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A few days ago in my WWII class, we were discussing the internment of Japanese Canadians/Americans coupled with images of Japanese people as being “monsters” in American political cartoons. Then this kid in class raised his hand to ask the professor why there was such a huge difference between the way the Germans were depicted and the way the Japanese were depicted in political cartoons, and why German and Italian Americans weren’t interned.

Professor: It’s simple really, it was a byproduct of racism.

Student: Um, was there any other reason?

Professor: Not really, apart from some minor ones, it was racism.

Student: Couldn’t there be some other explanation, like, I don’t know, the war in Japan being “America’s war” more than the European theatre?

Professor: No. Overall, it was a product of “yellow peril” propaganda and rhetoric from years before, coupled with racist policies against Asian immigration seen in both the U.S and Canada, which primed the way for “the Japanese”, even Japanese-Americans who had no connection to Japan through culture or citizenship, being seen as a convenient “Other”, a monolith of sinister intentions and nefarious schemes which were unfounded to somehow infiltrate and conquer the West Coast.

Student: Oh. So what would you call that?

Professor: Racism.

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