As this video shows, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered the internment of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry. They were not guilty of any crime, but were considered potentially disloyal because of their ancestry. A large number of Americans, possibly a majority, supported the President’s action on moral grounds. Then, almost half a century later, Congress awarded every Japanese American who had been interned $20,000 in reparations. Because few people made any public protest, a majority of the American people presumably approved of the congressional action.

Was the internment morally justified? Was the paying of reparations? Is it an example of cultural relativism during its era? Are there any examples today when the US might be practicing or engaging in cultural relativism to morally justify our behavior (foreign or domestic policies)?

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