In the Shadow of White Christian Privilege: Exploring the Internment of Japanese Nationals From Hawai’i During WWII


During WWII, Camp Livingston in central Louisiana was a site of internment of civilian Japanese men, the majority of whom were from Hawaii. These men were Buddhist priests, newspaper editors, Japanese language schoolteachers, consular agents, among other occupations. Arrested beginning on December 7th and taken from their families, these men were placed in U.S. Army camps as “enemy aliens.” Through two librarians’ research efforts aimed at uncovering the history of Camp Livingston, the sobering reasons these men were targeted became clear. The ethnicity, cultural ties, language and religion of these men were all factors which challenged the prevailing Anglo-Saxon ideal of what constituted an “American.” These differences labeled them not only as an “other,” but anti-American in the eyes of the White Christian majority. By examining how these so-called anti-American occupations and beliefs situated these men as outsiders worthy of surveillance and internment, one can begin to understand how White Christian privilege and a willful misunderstanding of what constitutes being an American can have disastrous consequences. The “othering” experienced by Japanese Americans laid bare the racism and fear inherent in confronting beliefs and cultures outside of the White dominant culture. This presentation will examine how the Japanese in Hawaii were victims of racism, xenophobia, and a strong nationalistic movement and ties these experiences to present day experiences of othering happening to immigrants, Muslims, and other groups under fire for being “different” in America.

Author Information
Hayley Johnson, Louisiana State University, United States
Sarah Simms, Louisiana State University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: KAMC2020
Stream: Difference/Identity/Ethnicity

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon