David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars: Racism in the Law
Throughout history mankind as a whole has been afraid of things that were different. This is especially true in a world so rich in racial diversity. People are afraid of those who look different, speak different, or act differently than they do. The award-winning novel Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson shows just how difficult it can be to live in a society that discriminates against those who are different and stereotyped based on other people’s actions. Having a father as a lawyer and gaining inspiration from Harper Lee’s award winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird Guterson was able to make a very accurate reenactment of a trial of a Japanese-American in the time period from 1940 to 1955, the era of World War 2. Japanese-Americans lived their lives in fear because the world they lived in saw them as the enemy. Even worse is that Japanese-Americans were round up and put into internment camps in the name of National security. If a government could be so cruel as to imprison its own people for no other reason than that of their descent then how could a Japanese-American get a fair trial? The answer is that a Japanese-American could not get a fair trial in that time because of the racism present in the hearts of non Japanese-Americans as well as in the courts across the Nation.
The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, “A date which will live in infamy” (Wilson). The Japanese launched a surprise attack against the United States and sent massive amounts of aircraft out to destroy the U.S. Fleet. At 7:55am “the first wave of 183 planes”, and at 9:00am “the second wave of 167 planes” attacks Pearl Harbor (Wilson). “They bombed Pearl Harbor. Japs came over in waves. They caught men in their barracks, or on leave, or getting ready for church services, or just taking it easy, as we all do on Sundays” (Hamilton 158). Immediately after the attack Americans became terrified that someone could stoop so low as to attack their country without any notice at all. Because of this Americans looked upon the Japanese and anyone of Japanese descent very coldly. Americans became frightened and filled with paranoia. The thought that anyone around them could be a spy or that their neighbor could have stronger allegiance with Japan than with America was terrifying.
“Almost every Japanese family in the U.S. is a member of a “Ken,” or clan. They are linked in an association; its hidden control is in the hands of one of Japan’s top-flight spies. Driven by their own well-nurtured patriotism and apparently unmolested by the government they are plotting against, their part in the anticipated triumph appears to be well prepared” (High 14-15).
Some spies were secretly resident in America, but it was the widespread belief that almost every Japanese-American was a saboteur. Time magazine went as far as to print a guide on how to tell a Chinese from a Japanese man because at the...