRef:1] The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 specifically targeted Asians, while allowing for further immigrants to enter the United States from countries or regions deemed more desirable. Therefore, the Japanese internment camps during World War Two...
Pearl Harbor was merely a precipitating event. [1: "The Chinese Exclusion Acts: A Racist Chapter in U.S. Civil Rights History." OCA National Office, accessed 8 Dec, 2014, http://ocaseattle.org/2012/05/21/the-chinese-exclusion-acts-a-racist-chapter-in-u-s-civil-rights-history/]
Anti-Asian racism during the industrial age began nearly as soon as Chinese laborers began arriving to the West coast in the 1850s and "peaked during the 1870s and 1880s."[footnoteRef:2] Purported reasons for the anti-Asian sentiment during the Industrial Age included the perception that "they were willing to get paid lower wages and willing to do jobs whites shunned."[footnoteRef:3] Heller frames the anti-Asian sentiment of the Industrial Age as being linked to threats to Manifest Destiny and the desire of some to create a "white republic' with a racially exclusive form of wage labor and industrialization excluding those deemed too 'lazy' or too 'hard working.'"[footnoteRef:4] [2: Ibid.] [3: Ibid.] [4: Steven Heller. "The Artistic History of American Anti-Asian Racism." The Atlantic, 20 Feb, 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/02/the-artistic-history-of-american-anti-asian-racism/283962/]
Racism is irrational, but the effects of racism are tangible and linger on the historic record as well as in the memories of those who survive. Many did not survive the scourge of racism in America. In addition to common acts of abuse like public humiliation, harassment, and beating, many Asians in the American west during the Industrial Age were murdered and lynched.[footnoteRef:5] Chinese residents were likewise denied the right to vote, and therefore were systematically disenfranchised. As a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act, those who had already emigrated remained in a hostile culture that disallowed the organic growth of Asian communities. Segregation and ghettoization into Chinatowns, the refusal to enable females to join their husbands, and other institutionalized forms of racism led to tangible effects in Asian communities throughout America including human trafficking, drug abuse, and crime.[footnoteRef:6] Such problems only perpetuated anti-Asian…
American Cultural Values: Whitman and Otsuka America has been criticized and praised as having one of the most individualistic systems of cultural values in the world, rather than any cohesive system of national ethics. This is partly the result of America's status as a nation of immigrants. However, merely because America is an individualistic nation, and made up of many peoples and ways of life does not mean that the American