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Anti-Japanese Legislation in California

Anti-Japanese Legislation in California


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The Japanese government was understandably troubled by the treatment given their emigrants living in the United States. Theodore Roosevelt had acted in 1908 to quell earlier tensions, but the racial situation had heated up again, early in Wilson’s first term.The roots of the anxiety in California were varied. However, dislike of the Japanese was especially acute because of a strong work ethic that enabled many of them to succeed in their business ventures and accumulate large land holdings.The latter characteristic became the object of a proposed law under consideration by the California legislature. The Japanese government protested vehemently to Wilson, who dispatched Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan to California in a doomed effort to prevent the measure from becoming law. Tensions developed to such an extent that war rumors widely circulated.In the end, the crisis dissipated, due in large part to Japanese recognition of Wilson’s sincere attempt to prevent the legislation from passing and also the understanding that a president could not dictate policy to state legislatures.The land issue in California was one more in a growing list of issues that strained the relationship between the United States and Japan.


To other Wilson foreign affairs activities.


A Brief History of Japanese American Relocation During World War II

exercising at Manzanar

On December 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II when Japan attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. At that time, nearly 113,000 people of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of them American citizens, were living in California, Washington, and Oregon. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066 empowering the U.S. Army to designate areas from which "any or all persons may be excluded." No person of Japanese ancestry living in the United States was ever convicted of any serious act of espionage or sabotage during the war. Yet these innocent people were removed from their homes and placed in relocation centers, many for the duration of the war. In contrast, between 1942 and 1944, 18 Caucasians were tried for spying for Japan at least ten were convicted in court.

To understand why the United States government decided to remove Japanese Americans from the West Coast in the largest single forced relocation in U.S. history, one must consider many factors. Prejudice, wartime hysteria, and politics all contributed to this decision.

West Coast Anti-Asian Prejudice

Anti-Asian prejudices, especially in California, began as anti-Chinese feelings. The cultural and economic forces that led to the anti-Japanese feelings are discussed in detail by Daniels, and summarized here. Chinese immigration to the U.S. began about the same time as the California gold rush of 1849. During the initial phases of the economic boom that accompanied the gold rush, Chinese labor was needed and welcomed. However, soon white workingmen began to consider the Chinese, who in 1870 comprised about 10 percent of California's population, as competitors. This economic competition increased after the completion of the trans-continental Union-Central Pacific Railroad in 1869, which had employed around 10,000 Chinese laborers. Chinese labor was cheap labor, and this economic grievance became an ideology of Asian inferiority similar to existing American racial prejudices. Discrimination became legislated at both the state and federal level, including a Chinese immigration exclusion bill passed in 1882 by the U.S. Congress.

The experiences of Chinese immigrants foreshadowed those of Japanese immigrants, who began arriving about the same time the Chinese exclusion bill was passed. Japanese immigrants were called Issei, from the combination of the Japanese words for "one" and "generation" their children, the American-born second generation, are Nisei, and the third generation are Sansei. Nisei and Sansei who were educated in Japan are called Kibei. The Issei mostly came from the Japanese countryside, and they generally arrived, either in Hawaii or the mainland West Coast, with very little money. Approximately half became farmers, while others went to the coastal urban centers and worked in small commercial establishments, usually for themselves or for other Issei.

Anti-Japanese movements began shortly after Japanese immigration began, arising from existing anti-Asian prejudices. However, the anti-Japanese movement became widespread around 1905, due both to increasing immigration and the Japanese victory over Russia, the first defeat of a western nation by an Asian nation in modern times. Both the Issei and Japan began to be perceived as threats. Discrimination included the formation of anti-Japanese organizations, such as the Asiatic Exclusion League, attempts at school segregation (which eventually affected Nisei under the doctrine of "separate but equal"), and a growing number of violent attacks upon individuals and businesses.

The Japanese government subsequently protested this treatment of its citizens. To maintain the Japanese-American friendship President Theodore Roosevelt attempted to negotiate a compromise, convincing the San Francisco school board to revoke the segregationist order, restraining the California Legislature from passing more anti-Japanese legislation and working out what was known as the "Gentlemen's Agreement" with the Japanese government. In this, the Japanese government agreed to limit emigration to the continental United States to laborers who had already been to the United States before and to the parents, wives, and children of laborers already there.

In 1913, California passed the Alien Land Law which prohibited the ownership of agricultural land by "aliens ineligible to citizenship." In 1920, a stronger Alien Land Act prohibited leasing and sharecropping as well. Both laws were based on the presumption that Asians were aliens ineligible for citizenship, which in turn stemmed from a narrow interpretation of the naturalization statute. The statute had been rewritten after the Fourteenth Amendment to the constitution to permit naturalization of "white persons" and "aliens of African descent." This exclusionism, clearly the intent of Congress, was legitimized by the Supreme Court in 1921, when Takao Ozawa was denied citizenship. However, the Nisei were citizens by birth, and therefore parents would often transfer title to their children. The Immigration Act of 1924 prohibited all further Japanese immigration, with the side effect of making a very distinct generation gap between the Issei and Nisei.

Many of the anti-Japanese fears arose from economic factors combined with envy, since many of the Issei farmers had become very successful at raising fruits and vegetables in soil that most people had considered infertile. Other fears were military in nature the Russo-Japanese War proved that the Japanese were a force to be reckoned with, and stimulated fears of Asian conquest — "the Yellow Peril." These factors, plus the perception of "otherness" and "Asian inscrutability" that typified American racial stereotypes, greatly influenced the events following Pearl Harbor.

In the Aftermath of Pearl Harbor

Beginning December 7, the Justice Department organized the arrests of 3,000 people whom it considered "dangerous" enemy aliens, half of whom were Japanese. Of the Japanese, those arrested included community leaders who were involved in Japanese organizations and religious groups. Evidence of actual subversive activities was not a prerequisite for arrest. At the same time, the bank accounts of all enemy aliens and all accounts in American branches of Japanese banks were frozen. These two actions paralyzed the Japanese American community by depriving it of both its leadership and financial assets.

In late January 1942 many of the Japanese arrested by the Justice Department were transferred to internment camps in Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota. Often their families had no idea of their whereabouts for weeks. Some internees were reunited with their families later in relocation centers. However, many remained in Justice camps for the duration of the war.

After Pearl Harbor, the shock of a sneak attack on American soil caused widespread hysteria and paranoia. It certainly did not help matters when Frank Knox, Roosevelt's Secretary of the Navy, blamed Pearl Harbor on "the most effective fifth column work that's come out of this war, except in Norway." Knox apparently already realized that the local military's lack of preparedness far overshadowed any espionage in the success of the attack but did not want the country to lose faith in the Navy. This scapegoating opened the door to sensationalistic newspaper headlines about sabotage, fifth column activities, and imminent invasion. Such stories had no factual basis, but fed the growing suspicions about Japanese Americans (J.A.C.P. 1973). In fact, as far as Japanese attacks on the mainland were concerned, the military had already concluded that Japanese hit-and-run raids were possible, but that any large-scale invasion was beyond the capacity of the Japanese military, as was any invasion of Japan by the U.S. military.

"Military Necessity"

After the attack on Pearl Harbor martial law was declared in Hawaii and all civilians were subject to travel, security, and curfew restrictions imposed by the military. Japanese fishing boats were impounded and individuals considered potentially dangerous were arrested .

Politicians called for the mass incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii. But the military resisted: one-third of the Hawaiian population was of Japanese ancestry and the military didn't have enough soldiers to guard them or enough ships to send them to the mainland. More importantly, their labor was crucial to the civilian and military economy of the islands. In the end fewer than 1,500 (out of a population of 150,000) were confined and eventually removed to the mainland.

One of the key players in the confusion following Pearl Harbor was Lt. General John L. DeWitt, the commander of the Western Defense Command and the U.S. 4th Army. DeWitt had a history of prejudice against non-Caucasian Americans, even those already in the Army, and he was easily swayed by any rumor of sabotage or imminent Japanese invasion.

DeWitt was convinced that if he could control all civilian activity on the West Coast, he could prevent another Pearl Harbor-type disaster. J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI ridiculed the "hysteria and lack of judgment" of DeWitt's Military Intelligence Division, citing such incidents as the supposed powerline sabotage actually caused by cattle.

Nevertheless, in his Final Report (1943), DeWitt cites other reasons for the "military necessity" of evacuation, such as supposed signal lights and unidentified radio transmissions, none of which was ever verified. He also insisted on seizing weapons, ammunition, radios, and cameras without warrants. He called these "hidden caches of contraband," even though most of the weapons seized were from two legitimate sporting goods stores.

Initially, DeWitt did not embrace the broad-scale removal of all Japanese Americans from the West Coast. On December 19, 1941, General DeWitt recommended "that action be initiated at the earliest practicable date to collect all alien subjects fourteen years of age and over, of enemy nations and remove them" to the interior of the country and hold them "under restraint after removal". On December 26, he told Provost Marshall General Allen W. Gullion that "I'm very doubtful that it would be commonsense procedure to try and intern 117,000 Japanese in this theater . An American citizen, after all, is an American citizen. And while they all may not be loyal, I think we can weed the disloyal out of the loyal and lock them up if necessary".

With encouragement from Colonel Karl Bendetson, the head of the Provost Marshall's Aliens Division, on January 21, DeWitt recommended to Secretary of War Henry Stimson the establishment of small "prohibited zones" around strategic areas from which enemy aliens and their native-born children would be removed, as well as some larger "restricted zones" where they would be kept under close surveillance. Stimson and Attorney General Francis Biddle agreed, although Biddle was determined not to do anything to violate Japanese Americans' constitutional rights.

However, on February 9, DeWitt asked for much larger prohibited zones in Washington and Oregon which included the entire cities of Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma. Biddle refused to go along, but President Roosevelt, convinced of the military necessity, agreed to bypass the Justice Department. Roosevelt gave the army "carte blanche" to do what they wanted, with the caveat to be as reasonable as possible.

Two days later, DeWitt submitted his final recommendations in which he called for the removal of all Japanese, native-born as well as alien, and "other subversive persons" from the entire area lying west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. DeWitt justified this broad-scale removal on "military necessity" stating "the Japanese race is an enemy race" and "the very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken" .

On February 17, Biddle made a last ditch effort to convince the President that evacuation was unnecessary. In addition, General Mark Clark of General Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was convinced that evacuation was counteractive to military necessity, as it would use far too many soldiers who could otherwise be fighting. He argued that "we will never have a perfect defense against sabotage except at the expense of other equally important efforts." Instead, he recommended protecting critical installations by using pass and permit systems and selective arrests as necessary.

Meanwhile, the Japanese American community, particularly the Nisei, were trying to establish their loyalty by becoming air raid wardens and joining the army (when they were allowed to). Since so many in the Issei leadership had been imprisoned during the initial arrests, the Nisei organizations, especially the JACL, gained influence in the Japanese American community. The JACL's policy of cooperation and appeasement was embraced by some Japanese Americans but vilified by others.

At first, there was no consistent treatment of Nisei who tried to enlist or who were drafted. Most Selective Service boards rejected them, classifying them as 4-F or 4-C (unsuitable for service because of race or ancestry), but they were accepted at others. The War Department prohibited further Nisei induction after March 31, 1942, "Except as may be specifically authorized in exceptional cases." The exceptions were bilingual Nisei and Kibei who served as language instructors and interpreters. All registrants of Japanese ancestry were officially classified as 4-C after September 14, 1942.

While the military debated restrictions on Japanese Americans and limited their involvement in the war, public opinion on the West Coast was growing in support of confining all persons of Japanese ancestry. The anti-Japanese American sentiment in the media was typified by and editorial in the Los Angeles Times: "A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched — so a Japanese American, born of Japanese parents — grows up to be a Japanese, not an American".

Despite opposition by Biddle, the JACL, and General Mark Clark, on February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War "to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary in the judgement of the Secretary of War or said Military Commander. ."

In mid-February Congressional committee hearings headed by California congressman John Tolan were held on the West Coast to assess the need for the evacuation of Japanese Americans. The overwhelming majority of the witnesses supported the removal of all Japanese, alien and citizen, from the coast. California Governor Culbert L. Olson and State Attorney General Earl Warren supported removal of all Japanese Americans from coastal areas, stating that it was impossible to tell which ones were loyal. As de factospokesmen for the Japanese community, JACL leaders argued against mass evacuation, but to prove their loyalty pledged their readiness to cooperate if it were deemed a military necessity.

Other events in California contributed to the tense atmosphere. On February 23 a Japanese submarine shelled the California coast. It caused no serious damage but raised fears of further enemy action along the U.S. coast. The following night the "Battle of Los Angeles" took place. In response to an unidentified radar echo, the military called for a blackout and fired over 1,400 anti-aircraft shells. Twenty Japanese Americans were arrested for supposedly signaling the invaders, but the radar echo turned out to be a loose weather balloon.

Even prior to the signing of Executive Order 9066, the U.S. Navy had begun the removal of Japanese Americans from near the Port of Los Angeles: on February 14, 1942, the Navy announced that all persons of Japanese ancestry had to leave Terminal Island by March 14. On February 24 the deadline was moved up to February 27. Practically all family heads (mostly fisherman) had already been arrested and removed by the FBI and the 500 families living there were allowed to move on their own anywhere they wanted. Most stayed in the Los Angeles area until they were again relocated by the U.S. Army.

Evacuation

Even after Executive Order 9066, no one was quite sure what was going to happen. Who would be "excluded," where would the "military areas" be, and where would people go after they had been "excluded"?

General DeWitt originally wanted to remove all Japanese, German, and Italian aliens. However, public opinion (with a few vocal dissenters) was in favor of relocating all Japanese Americans, citizen and alien alike, but opposed to any mass evacuation of German or Italian aliens, much less second generation Germans or Italians. Provost Marshall Gullion, who had always supported relocation of Japanese Americans, had only figured on males over the age of fourteen — about 46,000 from the West Coast a As the military negotiated possibilities, the Japanese American community continued to worry. Most followed the lead of the JACL and chose to cooperate with evacuation as a way to prove their loyalty. A few were vocally opposed to evacuation and later sought ways to prevent it, some with court cases that eventually reached the Supreme Court.

DeWitt issued several Public Proclamations about the evacuation, but these did little to clear up confusion in fact, they created more. On March 2, Public Proclamation No. 1 divided Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona into two military areas, numbered 1 and 2. Military Area No. 1 was sub-divided into a "prohibited zone" along the coast and an adjacent "restricted zone." Ninety-eight smaller areas were also labeled prohibited, presumably strategic military sites. The announcement was aimed at "Japanese, German or Italian" aliens and "any person of Japanese ancestry," but it did not specifically order anyone to leave. However, an accompanying press release predicted that all people of Japanese ancestry would eventually be excluded from Military Area No. 1, but probably not from Military Area No. 2.

At this time, the government had not made any plans to help people move, and since most Issei assets had been frozen at the beginning of the war, most families lacked the resources to move. However, several thousand Japanese Americans voluntarily did try to relocate themselves. Over 9,000 persons voluntarily moved out of Military Area No. 1: of these, over half moved into the California portion of Military Area No. 2, where Public Proclamation No. 1 said no restrictions or prohibitions were contemplated. Later, of course, they would be forcefully evacuated from Military Area No. 2. Somewhat luckier were the Japanese Americans who moved farther into the interior of the country: 1,963 moved to Colorado, 1,519 moved to Utah, 305 moved to Idaho, 208 moved to eastern Washington, 115 moved to eastern Oregon, 105 moved to northern Arizona, 83 moved to Wyoming, 72 moved to Illinois, 69 moved to Nebraska, and 366 moved to other states. But many who did attempt to leave the West Coast discovered that the inland states were unwilling to accept them. The perception inland was that California was dumping its "undesirables," and many refugees were turned back at state borders, had difficulty buying gasoline, or were greeted with "No Japs Wanted" signs.

On March 11 the Army-controlled Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA) was established to organize and carry out the evacuation of Military Area No. 1. Public Proclamation No. 2, on March 16, designated four more military areas in the states of Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah, and 933 more prohibited areas. Although DeWitt pictured eventually removing all Japanese Americans from these areas, these plans never materialized.

Public Law No. 503, approved on March 21, 1942, made violating restrictions in a military area a misdemeanor, liable up to a $5,000 fine or a year in jail. Public Proclamation No. 3, effective March 27, instituted an 8:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew in Military Area No. 1 and listed prohibited areas for all enemy aliens and "persons of Japanese ancestry." Public Proclamation No. 3 also required that "at all other times all such persons shall only be at their place of residence or employment or traveling between those places or within a distance of not more than five miles from their place of residence."

Voluntary evacuation ended March 29, when Public Proclamation No. 4 forbade all Japanese from leaving Military Area No. 1 until ordered. Further instructions established reception centers as transitory evacuation facilities and forbade moves except to an approved location outside Military Area No. 1.

The first evacuation under the auspices of the Army began March 24 on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, and was repeated all along the West Coast. In all, 108 "Civilian Exclusion Orders" were issued, each designed to affect around 1,000 people. After initial notification, residents were given six days in which to dispose of nearly all their possessions, packing only "that which can be carried by the family or the individual" including bedding, toilet articles, clothing and eating utensils. The government was willing to store or ship some possessions "at the sole risk of the owner," but many did not trust that option. Most families sold their property and possessions for ridiculously small sums, while others trusted friends and neighbors to look after their properties.

By June 2, 1942, all Japanese in Military Area No. 1, except for a few left behind in hospitals, were in army custody. The image of the Japanese Americans is that they passively accepted evacuation. There is a Japanese philosophy "shikataganai" — it can't be helped. So, indeed the vast majority of the Japanese Americans were resigned to following the orders that sent them into the assembly centers which for many was a way to prove their loyalty to the U.S.

But a few cases of active resistance to the evacuation occurred. Three weeks after he was supposed to evacuate, Kuji Kurokawa was found, too weak to move due to malnutrition, hiding in the basement of the home where he had been employed for 10 years. He decided that he would not register or be evacuated, "I am an American citizen," he explained. In another story, perhaps apocryphal, Hideo Murata, a U.S. Army World War I veteran, committed suicide at a local hotel rather than be evacuated.

Three Japanese-Americans challenged the government's actions in court. Minoru Yasui had volunteered for military service after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and was rejected because of his Japanese ancestry. An attorney, he deliberately violated the curfew law of his native Portland, Oregon, stating that citizens have the duty to challenge unconstitutional regulations. Gordon Hirabayashi, a student at the University of Washington, also deliberately violated the curfew for Japanese Americans and disregarded the evacuation orders, claiming that the government was violating the 5th amendment by restricting the freedom of innocent Japanese Americans. Fred Korematsu changed his name, altered his facial features, and went into hiding. He was later arrested for remaining in a restricted area. In court, Korematsu claimed the government could not imprison a group of people based solely on ancestry. All three lost their cases. Yasui spent several months in jail and was then sent to the Minidoka Relocation Center, Hirabayashi spent time in jail and several months at a Federal prison in Arizona, and Korematsu was sent to the Topaz Relocation Center.

According to one author, the only act of "sabotage" by a Japanese American was a product of the relocation process. When told to leave his home and go to an assembly center, one farmer asked for an extension to harvest his strawberry crop. His request was denied, so he plowed under the strawberry field. He was then arrested for sabotage, on the grounds that strawberries were a necessary commodity for the war effort. No one was allowed to delay evacuation in order to harvest their crops and subsequently Californians were faced with shortages of fruits and vegetables. Japanese Americans grew 95 percent of the state's strawberries and one-third of the state's truck crops.

Even though the justification for the evacuation was to thwart espionage and sabotage, newborn babies, young children, the elderly, the infirm, children from orphanages, and even children adopted by Caucasian parents were not exempt from removal. Anyone with 1/16th or more Japanese blood was included. In all, over 17,000 children under 10 years old, 2,000 persons over 65 years old, and 1,000 handicapped or infirm persons were evacuated.


Anti-Japanese Legislation in California - History

One of the first groups of settlers that came from Japan to the United States, the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony under the leadership of John Schnell, arrived at Cold Hill, El Dorado County, in June 1869. Additional colonists arrived in the fall of 1869. These first immigrants brought mulberry trees, silk cocoons, tea plants, bamboo roots, and other agricultural products. The U.S. Census of 1870 showed 55 Japanese in the United States 33 were in California, with 22 living at Gold Hill. Within a few years of the colony's founding, the colonists had dispersed, their agricultural venture a failure.


Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony, El Dorado County

The 1880 Census showed 86 Japanese in California, with a total of 148 in the United States. Possibly these were students, or Japanese who had illegally left their country, since Japanese laborers were not allowed to leave their country until after 1884 when an agreement was signed between the Japanese government and Hawaiian sugar plantations to allow labor immigration. From Hawaii, many Japanese continued on to the United States mainland. In 1890, 2,038 Japanese resided in the United States of this number, 1,114 lived in California.

Laborers for the Hawaiian sugar plantations were carefully chosen. In 1868, a group of Japanese picked off the streets of Yokohama and shipped to Hawaii had proved to be unsatisfactory. Thereafter, a systematic method of recruiting workers from specific regions in Japan was established. Natives from Hiroshima, Kumamoto, Yamaguchi, and Fukushima were sought for their supposed expertise in agriculture, for their hard work, and for their willingness to travel. Immigrants to California from these prefectures constituted the largest numbers of Japanese in the state.

Except for a temporary suspension of immigration to Hawaii in 1900, the flow of immigration from Japan remained relatively unaffected until 1907-08, when agitation from white supremacist organizations, labor unions, and politicians resulted in the "Gentlemen's Agreement," curtailing further immigration of laborers from Japan. A provision in the Gentlemen's Agreement, however, permitted wives and children of laborers, as well as laborers who had already been in the United States, to continue to enter the country. Until that time, Japanese immigrants had been primarily male. The 1900 Census indicates that only 410 of 24,326 Japanese were female. From 1908 to 1924, Japanese women continued to immigrate to the United States, some as "picture brides."


Japanese Picture Brides at Angel Island, Marin County [circa 1919]

In Japan, arranged marriages were the rule. Go-betweens arranged marriages between compatible males and females, based on careful matching of socio-economic status, personality, and family background. With the advent of photography, an exchange of photographs became a first step in this long process. Entering the bride's name in the groom's family registry legally constituted marriage. Those Japanese males who could afford the cost of traveling to Japan returned there to be married. Others resorted to long-distance, arranged marriages. The same procedure that would have occurred if the groom were in Japan was adhered to, and the bride would immigrate to the United States as the wife of a laborer. Not all issei were married in this manner, but many were. For wives who entered after 1910, the first glimpse of the United States was the Detention Barracks at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. New immigrants were processed there, and given medical exams. As a result, this was the place where most "picture brides" saw their new husbands for the first time.

Those hoping to rid California of its Japanese population thought the Gentlemen's Agreement would end Japanese immigration. Instead, the Japanese population of California increased, both through new immigration and through childbirth. Anti-Japanese groups, citing the entry of "picture brides," complained that the Gentlemen's Agreement was being violated. A movement to totally exclude Japanese immigrants eventually succeeded with the Immigration Act of 1924. That legislation completely curtailed immigration from Japan until 1952 when an allotment of 100 im migrants per year was designated. A few refugees entered the country during the mid-1950s, as did Japanese wives of United States servicemen.


The Nisei

As the hopes of future immigrants were dashed, however, a new generation of Japanese Americans was making itself known. By 1930, half of the Japanese in the United States were Nisei—members of the U.S.-born second generation. Nisei were the children of two worlds: the traditional Japanese world maintained at home by their parents—the Issei—and the multiethnic U.S. culture that they were immersed in at school and at work. The Nisei were born U.S. citizens, and were more likely to speak English than Japanese, more likely to practice Christianity than Buddhism, and more likely to prefer "American" food, sports, music, and social mores than those of Japanese tradition. Many Nisei struggled to reconcile the conflicting demands of their complex cultural heritage. However, they overwhelmingly identified themselves as Japanese Americans, not as Japanese in America.

The Japanese American Citizens League, an organization of Nisei professionals, declared in its creed:

I am proud that I am an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, for my very background makes me appreciate more fully the wonderful advantages of this nation… I pledge myself… to defend her against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

These words were published in 1940. Before the next year was out, the Japanese American community would find its resolve, its resilience, and its faith in the nation put to a severe test.


Anti-Japanese Legislation in California - History

As with most people of color, Japanese Americans have suffered a variety of discriminatory practices, legislation, and restrictions. Perhaps this could have been expected considering the initial conditions under which Japanese were originally enticed to immigrate to the United States — as only a source of labor, with no plans for them to stay and participate actively in the life of the society.

Even as a source of labor, Japanese immigrants were criticized for being too numerous. They were seen as unassimilable and potentially capable of overrunning the state. The Asiatic Exclusion League, formed in May 1905, mounted a campaign to exclude Japanese and Koreans from the United States. Under pressure from the league, the San Francisco Board of Education ruled on October 11, 1906 that all Japanese and Korean students should join the Chinese at the segregated Oriental School that had been established in 1884. There were 93 Japanese students in the 23 San Francisco public schools at that time. Twenty-five of those students had been born in the United States.

To appease those Californians who were agitating for cessation of Japanese immigration without offending the Japanese government, President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated the 1907-08 Gentlemen's Agreement, whereby the Japanese government agreed not to issue passports to laborers immigrating to the United States. However, parents, wives, and children of laborers already in the United States could immigrate, as well as laborers who had already been here.

This agreement nevertheless stimulated the anti-Japanese movement. Rather than cutting off all immigration from Japan, the agreement resulted in a steady stream of Japanese women entering California. Soon thereafter, children were born, resulting in increases in the Japanese population, rather than decreases. Arranged marriage, sometimes with the exchange of photographs, was the accepted mode of contracting marriages in Japanese society. This practice allowed male issei immigrants to marry, and to send for their brides to join them in this country. The effect was to bolster the stereotyped image of Japanese as being sneaky and untrustworthy, even though the provisions of the Gentlemen's Agreement were being scrupulously maintained.

As the Japanese American population steadily increased, through immigration of picture brides and the birth of nisei children, anti-Japanese forces regrouped after World War I. Charges were made that the Japanese birth rate was three times as high as the general population's. The fact that Japanese females in prime child-bearing years were compared with White women from 15 to 45 years of age was not mentioned. The unassimilability of Japanese was charged. As part of the Immigration Act of 1924, immigration from Japan was completely cut off for 28 years.

Beginning in January 1909 and continuing until after World War II, anti-Japanese bills were introduced into the California legislature every year. The first to become law was the Webb-Hartley Law (known more commonly as the Alien Land Law of 1913), which limited land leases by "aliens ineligible to citizenship" to three years, and barred further land purchases. Amendments to this law in 1919 and 1920 further restricted land leasing agreements. Although the law contains no mention of Asians by name, it is clear that "aliens ineligible to citizenship" included, among others, Japanese, a group without access to U.S. citizenship and the target of anti-Asian groups during this period.

The issue of U.S. citizenship eventually was decided by the 1922 Supreme Court decision of Takao Ozawa v. United States, which declared that Japanese were ineligible for U.S. citizenship. "Free white persons" were made eligible for U.S. citizenship by Congress in 1790. "Aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent" were similarly designated by Congress in 1870. Due to some ambiguity about the term "white," some 420 Japanese had been naturalized by 1910, but a ruling by a U.S. attorney general to stop issuing naturalization papers to Japanese ended the practice in 1906. Ozawa had filed his naturalization papers in 1914. In 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court judged that since Ozawa was neither a "free white person" nor an African by birth or descent, he did not have the right of naturalization as a Mongolian.

Influenced by the anti-Japanese movement, an amendment to the State Political Code in 1921 allowed establishment of separate schools for children of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, or Mongolian parentage. These children were not to be integrated into other public schools once separate schools were established. School districts in Sacramento County elected to maintain separate schools in the communities of Florin, Walnut Grove, Isleton, and Courtland. Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino children in these school districts attended segregated schools until World War II. In 1945, a Japanese American family challenged the constitutionality of segregated schools, and the Los Angeles County Superior Court concurred that segregation on the basis of race or ancestry violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The California legislature repealed the 1921 provision in 1947.

The most widely perpetrated discriminatory action toward West Coast Japanese Americans was the internment camp policy of World War II, which was set into motion by the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The executive order did not mention Japanese Americans by name, but the designation of military areas and the decision to exclude certain persons from these areas was directed toward Japanese Americans. Thirteen temporary detention camps in California were hastily established to hold Japanese Americans until more permanent camps in remote sections of the country could be constructed.

After Executive Order 9066 was issued, the vast majority of public proclamations emanating from Lt. General John DeWitt, Commander of the Western Defense Command, were directed toward controlling the movement and freedom of Japanese Americans. Similarly, the civilian exclusion orders, issued by DeWitt, directed Japanese Americans along the West Coast to report for detention at designated times and places.

Incarceration policy was challenged by Gordon Hirabayashi, who violated curfew regulations in the state of Washington Fred Korematsu of Oakland, who was prosecuted for knowingly remaining in an area forbidden by military orders Minoru Yasui, who was prosecuted for violation of curfew orders as a test case and Mitsuye Endo of Sacramento, who claimed unlawful detention. None of the judgments that resulted from these cases dealt directly with the constitutionality of incarcerating more than 120,000 Japanese Americans. But Ex parte Endo, issued December 16, 1944, did result in the rescinding of exclusion orders, effective January 2, 1945, which eventually closed the 10 concentration camps in the United States.

During the internment years, several legislative actions affected thousands of Japanese Americans. A California statute of 1943, amended in 1945, prohibited "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from earning their living as commercial fishermen in coastal waters. Torao Takahashi brought suit, and after a tortuous sequence of events, including a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the statute was unconstitutional, resident alien Japanese fishermen were again allowed to fish the waters off the California coast in 1948.

In 1944, a federal statute amended the Nationality Act of 1940 to permit U.S. citizens to renounce citizenship during wartime. The Department of Justice intended that leaders of disturbances at the Tule Lake Segregation Center renounce their citizenship, therefore making themselves eligible for further detention when the camps were dismantled. Instead, 5,522 renunciations came from Japanese Americans (5,371 were from persons confined at Tule Lake), rather than the several hundred expected from pro-Japan elements. When the concentration camps were closed, many internees regretted renouncing their U.S. citizenship, citing coercion, intimidation, and fears of hostility by the dominant society. Lawsuits to revalidate citizenship continued until 1965, including Abo v. Clark (77 F. Supp. 806), which returned U.S. citizenship to 4,315 nisei.

During World War II, while Japanese and Japanese Americans were unable to defend themselves in court, California's Attorney General was allocated additional funds to prosecute violations of the Alien Land Law of 1913. A total of 79 cases were prosecuted, including 59 after the war. The first challenge to the Alien Land Law was Harada v. State of California, in which the Superior Court of Riverside County declared in 1918 that Jukichi Harada could purchase property in the name of his children, who were U.S. citizens though still minors. Subsequent court cases in other jurisdictions had differing results, some ruling that minor children could not own property.

Two escheat cases had particular significance in invalidating the Alien Land Law. The case of Oyama v. State of California in 1948 determined that non-citizen parents could purchase land as gifts for citizen children. The Fujii v. State of California case in 1952 resulted in the Alien Land Law of 1913 being declared unconstitutional. Legal obstacles to land purchases by Asians were thus removed.

To provide partial restitution for losses and damages resulting from the internment, an Evacuation Claims Act was passed by Congress. While losses by Japanese Americans were conservatively estimated to be around $400,000,000, only 10 percent of this amount was disbursed to former internees. The issue remains alive today in 1981, with the establishment of a Congressional Commission to investigate the historical, legal, economical, and psychological impacts of the forced internment of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

Japanese Americans have also endured informal discriminatory practices. Shopping, dining, and recreational activities at some business establishments were denied to Japanese Americans in previous years. Restrictive covenants in housing affected where they lived. When deceased members of the highly decorated 442nd Combat team were returned to the United States after World War II, some cemeteries refused to allow them gravesites because of their ancestry. In the past, some occupations have been closed to Japanese Americans, yet others such as gardening have been considered particularly suitable for their temperament, skills, and social standing in the society. Outward manifestations of discriminatory practices toward Japanese Americans can be subtle, but are still very much in existence as recent legal cases involving discrimination in employment promotion indicate.


St. Andrews Methodist Church, Kern County [circa 1929]


Anti-Japanese sentiments range from animosity towards the Japanese government's actions and disdain for Japanese culture to racism against the Japanese people. Sentiments of dehumanization have been fueled by the anti-Japanese propaganda of the Allied governments in World War II this propaganda was often of a racially disparaging character. Anti-Japanese sentiment may be strongest in China, North Korea, and South Korea, [5] [6] [7] [8] due to atrocities committed by the Japanese military. [9]

In the past, anti-Japanese sentiment contained innuendos of Japanese people as barbaric. Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Japan was intent to adopt Western ways in an attempt to join the West as an industrialized imperial power, but a lack of acceptance of the Japanese in the West complicated integration and assimilation. One commonly held view was that the Japanese were evolutionarily inferior (Navarro 2000, ". a date which will live in infamy"). Japanese culture was viewed with suspicion and even disdain.

While passions have settled somewhat since Japan's surrender in World War II, tempers continue to flare on occasion over the widespread perception that the Japanese government has made insufficient penance for their past atrocities, or has sought to whitewash the history of these events. [10] Today, though the Japanese government has effected some compensatory measures, anti-Japanese sentiment continues based on historical and nationalist animosities linked to Imperial Japanese military aggression and atrocities. Japan's delay in clearing more than 700,000 (according to the Japanese Government [11] ) pieces of life-threatening and environment contaminating chemical weapons buried in China at the end of World War II is another cause of anti-Japanese sentiment. [ citation needed ]

Periodically, individuals within Japan spur external criticism. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was heavily criticized by South Korea and China for annually paying his respects to the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines all those who fought and died for Japan during World War II, including 1,068 convicted war criminals. Right-wing nationalist groups have produced history textbooks whitewashing Japanese atrocities, [12] and the recurring controversies over these books occasionally attract hostile foreign attention.

Some anti-Japanese sentiment originates from business practices used by some Japanese companies, such as dumping.

Australia Edit

In Australia, the White Australia policy was partly inspired by fears in the late 19th century that if large numbers of Asian immigrants were allowed, they would have a severe and adverse effect on wages, the earnings of small business people, and other elements of the standard of living. Nevertheless, a significant numbers of Japanese immigrants arrived in Australia prior to 1900, perhaps most significantly in the town of Broome. By the late 1930s, Australians feared that Japanese military strength might lead to expansion in Southeast Asia and the Pacific and perhaps even an invasion of Australia itself. That resulted in a ban on iron ore exports to the Empire of Japan, from 1938. During World War II, atrocities were frequently committed to Australians who surrendered (or attempted to surrender) to Japanese soldiers, most famously the ritual beheading of Leonard Siffleet, which was photographed, and incidents of cannibalism and the shooting down of ejected pilots' parachutes. Anti-Japanese feelings were particularly provoked by the sinking of the unarmed Hospital Ship Centaur (painted white and with Red Cross markings), with 268 dead. The treatment of Australians prisoners of war was also a factor, with over 2,800 Australian POWs dying on the Burma Railway alone.

Brazil Edit

Similarly to Argentina and Uruguay, the Brazilian elite in the 19th and the 20th centuries desired the country's racial whitening. The country encouraged European immigration, but non-white immigration always faced considerable backlash. The communities of Japanese immigrants were seen as an obstacle of the whitening of Brazil and were seen, among other concerns, as being as particularly tendentious to form ghettos ans having high rates of endogamy. Oliveira Viana, a Brazilian jurist, historian, and sociologist described the Japanese immigrants as follows: "They (Japanese) are like sulfur: insoluble." The Brazilian magazine O Malho in its edition of December 5, 1908, issued a charge of Japanese immigrants with the following legend: "The government of São Paulo is stubborn. After the failure of the first Japanese immigration, it contracted 3,000 yellow people. It insists on giving Brazil a race diametrically opposite to ours." [13] On 22 October 1923, Representative Fidélis Reis produced a bill on the entry of immigrants, whose fifth article was as follows: "The entry of settlers from the black race into Brazil is prohibited. For Asian [immigrants] there will be allowed each year a number equal to 5% of those residing in the country. " [14]

Years before World War II, the government of President Getúlio Vargas initiated a process of forced assimilation of people of immigrant origin in Brazil. In 1933, a constitutional amendment was approved by a large majority and established immigration quotas without mentioning race or nationality and prohibited the population concentration of immigrants. According to the text, Brazil could not receive more than 2% of the total number of entrants of each nationality that had been received in the last 50 years. Only the Portuguese were excluded. The measures did not affect the immigration of Europeans such as Italians and Spaniards, who had already entered in large numbers and whose migratory flow was downward. However, immigration quotas, which remained in force until the 1980s, restricted Japanese immigration, as well as Korean and Chinese immigration. [15] [13] [16]

When Brazil sided with the Allies and declared war to Japan in 1942, all communication with Japan was cut off, the entry of new Japanese immigrants was forbidden, and many restrictions affected the Japanese Brazilians. Japanese newspapers and teaching the Japanese language in schools were banned, which left Portuguese as the only option for Japanese descendants. As many Japanese immigrants could not understand Portuguese, it became exceedingly difficult for them to obtain any extra-communal information. [17] In 1939, research of Estrada de Ferro Noroeste do Brasil in São Paulo showed that 87.7% of Japanese Brazilians read newspapers in the Japanese language, a much higher literacy rate than the general populace at the time. [13] Japanese Brazilians could not travel without safe conduct issued by the police, Japanese schools were closed, and radio receivers was confiscated to prevent transmissions on shortwave from Japan. The goods of Japanese companies were confiscated and several companies of Japanese origin had interventions by the government. Japanese Brazilians were prohibited from driving motor vehicles, and the drivers employed by Japanese had to have permission from the police. Thousands of Japanese immigrants were arrested or deported from Brazil on suspicion of espionage. [13] On 10 July 1943, approximately 10,000 Japanese and German and Italian immigrants who lived in Santos had 24 hours to move away from the Brazilian coast. The police acted without any notice. About 90% of people displaced were Japanese. To reside in coastal areas, the Japanese had to have a safe conduct. [13] In 1942, the Japanese community who introduced the cultivation of pepper in Tomé-Açu, in Pará, was virtually turned into a "concentration camp". his time, the Brazilian ambassador in Washington, DC, Carlos Martins Pereira e Sousa, encouraged the government of Brazil to transfer all Japanese Brazilians to "internment camps" without the need for legal support, just as as was done with the Japanese residents in the United States. However, no suspicion of activities of Japanese against "national security" was ever confirmed. [13]

Even after the end of the war, anti-Japanese sentiment persisted in Brazil. During the National Constituent Assembly of 1946, the representative of Rio de Janeiro Miguel Couto Filho proposed an amendment to the Constitution: "It is prohibited the entry of Japanese immigrants of any age and any origin in the country." In the final vote, a tie with 99 votes in favour and 99 against. Senator Fernando de Melo Viana, who chaired the session of the Constituent Assembly, had the casting vote and rejected the constitutional amendment. By only one vote, the immigration of Japanese people to Brazil was not prohibited by the Brazilian Constitution of 1946. [13]

In the second half of the 2010s, a certain anti-Japanese feeling has grown in Brazil. The current Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, was accused of making statements considered discriminatory against Japanese people, which generated repercussions in the press and in the Japanese-Brazilian community, [18] [19] which is considered the largest in the world outside of Japan. [20] In addition, in 2020, possibly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some incidents of xenophobia and abuse were reported to Japanese-Brazilians in cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. [21] [22] [23] [24]

China Edit

Anti-Japanese sentiment is felt very strongly in China and distrust, hostility and negative feelings towards Japan and the Japanese people and culture is widespread in China. Anti-Japanese sentiment is a phenomenon that mostly dates back to modern times (since 1868). Like many Western powers during the era of imperialism, Japan negotiated treaties that often resulted in the annexation of land from China towards the end of the Qing dynasty. Dissatisfaction with Japanese settlements and the Twenty-One Demands by the Japanese government led to a serious boycott of Japanese products in China.

Today, bitterness persists in China [25] over the atrocities of the Second Sino-Japanese War and Japan's postwar actions, particularly the perceived lack of a straightforward acknowledgment of such atrocities, the Japanese government's employment of known war criminals, and Japanese historic revisionism in textbooks. In elementary school, children are taught about Japanese war crimes in detail. For example, thousands of children are brought to the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing by their elementary schools and required to view photos of war atrocities, such as exhibits of records of the Japanese military forcing Chinese workers into wartime labor, [26] the Nanking Massacre, [27] and the issues of comfort women. After viewing the museum, the children's hatred of the Japanese people was reported to significantly increase. Despite the time that has passed since the end of the war, discussions about Japanese conduct during it can still evoke powerful emotions today, partly because most Japanese are aware of what happened during it although their society has never engaged in the type of introspection which has been common in Germany after the Holocaust. [28] Hence, the usage of Japanese military symbols are still controversial in China, such as the incident in which the Chinese pop singer Zhao Wei was seen wearing a Japanese war flag while he was dressed for a fashion magazine photo shoot in 2001. [29] Huge responses were seen on the Internet, a public letter demanding a public apology was also circulated by a Nanking Massacre survivor, and the singer was even attacked. [30] According to a 2017 BBC World Service Poll, only 22% of Chinese people view Japan's influence positively, and 75% express a negative view, making China the most anti-Japanese nation in the world. [1]

Anti-Japanese film industry Edit

Anti-Japanese sentiment can also be seen in war films which are currently being produced and broadcast in Mainland China. More than 200 anti-Japanese films were produced in China in 2012 alone. [31] In one particular situation involving a more moderate anti-Japanese war film, the government of China banned the 2000 film, Devils on the Doorstep because it depicted a Japanese soldier being friendly with Chinese villagers. [32]

France Edit

Japan's public service broadcaster, NHK, provides a list of overseas safety risks for traveling, and in early 2020, it listed anti-Japanese discrimination as a safety risk on travel to France and some other European countries, possibly because of fears over the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors. [33] Signs of rising anti-Japanese sentiment in France include an increase in anti-Japanese incidents reported by Japanese nationals, such as being mocked on the street and refused taxi service, and least one Japanese restaurant has been vandalized. [34] [35] [36] A group of Japanese students on a study tour in Paris received abuse by locals. [37] Another group of Japanese citizens was targeted by acid attacks, which prompted the Japanese embassy as well as the foreign ministry to issue a warning to Japanese nationals in France, urging caution. [38] [39] Due to rising discrimination, a Japanese TV announcer in Paris said it's best not to speak Japanese in public. [40]

Germany Edit

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan), anti-Japanese sentiment and discrimination has been rising in Germany. [41]

Media sources have reported a rise in anti-Japanese sentiment in Germany, with some Japanese residents saying suspicion and contempt toward them have increased noticeably. [42] In line with those sentiments, there have been a rising number of anti-Japanese incidents such as at least one major football club kicking out all Japanese fans from the stadium, locals throwing raw eggs at homes where Japanese people live, and a general increase in the level of harassment toward Japanese residents. [43] [44] [45]

Indonesia Edit

In a press release, the embassy of Japan in Indonesia stated that incidents of discrimination and harassment of Japanese people had increased, and they were possibly partly related to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and it also announced that it had set up a help center in order to assist Japanese residents in dealing with those incidents. [46] In general, there have been reports of widespread anti-Japanese discrimination and harassment in the country, with hotels, stores, restaurants, taxi services and more refusing Japanese customers and many Japanese people were no longer allowed in meetings and conferences. The embassy of Japan has also received at least a dozen reports of harassment toward Japanese people in just a few days. [47] [48] According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan), anti-Japanese sentiment and discrimination has been rising in Indonesia. [41]

Korea Edit

The issue of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea is complex and multifaceted. Anti-Japanese attitudes in the Korean Peninsula can be traced as far back as the Japanese pirate raids and the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), but they are largely a product of the Japanese occupation of Korea which lasted from 1910 to 1945 and the subsequent revisionism of history textbooks which have been used by Japan's educational system since World War II.

Today, issues of Japanese history textbook controversies, Japanese policy regarding the war, and geographic disputes between the two countries perpetuate that sentiment, and the issues often incur huge disputes between Japanese and South Korean Internet users. [49] South Korea, together with Mainland China, may be considered as among the most intensely anti-Japanese societies in the world. [50] Among all the countries that participated in BBC World Service Poll in 2007 and 2009, South Korea and the People's Republic of China were the only ones whose majorities rated Japan negatively. [51] [52]

Philippines Edit

Anti-Japanese sentiment in the Philippines can be traced back to the Japanese occupation of the country during World War II and its aftermath. An estimated 1 million Filipinos out of a wartime population of 17 million were killed during the war, and many more Filipinos were injured. Nearly every Filipino family was affected by the war on some level. Most notably, in the city of Mapanique, survivors have recounted the Japanese occupation during which Filipino men were massacred and dozens of women were herded in order to be used as comfort women. Today the Philippines has peaceful relations with Japan. In addition, Filipinos are generally not as offended as Chinese or Koreans are by the claim from some quarters that the atrocities are given little, if any, attention in Japanese classrooms. This feeling exists as a result of the huge amount of Japanese aid which was sent to the country during the 1960s and 1970s. [53]

The Davao Region, in Mindanao, had a large community of Japanese immigrants which acted as a fifth column by welcoming the Japanese invaders during the war. The Japanese were hated by the Moro Muslims and the Chinese. [54] The Moro juramentadoss performed suicide attacks against the Japanese, and no Moro juramentado ever attacked the Chinese, who were not considered enemies of the Moro, unlike the Japanese. [55] [56] [57] [58]

Taiwan Edit

The Kuomintang (KMT), which took over Taiwan in the 1940s, held strong anti-Japanese sentiment and sought to eradicate traces of the Japanese culture in Taiwan. [59]

During the 2005 anti-Japanese demonstrations in East Asia, Taiwan remained noticeably quieter than the PRC or Korea, with Taiwan-Japan relations regarded at an all-time high. However, the KMT victory in 2008 was followed by a boating accident resulting in Taiwanese deaths, which caused recent tensions. Taiwanese officials began speaking out on the historical territory disputes regarding the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands, which resulted in an increase in at least perceived anti-Japanese sentiment. [60]

Russian Empire and Soviet Union Edit

In the Russian Empire, the Japanese victory during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 halted Russia's ambitions in the East and left it humiliated. During the later Russian Civil War, Japan was part of the Allied interventionist forces that helped to occupy Vladivostok until October 1922 with a puppet government under Grigorii Semenov. At the end of World War II, the Red Army accepted the surrender of nearly 600,000 Japanese POWs after Emperor Hirohito announced the Japanese surrender on 15 August 473,000 of them were repatriated, 55,000 of them had died in Soviet captivity, and the fate of the others is unknown. Presumably, many of them were deported to China or North Korea and forced to serve as laborers and soldiers. [61]

United States Edit

Pre-20th century Edit

In the United States, anti-Japanese sentiment had its beginnings long before World War II. As early as the late 19th century, Asian immigrants were subjected to racial prejudice in the United States. Laws were passed which openly discriminated against Asians and sometimes, they particularly discriminated against Japanese. Many of these laws stated that Asians could not become US citizens and they also stated that Asians could not be granted basic rights such as the right to own land. These laws were greatly detrimental to the newly-arrived immigrants because they denied them the right to own land and forced many of them who were farmers to become migrant workers. Some cite the formation of the Asiatic Exclusion League as the start of the anti-Japanese movement in California. [62]

Early 20th century Edit

Anti-Japanese racism and the belief in the Yellow Peril in California intensified after the Japanese victory over the Russian Empire during the Russo-Japanese War. On 11 October 1906, the San Francisco, California Board of Education passed a regulation in which children of Japanese descent would be required to attend racially-segregated separate schools. Japanese immigrants then made up approximately 1% of the population of California, and many of them had come under the treaty in 1894 which had assured free immigration from Japan.

The Japanese invasion of Manchuria, China, in 1931 and was roundly criticized in the US. In addition, efforts by citizens outraged at Japanese atrocities, such as the Nanking Massacre, led to calls for American economic intervention to encourage Japan to leave China. The calls played a role in shaping American foreign policy. As more and more unfavorable reports of Japanese actions came to the attention of the American government, embargoes on oil and other supplies were placed on Japan out of concern for the Chinese people and for the American interests in the Pacific. Furthermore, European-Americans became very pro-China and anti-Japan, an example being a grassroots campaign for women to stop buying silk stockings because the material was procured from Japan through its colonies.

When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, Western public opinion was decidedly pro-China, with eyewitness reports by Western journalists on atrocities committed against Chinese civilians further strengthening anti-Japanese sentiments. African-American sentiments could be quite different than the mainstream and included organizations like the Pacific Movement of the Eastern World (PMEW), which promised equality and land distribution under Japanese rule. The PMEW had thousands of members hopefully preparing for liberation from white supremacy with the arrival of the Japanese Imperial Army.


Mexican American Immigration, and Discrimination, Begins

The story of Latino-American discrimination largely begins in 1848, when the United States won the Mexican-American War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which marked the war’s end, granted 55 percent of Mexican territory to the United States. With that land came new citizens. The Mexicans who stayed in what was now U.S. territory were granted citizenship and the country gained a considerable Mexican-American population.

As the 19th century wore on, political events in Mexico made emigration to the United States popular. This was welcome news to American employers like the Southern Pacific Railroad, which desperately needed cheap labor to help build new tracks. The railroad and other companies flouted existing immigration laws that banned importing contracted labor and sent recruiters into Mexico to convince Mexicans to emigrate.

Anti-Latino sentiment grew along with immigration. Latinos were barred entry into Anglo establishments and segregated into urban barrios in poor areas. Though Latinos were critical to the U.S. economy and often were American citizens, everything from their language to the color of their skin to their countries of origin could be used as a pretext for discrimination. Anglo-Americans treated them as a foreign underclass and perpetuated stereotypes that those who spoke Spanish were lazy, stupid and undeserving. In some cases, that prejudice turned fatal.


CALIFORNIA ALIEN LAND LAW

CALIFORNIA ALIEN LAND LAW. Responding to the strong anti-Asian sentiments among voters, the California legislature passed the Alien Land Law of 1913. The act was amended and extended by popular initiative in 1920 and by the legislature in 1923 and 1927. Aimed at the largely rural Japanese population, the law, with a few exceptions, banned individual aliens who were not eligible for citizenship (under the Naturalization Act of 1870 this included all persons of Asian descent born out-side of the United States), as well as corporations controlled by such aliens, from owning real property. Similar laws were passed in other western states. The law was repealed in 1956 by popular vote.


Toward Total Exclusion

As anti-Asian feelings grew more pronounced, immigrants from India—many of whom began arriving in the United States in the 1890s—became one of the first groups affected by the new laws. At the time, federal immigration restrictions fell into two categories: generalized groups (for example, paupers and anarchists) and individual nationalities (for example, Japanese and Chinese). But, by 1911, Asian Indians had become a category all their own. As a new target for exclusionists, the government classified them as “Hindu” no matter their religion or ethnicity. 36

Congress went even further and passed the Immigration Act of 1917, creating an “Asiatic Barred Zone” that excluded Chinese, Asian Indians, Burmese, Thai,and Malays and extended to parts of Russia, the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan, Polynesia, and all East Indian islands—about 500 million people in total. The Woodrow Wilson administration omitted Japan because its immigrants already faced a number of prohibitions. The law also exempted the Philippines since its residents, as members of an American territory, were U.S. nationals and legally eligible to move to the States. 37

After the White House changed hands in 1921, the Republican Congress, working with the new Republican presidential administration of Warren G. Harding, redoubled its efforts to overhaul America’s immigration policy. Within a month of being introduced, the national origins quota system became law on May 19, 1921. 39 The quota law set total annual immigration at 355,000, or 3 percent of the foreign-born population during the last Census in 1910. Federal officials used the same calculus to determine the number of immigrants allowed on a nation-by-nation basis. 40

Immigration hard-liners who had long opposed Asian immigration began worrying that America would experience a surge of refugees from hard-hit southern and eastern Europe after the war. In 1923 President Calvin Coolidge called for new legislation in order to limit immigration completely, and Congress quickly obliged. In the House, the Immigration and Naturalization Committee, led by Albert Johnson of Washington, who had long opposed Japanese immigration, began working on ways to tighten the quota system, pushing the baseline numbers back from the 1910 Census to the 1890 Census, which were lower and would therefore be more restrictive. 41

The problem, however, was that Japan had become a global power whose naval strength trailed only the United States and Britain. State Department officials feared that, if the bill became law, whatever cooperation existed between America and Japan in their work to maintain political stability in the Pacific basin would end. 43 Nevertheless, the bill cruised through the House, passing 323 to 71. When the White House and the Japanese ambassador tried to pressure the Senate into removing the clause, the plan backfired. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the immediate exclusion clause. President Coolidge signed the immigration bill into law on May 26, 1924. 44

The impact of the law was arguably greatest in Japan, where many resented the section that singled them out as “an inferior race.” 46 Somewhat optimistically, the Japanese government expected the immigration restriction to relax over time as the commercial interests between Japan and the United States strengthened. Nevertheless, Japan began viewing the United States, instead of the Soviet Union, as its primary military and naval adversary. 47 That shift would have devastating consequences for America’s two major Pacific territories—the Philippines and Hawaii—during World War II.

But even the Philippines and Hawaii, which the United States assumed control over at the turn of the century, were not immune to some level of exclusion during the 40 years preceding the war. Beginning in 1898, the experience of the United States in the Philippines and Hawaii legalized the convergence of exclusionary practices at home and abroad as ideas about race and empire conflicted with American traditions of democracy and self-government.


The Anti-Japanese Land Laws of California and Ten Other States*

The Arkansas legislature in 1943 enacted an anti-Japanese land law. It declares that no Japanese or a descendant of Japanese shall ever purchase or hold title to any lands in the State of Arkansas. Since those laws are in reality aimed at the Japanese, Arkansas raises to eleven the count of states that have anti-Japanese land laws. The constitutional issue is whether California can pick out of her half-million alien residents, 25,000 Japanese aliens, together with imperceptible number of Korean, Malay, and Polynesian aliens. The Census of 1940, in reporting the occupations of persons fourteen years old and older, shows that over ten thousand alien Japanese were engaged in farming in California. California law forbids Japanese aliens to hold any legal interest in land, except leasehold for commercial and residential purposes, and the concept of a legal interest in land is stretched to include the holding of a share in a corporation.


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