Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Eliminationism in America: VIII

[Continuing a ten-part series.]

Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII.

Part VIII: 'White Man's Land'

Though "sundown towns" enjoyed their heyday in the early 20th century particularly in the American Midwest, one of the first such towns was way out West, in the little coal town of Rock Springs, Wyoming. And it wasn't African Americans who were being driven out, but Chinese immigrants.

The 1885 incident that brought about this status was known as the "Rock Springs massacre." James Loewen describes it in Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism [pp. 50-51]:
Rock Springs, Wyoming, built at a coal mine owned by the Union Pacific that was the biggest source of coal for its locomotives, was the site of one of the earliest expulsions. The railroad had hired hundreds of Chinese American miners, most of whom lived in a separate neighborhood, "Chinatown." On September 2, 1885, led by the Knights of Labor, at least 150 white miners and railroad workers, most of them armed, gave the Chinese "one hour to pack their belongings and leave town," according to historian Craig Storti. Then they attacked. "The Chinamen were fleeing like a herd of hunted antelope, making no resistance. Volley upon volley was fired after the fugitives," Storti tells. It was chaotic: "Most carried nothing at all, not even their money. Many hid in their homes, but the rioters then burned Chinatown, incinerating those who were hiding there. Storti quotes an eyewitness:

The stench of burning human flesh was sickening and almost unendurable, and was plainly discernible for more than a mile along the railroad both east and west. ... Not a living Chinaman -- man, woman, or child -- was left in the town where 700 to 900 had lived the day before, and not a single house, shanty, or structure of any kind that had ever been inhabitaed by a Chinaman was left unburned.

Those who fled were hardly better off, because the temperature dropped below freezing that night, so scores died from exposure. According to Bill Bryson, this persecution in Rock Springs led to the expression "He doesn't have a Chinaman's chance."

The early Chinese in America were already in something of a limbo-land. Though there were no bars to their immigration to America, they were forbidden by law from becoming U.S. citizens. When they first arrived as part of the California Gold Rush of 1849, they were welcomed as significant parts of the labor force, especially because they tended to avoid direct competition with white miners and instead employed themselves in providing services such as laundry and eateries, as well as general labor. But as the gold ran out and the numbers of gold-seekers kept rising, their presence ceased to be welcome. As Henry Kittredge Norton observed:

Thousands of Americans came flocking in to the mines. Rich surface claims soon became exhausted. These newcomers did not find it so easy as their predecessors had done to amass large fortunes in a few days. California did not fulfill the promise of the golden tales that had been told of her. These gold-seekers were disappointed. In the bitterness of their disappointment they turned upon the men of other races who were working side by side with them and accused them of stealing their wealth. They boldly asserted that California's gold belonged to them. The cry of "California for Americans" was raised and taken up on all sides.

The situation became intense as the labor pool tightened. As I explain in Strawberry Days:
Worse yet, the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869 -- symbolized by the driving of the Golden Spike -- threw thousands of Chinese workers into the already crowded labor market, adding to the intensity of resentment over the competition they represented. As early as 1862, anti-coolie clubs had formed in San Francisco, and they spread like a virus to every ward in the city.

By decade's end, Chinese constituted 10 percent of California's population, and the resentment festered. The first of many large "anti-Oriental" mass meetings occurred in San Francisco in July 1870; anti-Chinese agitation had become the most important issue in the state. It gathered steam for the next 12 years, led largely by labor organizers who used the Chinese worker issue as the chief recruiting tool for their fledgling movement. The issue culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, barring further immigration from China.

All Asians already were prevented by law from ever attaining American citizenship. The 1790 Immigration Act specified that naturalization was available only to "free white persons" -- language originally intended to ensure that African Americans and Native Americans were excluded from citizenship (in 1870, Congress updated the naturalization statutes to include Africans), but applied with equal vigor to Asians as they attempted to immigrate. Of course, any children of those immigrants born on American soil were entitled to full citizenship, though their parents might be barred, and this birthright would play a major role in later anti-Asian agitation.

A belief in the supremacy of the white race -- and the need for racial segregation -- was an often explicit, and always implicit, feature of the inflamed rhetoric aimed at excluding the Chinese. Speakers at rallies appealed to "racial purity" and "Western civilization" and described Asians in subhuman terms, simultaneously posing the most dire of threats, with a none-too-subtle sexual undertone. Moreover, agitators claimed, they were innately treacherous, as in a Knights of Labor pamphlet circulated in 1878:

By his industry, suavity and apparent child-like innocence, seconded by unequaled patience and the keenest business ability, the Chinaman is always the winner. Let white men set over him whatever guards they may, he can surpass them in threading the by-ways of tortuousness. Dr. S. Wells Williams, in his standard work on China, "The Middle Kingdom," makes these remarks on the untruthfulness of the Chinese: "There is nothing which tries one so much, when living among them, as their disregard of truth; or renders him so indifferent to what calamities may befall so mendacious a race. An abiding impression of suspicion rests upon the mind toward everybody here, which chills the warmest wishes for their welfare. Their better traits diminish in the distance, and the patience is exhausted when in daily proximity and friction with this ancestor of sins."

The Marin Journal of March 30, 1876, ran an editorial on the "Chinese problem" that was fairly typical of the popular sentiment:
That he is a slave, reduced to the lowest terms of beggarly economy, and is no fit competitor for an American freeman.

That he herds in scores, in small dens, where a white man and wife could hardly breathe, and has none of the wants of a cvilized white man.

That he has neither wife nor child, nor expects to have any.

That his sister is a prostitute from instinct, religion, education, and interest, and degrading to all around her.

That American men, women and children cannot be what free people should be, and compete with such degraded creatures in the labor market. ...

That the health, wealth, prosperity and happiness of our State demand their expulsion from our shores.

These sentiments were also part of the official government position on the "problem." The 1879 California Constitutional Convention, for instance, included an entire article (No. XIX) pertaining to the Chinese, which asserted:
Section 4. The presence of foreigners ineligible to become citizens of the United States is declared to be dangerous to the well-being of the state, and the legislature shall discourage their immigration by all the means within its power. Asiatic coolieism is a form of human slavery, and is forever prohibited in this state.

As with all other manifestations of the eliminationist impulse, the rhetoric begat both the lawmaking and the violence that followed. Roger Daniels, in The Politics of Prejudice, describes this [p. 17]:
The anti-Chinese movement did not confine itself to making speeches and holding torchlight parades. No one will ever know how many Chinese were murdered in California; in the best-known outrage, about twenty Chinese were shot and hanged in the sleepy village of Los Angeles one night in 1871. For many years Chinese, like slaves in the South, could not under any circumstances testify against white men in a California court. Congressional enactments during Reconstruction unintentionally improved their legal status, but Western juries were usually convinced that all Chinese were "born liars." Incidental brutality and casual assault were "John Chinaman's" daily lot; cutting of his queue was a favorite pastime for the larger bullies, and a shower of rocks was apt to greet him at any time. Little, if any, legal punishment was meted out for any crime against a Chinese ... Indignity and insult were not reserved for the laborer and the living; when a Chinese professor at Harvard died of pneumonia, the headline in the Los Angeles Times was "A Good Chinaman." ...

Most of this violence was scattered and periodic until 1885 and the Rock Springs Massacre. Its example seems to have sparked a wildfire of violence throughout the West, as Loewen notes:
Copycat riots and expulsions then swept the West, including almost every town in Wyoming; Cripple Creek and later Silverton, Colorado; Hells Canyon, Oregon; Grass Creek and Corinne, Utah; and communities in most other western states.

The retreat of Chinese from Idaho was especially striking. In 1870, Chinese made up one-third of the population of Idaho. By 1910, almost none remained. In the 1880s, assaults and murder became common practice. In 1886, white Idahoans held an anti-Chinese convention in Boise, and a mass movement against the Chinese spread throughout the state, growing even worse after statehood in 1890. ...

The effect was especially notable in California, where the largest numbers of Chinese lived. Elmer Clarence Sandmeyer, in The Anti-Chinese Movement in California (1939), similarly describes the aftermath of Rock Springs:
Shortly afterward the entire west coast became inflamed almost simultaneously. Tacoma burned its Chinese quarter, and Seattle, Olympia, and Portland might have done the same but for quick official action. In California developments ranged from new ordinances of regulation to the burning of Chinese quarters and the expulsion of the inhabitants. Among the localities where these actions occurred were Pasadena, Santa Barbara, Santa Crus, San Jose, Oakland, Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Red Bluff, Hollister, Merced, Yuba City, Petaluma, Redding, Anderson, Truckee, Lincoln, Sacramento, San Buenaventura, Napa, Gold Run, Sonoma, Vallejo, Placerville, Santa Rosa, Chico, Wheatland, Carson, Auburn, Nevada City, Dixon, and Los Angeles.

As these atrocities mounted, they attracted a certain amount of attention from East Coast whites who questioned the need for the violence, suggesting that perhaps the Chinese weren't quite the threat presented by the anti-Chinese whites on the West Coast. This prompted angry responses out West, including this outburst from the San Francisco Post on March 19, 1879:
But only let the general government release our people from federal obligations, and with our own state laws and local enactments we will free ourselves from the leprous evil, or, failing in that, with the same right arms that founded this western empire, will prove to the world that the imperial Saxon race, though but a million strong, can maintain its claim even against four hundred million serfs to possess and forever hold untrammeled the fair continent of America ... The silence of the grave would be all that would tell of the Chinaman's existence here.

The Northwest was hardly immune. Three Chinese hops workers were murdered in their tents in the town of Saak (now Issaquah) near Seattle shortly after the Rock Springs event. The following year, on Feb. 7, a mob of local whites -- mostly comprising labor activists and utopianists whose eugenicist beliefs prompted their desire to remove the Chinese -- rounded up all 350 or so Chinese in the city and attempted to force them out of town. As I described it in Strawberry Days:
[O]n February 7, 1886, a mob rounded up virtually every Chinese person in Seattle and began herding them toward the dock at the foot of Main Street, intending to put them aboard a waiting steamer for passage out of town. However, a contingent of local police and the volunteer Home Guard met the agitators at the pier and prevented the forced expulsion of their frightened captives, at least for a day.

Some 200 Chinese embarked for San Francisco the next morning. However, another 150 or so were forced to remain behind to catch the next boat, due six days later. As authorities tried escorting these Chinese back to their homes, the mob erupted in violence. Police fired into the crowd, and five members of the mob fell; one died. Martial law was declared by the governor and President Grover Cleveland.

Eventually, as all but a few Chinese left Seattle within the ensuing weeks, the passions cooled. And the city's nascent Chinese community nearly disappeared, at least for the time being.

Chinese emigration gradually ground to a trickle, and the remaining Chinese were forced to cluster into a handful of urban areas where they could be relatively safe, notably San Francisco, Los Angeles, and eventually Seattle again. But the demand for their labor never fully receded, and the industries that formerly employed them, particularly railroad, logging, and canning companies, soon began recruiting Japanese laborers to America in their place.

Rather predictably, the same kind of racial agitation against the Japanese arose in short order. In 1892, Dennis Kearney, an Irish firebrand who had helped lead the fight for Chinese exclusion, warned a San Francisco crowd about "the foreign Shylocks" who were bringing in the a fresh threat from Asia: "Japs ... are being brought here now in countless numbers to demoralize and discourage our labor market and to be educated ... at our expense ... We are paying out money [to allow] fully developed men who know no morals but vice to sit beside our ... daughters [and] to debauch [and] demoralize them."

As I explain in Strawberry Days:
Sentiments like his, though, flourished wherever Japanese immigrants showed their faces. In Washington state, a working force of about 400-500 Japanese laborers had established their presence in the White River Valley south of Seattle, which at the time was dominated by dairy and produce farms. In 1893, the local White River Journal published an editorial headlined "STOP THE JAPS," which included this observation:

It is a common occurrence in these days to see from six to a dozen Japanese leave the trains and, loading themselves like pack horses, strike out for some one of the valley ranches. Though there is little as yet said about them we know that the sight is distasteful to the working men of this region.

The paper's campaign made little impact at first—most of the farmers apparently welcomed the hard-working Nikkei -- but a year later it weighed in with another editorial declaring that "The Japs Must Go." According to its account, some 50 people gathered in a room over a local store to discuss what to do about the influx of Japanese workers, the main objection being "the starvation wages which the Japs were willing to work for." The result was that the first anti-Japanese organization in the state was formed, and this time, the campaign had its desired effect. Eventually, a "citizens committee" passed a well-publicized resolution calling on all the valley's white farmers to discharge their Japanese help by May 1, 1894, and apparently most of them complied. Most of the Japanese dispersed to other locales, and the few who remained kept a low profile.

The anti-Japanese sentiments lingered and caught fresh life in 1900, when the presence of the Japanese had become unmistakable. In April of that year, the steamer Riojun Maru arrived in Seattle with some 1,000 Japanese men hoping to find work. The Hearst-owned Post-Intelligencer reported steadily on the stream of "little brown men," and noted that labor organizations were demanding that federal authorities enforce the exclusion laws -- except that there were no such laws for Japanese immigrants.

On April 20, the first large anti-Japanese meeting in the United States occurred when a group of over 100 citizens from the South King County town of Renton gathered to prepare and submit a petition to the county commissioners protesting the presence of Chinese and Japanese laborers on county road and bridge crews. Their efforts were rebuffed when the commission explained that those crews were hired by private contractors who were free to employ whoever they pleased.

Once stirred to life, the racial animus hovered like a poisonous cloud. Anti-Japanese sentiment wound up playing a role in that year's election in Tacoma, Washington's second-largest city to the south of Seattle. Tacoma unionists tried to spur a campaign to urge Congress to exclude all Asians, but backed away when it became clear that such a move might cause the Japanese government to retaliate by cutting off millions of dollars in trade. Still, whites were seen handing out fliers to laborers on their way to the polls, declaring: “FELLOW WORKINGMEN BEWARE! Do you know why 1,500 Japanese are in Tacoma? . . . These Japanese are to take the place of our own white laborers in mills and factories in the event of the election of Louis D. Campbell as mayor of Tacoma, who will provide the necessary protection to the employers to carry such an outrage into effect.” The scare tactics failed; Campbell was elected, and Japanese workers continued to arrive.

An incident in Sumner, in rural Pierce County not far from Tacoma, on the eve of the election revealed the violent undercurrent of the agitation. A group of whites, spurred on by local politicians who also were using anti-Japanese rhetoric as an election ploy, marched upon a boardinghouse for Japanese hops pickers "and threatened to kill them if they didn't leave." As the mob fired shots into the house, the unarmed workers fled for their lives; fortunately, no one was killed.

All along the Pacific Coast, rumors were running rampant that the Chinese Exclusion Act, up for renewal in 1902, was going to be undermined or done away with completely by insidious legislative forces from the East Coast. Combined with continuing alarms over the arrival of Japanese, sentiments were ripe for a resurgence in anti-Asian fearmongering. Leaping onto that particular stage with gusto was San Francisco’s mayor, James Duval Phelan.

A banker and native son, born in San Francisco in 1861, Phelan was elected mayor in 1896 as a Democrat and his tenure was largely undistinguished. But in 1900, he caught national attention when the city’s Board of Health "discovered" an ostensible victim of bubonic plague in the Chinatown district. Phelan declared a quarantine and blamed conditions among the Japanese and Chinese. The "plague scare" was widely reported in the nation's press, and Phelan had to scramble as local businessmen descended on him to protest that the scare was ruining their trade. The mayor quickly backed down and blamed the health board's overzealousness. In fact, the only problem a health board inspector had been able to observe among the Japanese was that he found three Japanese men in a single tub in a local bathhouse; evidently, the inspectors were unaware that this style of washing was common in the men's homeland.

Phelan also was the featured speaker at a mass rally against the Japanese, organized on May 7, 1900, in San Francisco largely by local unions. He sounded a note that would continue to ring for nearly half a century:

The Japanese are starting the same tide of immigration which we thought we had checked twenty years ago. ... The Chinese and the Japanese are not bona fide citizens. They are not the stuff of which American citizens can be made. ... Personally we have nothing against the Japanese, but as they will not assimilate with us and their social life is so different from ours, let them keep at a respectful distance.

Phelan was defeated in the 1902 election, for reasons more to do with labor unrest than with the "plague scare" fiasco, though that was hardly the end of his career. Nor did his nascent campaign against the Japanese go away. In early 1905, the San Francisco Chronicle -- previously the model of Republican restraint, but in the midst of a fierce newspaper war with William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner -- began running a series of shrill articles decrying the growing presence of Japanese in the city’s midst. The headlines shrieked:


The campaign continued for months, during which the Asiatic Exclusion League was born in San Francisco, dedicated to repelling all elements of Japanese society from the city's midst. Its statement of principles noted that "no large community of foreigners, so cocky, with such racial, social and religious prejudices, can abide long in this country without serious friction." And the racial animus was plain: "As long as California is white man's country, it will remain one of the grandest and best states in the union, but the moment the Golden State is subjected to an unlimited Asiatic coolie invasion there will be no more California," declared a League newsletter. As one speaker at a League meeting put it: "An eternal law of nature has decreed that the white cannot assimilate the blood of another without corrupting the very springs of civilization."

Anti-Asian animosity came to the fore in the wake of the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. First, James Phelan—placed in charge both of the local Red Cross and several city committees—spearheaded a drive (ultimately unsuccessful) to remove Chinatown, destroyed in the quake, south of the city to Hunters Point. Then in October, the city's school board, acting under pressure from the Asiatic Exclusion League, decided to order all Japanese children -- previously intermingled with white children -- to begin attending the city's segregated Chinese-only school. When news of this reached Japan, a nation whose pride and military might were riding high in the wake of its victory in the Russo-Japanese war, an uproar ensued. Many sabers were rattled on both sides, with threats of war between the two nations rumored for weeks as a result of the school board's slight.

Finally, President Theodore Roosevelt defused the situation by negotiating what became known as the "Gentlemen’s Agreement," completed in March 1907: Roosevelt persuaded the Board of Education to back off and allow Japanese children to continue attending general public schools, while in turn the Japanese government would agree to halt issuing any further passports to its laborers trying to reach America. Thus came to an abrupt end the first great wave of Japanese emigration to America.

There was one exception permitted: Japanese workers already in the United States could send home for their wives. It seemed like a minor and humane concession at the time, but within a few years it became the focus of a fresh wave of racial antipathy.

The agitation against the Japanese never really quieted down, and by 1912 it was bubbling along again in the California Legislature, where anti-immigrant measures such as the "Alien Land Law" forbidding "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning property. Its passage in 1913 so angered people in Japan that "a crowd of some 20,000 Japanese in Tokyo cheered wildly as a member of the Diet demanded the sending of the Imperial Fleet to California to protect Japanese subjects and maintain the nation's dignity," and the Japanese government protested angrily to the Wilson Administration, to no avail. But as was often the case, the agitation proved contagious elsewhere.

The spousal exception to the Gentleman's Agreement was the major focus of the agitation. Indeed, in the years since 1907, Japanese immigration had continued apace because of the influx of Japanese women -- called "picture brides" -- who came to America through arranged marriages. Worse yet, they were giving birth to citizen children, and this prospect set off real panic among the anti-Japanese agitators.

In 1919 in Seattle, a campaign against the presence of Japanese farmers was spearheaded by a man named Miller Freeman, who had been agitating against them since 1907, and had even formed a state "naval militia" to help defend Puget Sound waters in the event of Japanese invasion. The pretext in 1919 was the return of World War I veterans to the job market, where they were having difficulty finding work; as chairman of the state's Veterans Welfare Commission, Freeman quickly determined that the Japanese were at the root of this problem, as they were so many others, in Freeman's view.

His opening salvo was a July speech before a group of 170 grocery, laundry and retail store owners that he titled, "This is a White Man's Country." In it, Freeman decried the steady stream of picture brides into the region since 1907, declaring that Japanese mothers bore five times as many children as white women. If the trend were not forestalled, he warned, the entire Pacific Coast would soon be overrun completely with Japanese. And, he said, they now owned and controlled large amounts of property in the state.

Freeman's speech brought a pointed response from Sumikiyo Arima, publisher of the Japanese North American Times: "The opinion of the commission is a great mistake ... If there is, as the commission asserts, need to restrict Japanese immigration more severely than it is now, it must mean to restrict Japanese brides who come to America to live with their husbands. But not to allow young Japanese in this country to bring their brides to live with would be inhuman, unjust and un-Christian. Besides, Japanese women are never in competition with returning soldiers."

The Seattle Star, one of the city's three major papers, decided to make the debate into a cause celebre. It published Arima's response on July 25, and the next day, ran Freeman's response with an 84-point banner headline:
Demanded by Secretary of Veterans' Commission

Beneath the lead-in was a small portrait of Miller Freeman, with a caption: "Sees Menace in Japanese Here." The first paragraph laid out Freeman's case:
That by getting control of 47 per cent of Seattle's hotels, and by leasing land when forbidden to own it, Japanese violate the spirit of the "gentleman's agreement" between the United States and Japan, was the charge made Friday by Miller Freeman, secretary of the veterans' welfare commission.

The story went on to detail how the Japanese "controlled" 218 of the hotels in Seattle (it would later turn out that "control" included mere managerial status, not necessarily ownership), and worse yet, were taking over all the state's prime farmland: "Practically all the best farming lands in the vicinity of Seattle are in the hands of the Japanese—a condition true of nearly all of the farming land adjacent to all the cities of the Pacific Coast.

"The law forbade foreigners to own land, and the spirit of the law is to prevent them from realizing the profits of our agricultural acreage. Yet these Japanese come here, lease the land, cultivate it, and take the cream. And the spirit of the law and the 'gentleman's agreement' is violated."

As a result of this travesty, Freeman claimed, World War I veterans returning home from Europe were being shut out of the labor market: "By gaining control of business, the Japanese is crowding our returning veterans out of a chance to get a new start." And if the trend continued, he warned, the result would be inevitable: "In the face of the flow of Japanese to the Pacific Coast, white people are ceasing to move here from the East. Eventually the whites will be forced to go elsewhere to make a living. ... Thus, the Japanese will eventually hold the balance of power in politics on the Pacific Coast. They will vote solid, and will control political affairs. Japan retains control of her people everywhere, notwithstanding that they may be accepted as citizens by the countries of their adoption."

As Freeman would make clear on numerous other occasions, even those American-born Japanese were not racial equals and could never mix with white society. They were Japanese through and through, and thus their citizenship was of dubious nature at best. Despite later contentions that he had no prejudice against the Japanese, this racial separatism was a cornerstone of Freeman's argument as he presented it in the pages of the Star.

He voiced it largely by sprinkling his writing and speeches (including his remarks to the Star) with popular aphorisms: "The Japanese cannot be assimilated. Once a Japanese, always a Japanese. Our mixed marriages—failures all—prove this. 'East is East, and West is West, and ne'er the twain shall meet.' Oil and water do not mix."

And his conclusion became a political benchmark: "It is my personal view, as a citizen, that the time has arrived for plain speech on this question. I am for a white man's Pacific coast. I am for the Japanese on their own side of the fence. I not only favor stopping all further immigration, but believe this government should approach Japan with the view to working out a gradual system of deportation of old Japanese now here."

The headlines continued over the next weeks:

The stories varied slightly in topic, but their underlying narrative was the same: that neither the Japanese immigrants nor their citizen children could ever become "real Americans" -- "There is no hope now or in the future for their assimilation," Freeman declared -- and so their growing presence could have no other outcome than to drive off Caucasians.

On the crusade's second day, an editorial beneath the headline asked: "Is This To Remain White Man's Land?":
Miller Freeman's proposal in The Star of Saturday to deport the Japanese from the Pacific Coast and to put up the bars against future immigration from Japan has aroused a storm and it has brought Seattle up-standing—face to face with a problem that cannot be settled secretly and cannot be put off much longer.
The Japs are here. They are rapidly gaining control of the best farming land near Seattle. They are in control of the Seattle markets.

... Multiplying five times as rapidly as the whites, the Japs must some day—unless the problem is met now—absolutely control this coast. Just as Hawaii and the Sacramento Valley have been Japanized, so will the state of Washington.

Eventually Freeman's campaign produced a congressional hearing in Seattle, at which the leader of the local chapter of the American Legion declared: "This is the zero hour of Americanism, and we should stand for 100 percent Americanism. The republic was founded for Americans, and not for Japanese, who are un-American."

The next year, Freeman successfully pushed for passage of a state Alien Land Law in the state legislature. Freeman outlined his reasoning in a speech: "Certainly I did not start out with any prejudice against the Japanese," he said. "And the more I observe of them, the more I admire their perseverance and efficiency.

"They are not inferior to us; in fact, they constantly demonstrate their ability to beat the white man at his own game in farming, fishing and business. They will work harder, deprive themselves of every comfort and luxury, make beasts of burden of their women and stick together, making a combination that Americans cannot defeat."

This was a common refrain among the anti-Japanese agitators, and it was modeled on arguments proferred natonally by eugenicists of the period, supported by popular literature and self-proclaimed "scientists" who used the questionable methodology of the day to lend an academic veneer to longstanding racial prejudices.

Among the most popular of the time were Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant, who boasted credentials from Harvard and Yale universities, respectively. They approached the matter of race ostensibly from anthropological and biological perspectives, but in fact did little more than clothe white supremacism in pseudo-scientific language. Wrote Grant, in his 1916 tome The Passing of the Great Race:
We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century, and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America "an asylum for the oppressed," are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss. If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control, and we continue to follow our national motto and deliberately blind ourselves to all "distinctions of race, creed, or color," the type of native American of Colonial descent will become as extinct as the Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the Viking of the days of Rollo.

And as Stoddard would later write in The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy -- a 1922 work complete with admiring introduction from Grant -- the real threat was not blacks in the South, but Asians: "There is no immediate danger of the world being swamped by black blood. But there is a very imminent danger that the white stocks may be swamped by Asiatic blood."

Both books were national bestsellers that underwent multiple printings. And their core arguments -- which became entwined with deeply cherished beliefs about the nature of race -- became the rhetorical core of the battle to exclude the Japanese. Ultimately the issue was couched, like many racial issues of the preceding century, in the terminology of eugenics, a popular pseudo science that saw careful racial breeding as the source of social and personal good health. Thus many of the campaigns against nonwhites cast the race in question as not merely subhuman, but pernicious vermin who posed a serious threat to the "health" of the white race. As James Phelan, arguing for exclusion in California, put it: "The rats are in the granary. They have gotten in under the door and they are breeding with alarming rapidity. We must get rid of them or lose the granary."

The eugenicists uniformly accorded Asians an advanced position in the sciences and arts and acknowledged their intellectual capacities, but considered them as lacking a moral dimension that ultimately rendered them an inferior race. As Grant put it: "These races vary intellectually and morally just as they do physically. Moral, intellectual, and spiritual attributes are as persistent as physical characters, and are transmitted unchanged from generation to generation." This lack of a moral sense inherent in the race made them potentially dangerous as economic or military competitors, according to this assessment, because they lacked the normal restraints that "decent" white folk took for granted as part of the fabric of a healthy society.

Freeman contended that the Japanese already had a leg up on establishing their hold in the Northwest. In an editorial in the Washington Farmer, he proclaimed: "Practically all the best farming lands in the vicinity of Seattle are in the hands of the Japanese ... The free city market established by the city of Seattle for the benefit of all the people is controlled by the Japanese. They are establishing many commission houses and within a short time will have a virtual monopoly and sell all farm products."

Thus, when the Washington legislature convened early in 1921, a flood of anti-Japanese bills awaited. Only the centerpiece "Alien Land Law" succeeded, passing the House 71-19 and the Senate 36-2, and it was signed into law by the governor in short order.

As I explained in Strawberry Days:
Flush with political victory, Miller Freeman had the final say on the matter. In an article addressed to the Japanese community, he minced no words: "The people of this country never invited you here. You came into this country of your own responsibility, large numbers after our citizens supposed that Japanese immigration had been suppressed. You came notwithstanding you knew you were not welcome. You have created an abnormal situation in our midst for which you are to blame."

... New Mexico passed an alien land law in 1922, and Oregon, Montana, and Idaho all followed suit in 1923. Washington's legislature tightened its own alien land law in 1923 by empowering the attorney general to seize the property of anyone who leased or sold to ineligible aliens.

The United States Supreme Court weighed in as well. Its 1922 ruling in Ozawa v. United States officially sanctioned the exclusion of all Asian races. A Japanese immigrant named Takao Ozawa -- arguing that he had been almost entirely raised and educated in the United States, was a product of its universities, and was a Christian who spoke English in his home -- sought to overturn a district court ruling that denied him the right to seek citizenship. And though the court agreed that he was "well qualified by character and education for citizenship," it denied his appeal on the grounds that immigration laws limited naturalization to "free white persons and aliens of African nativity." Then, in 1923, the court upheld the constitutionality of Washington's alien land law with its Terrace v. Thompson ruling (in a case involving a King County landowner named Terrace who openly declared his wish to lease his land to an Issei farmer, and sued the state's attorney general over efforts to enforce the alien land law) which found that an alien ineligible for citizenship did not enjoy equal protection under the law.

The final blow came in 1924, when Albert Johnson, using his offices as chair of the House Immigration and Naturalization Committee, introduced a bill that would limit immigration to a 2 percent quota for each nationality, but further prohibiting the admission of any "aliens ineligible for citizenship." The bill easily passed the House, but once in the Senate, the provisions were altered to allow for a Japanese quota as well. However, Republican Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts then stood up in the Senate and denounced a letter from the Japanese ambassador—which had warned of “grave consequences” for relations between the two nations if the measure were to pass—as a "veiled threat" against the United States. Lodge led a stampede of support for the House version of the bill, and the era of the Gentlemen's Agreement was over. Signed shortly afterward by President Calvin Coolidge, complete Japanese exclusion was now the law. Officially called the Immigration Act of 1924, it became known popularly as the Asian Exclusion Act. (Its final clause: "The terms 'wife' and 'husband' do not include a wife husband by reason of a proxy or picture marriage.")

Taken in isolation, these little acts of racial mean-spiritedness may have seemed of little moment. But in fact they had consequences that eventually exploded into the history books. In Japan, the public had been closely watching the passage of the alien land laws with mounting outrage. And when news of the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act was announced, mass riots broke out in Tokyo and other cities. As Pearl Buck would later observe, the then-nascent movement for American-style democracy, which had been slowly gaining momentum in Japan, was effectively wiped out overnight. The military authoritarians who would control the nation for the next 20 years gained complete political mastery, and one of the cornerstones of their rule was a bellicose anti-Americanism that would finally reach fruition in late 1941.

The 1924 Asian Exclusion Act was also a landmark in many other respects as well. Previously, immigration to America had been largely an open affair, with anyone who could prove a "sponsor" being allowed to come to its shores -- though of course, citizenship was a restricted matter. Now -- largely because of nakedly racist agitation aimed at keeping out the "unassimilable" and "alien" Asian races -- the borders were closed for the first time, and the entire concept of an "illegal immigrant" sprung into being.

With Japanese immigration effectively halted altogether, the remaining community settled in, the majority of them employed in farming. Most of them had families and citizen children, many of whom were just coming of age when America went to war with Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The agitation against them had largely subsided, but the mythology that had arisen twenty years before -- particularly the widespread "Yellow Peril" conspiracy theories positing that these immigrants were secret footsoldiers of the emperor sent to prepare for an invasion, and ready to turn traitor when the signal for invasion was given -- was still very much alive. And after Pearl Harbor, it flamed fully back to life.

There was a great deal of hysteria along the Pacific Coast in the weeks and months after Pearl Harbor, including sightings of phantom warplanes over Los Angeles and reports of "arrows of fire" near Seattle pointing the way to defense installations. Soon, the need to "lock up" the "dirty Japs" in their midst was a popular topic and was on the tongues of most of the coast's politicians and on the pages of its newspapers.

Such a removal would not be without problems, warned some. "Approximately 95 percent of the vegetables grown here are raised by the Japanese," noted J.R. Davidson, market master for the Pike Place Public Market in Seattle. "About 35 percent of the sellers in the market are Japanese. Many white persons are leaving the produce business to take defense jobs, which are not open to the Japanese." Letter writers to the local newspapers raised the same concern.

Their fears were quickly derided. Wrote Charlotte Drysdale of Seattle in a letter to the Post-Intelligencer:
It has been interesting to note how many contributors have been afraid we would have no garden truck if the Japs are sent to concentration areas. We had gardens long before the Japs were imported about the turn of the century, to work for a very low wage (a move for which we are still paying dearly) and we can still have them after we have no Japs.

Isn't that discounting American ability just a little too low?

And by Americans I mean not the children of the races ineligible to naturalization. The mere fact that a child is born in this country should not give him the rights and privileges of citizenship.

The fourteenth amendment, granting automatic citizenship to American born, was placed there for the protection of the Negro and at that time the great infiltration of Japs was not even thought of. In recent years there has been so much fear of hurting the feelings of these people that no one has had the courage to try to rectify the situation. Now it would seem that the time is ripe to put things right, for once and for all time.

She was not alone in this sentiment. Senator Tom Stewart of Tennessee proposed stripping citizenship from anyone of Japanese descent. The Japanese, charged Stewart on the Senate floor, "are among our worst enemies. They are cowardly and immoral. They are different from Americans in every conceivable way, and no Japanese who ever lived anywhere should have a right to claim American citizenship. A Jap is a Jap anywhere you find him, and his taking an oath of allegiance to this country would not help, even if he should be permitted to do so. They do not believe in God and have no respect for an oath. They have been plotting for years against the Americas and their democracies."

The press became the chief cheerleaders for removing the Japanese. The Seattle Times ran a news story alerting its readers: "Hundreds of alien and American-born Japanese are living near strategic defense units, a police survey showed today. ... There are Japanese in the neighborhood of every reservoir, bridge and defense project."

The Times also ran columns by noted conservative Henry McLemore, who frequently attacked the presence of Japanese descendants on the West Coast. In one column, headlined, "This Is War! Stop Worrying About Hurting Jap Feelings," McLemore fulminated:
I am for the immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior. I don't mean a nice part of the interior, either. Herd 'em up, pack 'em off and give 'em the inside room of the badlands. Let 'em be pinched, hurt, hungry and dead up against it. ... Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them.

His sentiments were shared by many of the locals. Wrote W.M. Mason of Seattle, in a letter to the editor of the Post-Intelligencer:
If there be those who would say we can't do this to citizens, let them remember that we took this country from the Indians, killed thousands of them, arbitrarily moved other thousands from their homes to far distant lands, and to this day have denied them the rights, duties and privileges of citizenship.

If we could do that to the Indians, we can do something about the Japs.

Let's do it now!

With Pearl Harbor as a pretext, the national voices of white supremacism rose to assert themselves in the fore. "This is a race war," proclaimed Mississippi Congressman John Rankin on the House floor. "The white man's civilization has come into conflict with Japanese barbarism. ... Once a Jap always a Jap. You cannot change him. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. ... I say it is of vital importance that we get rid of every Japanese, whether in Hawaii or on the mainland. ... I'm for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska, and Hawaii now and putting them in concentration camps... Damn them! Let's get rid of them now!"

Moreover, as Testsuden Kashima details in his Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II, government bureaucrats had been preparing for some years for the possible roundup and incarceration of Japanese Americans, largely because "Yellow Peril" beliefs about the threat posed by "disloyal" Japanese were pervasive at the highest levels of government, including the president. The bureaucratic machinery, particularly among military planners at the West Coast Command in San Francisco, began grinding into action -- and by early April, they had declared it a "military necessity" to evacuate every Japanese person, citizen or not, from the Pacific coast.

At first the plan was to make this a "voluntary evacuation", mostly to the states of the interior West. But shortly after the government announced this, the governors of those Western states held a meeting with War Relocation Authority officials in Salt Lake City at which they declared, adamantly, that the only terms under which they could accept such evacuees was under armed guard and behind barbed wire. Within a week, the WRA shut down its "voluntary" program and proceeded to make plans for incarcerating the entire population of Japanese Americans on the coast -- some 110,000 of them -- in concentration camps in the interior.

Evacuation notices started appearing in May in communities throughout the coast, and by the end of June, nearly the entire population of evacuees had been herded into temporary "assembly centers" while the camps in the interior were built. By summer's end, the 10 camps, located largely in hostile desert environments, were largely complete and began to be filled. By the war's end, some 120,000 people occupied them.

The entire episode was predicated on the failure to distinguish between Japanese nationals and Japanese American citizens, not to mention the even finer distinction involving the Issei immigrants, the vast majority of whom had been in the United States for over 20 years and who would likely otherwise have naturalized by then but for being legally forbidden to do so. Throughout the war, headlines regularly referred to the enemy "Japs" -- as did headlines regarding the evacuation and subsequent events in the WRA's relocation centers. Consistent with popular sentiments prior to the war and during the evacuation debate, letters to the editor as well as political pronouncements made no differentiation between the citizens who once had been their neighbors and the foreign enemies their sons were fighting.

As I observe in Strawberry Days:
Washington's congressional delegation had a particular propensity in this regard. In addition to the damage already wrought by Democratic Senator Mon Wallgren, who had chaired one of the early congressional committees recommending evacuation in 1942, Congressman Henry Jackson, a respected Everett Democrat, took up the anti-Japanese cause with particular relish for the war's duration. Not only was he an enthusiast of the evacuation, he was a stern advocate of the campaign to keep the Japanese from returning to the Pacific Coast -- both during and after the war. He was often seconded in this regard by his Seattle colleague, Democratic Congressman Warren Magnuson, who had a habit of raising groundless alarms about an imminent invasion of the Pacific Coast by the Japanese.

... In May 1943, Jackson began protesting in Congress against the army's policy of allowing Japanese American soldiers to visit the Pacific Coast on furlough; apparently, wearing an American uniform wasn't assurance enough of Nisei loyalty. Jackson sponsored a resolution calling for a complete investigation of "the Japanese situation," and his congressional colleagues were critical of the use of any Japanese Americans in combat. Rep. John Costello of California sounded the familiar refrain that "you can’t tell a good Jap from a bad Jap."

Jackson penned a speech that he never delivered on the subject, but it was clear he was opposed to Japanese Americans ever returning to his home district:

What is to be the eventual disposition of the Japanese alien and native ... is the second aspect of this problem of the Pacific. Are we to return them to their former homes and businesses on the Pacific Coast to face the active antagonism of their neighbors? Shall they again, as happened in World War I, compete economically for jobs and businesses with returning war veterans?

The House Committee On Un-American Activities chaired by Texas Democrat Martin Dies (known as the Dies Committee) also joined in on the action, partly at the urging of Jackson and others. A New Jersey Republican named J. Parnell Thomas flew out to Los Angeles and, without visiting a camp, declared that the WRA was pampering the internees. Thomas also demanded the agency halt its policy of "releasing disloyal Japs" -- that is, end its policy of relocating evacuees in jobs outside the camps.

The Dies Committee hearings provided a steady stream of scandalous headlines for a few months, bolstered by the reports of the unrest at Manzanar and Tule Lake. ... Dies himself held press conferences demanding that the WRA bring back all the Japanese it had relocated out of the camps and keep them interned for the duration of the war, claiming he had evidence that race riots in Detroit the week before had been the secret handiwork of an officer in the Japanese Army. Subsequent headlines detailed more wild allegations, including tales of elderly Issei secretly plotting a kamikaze attack on local forests, setting the West ablaze; caches of food being buried in the desert in a plot to aid the invading Japanese; and claims that the Japanese internees were being fed better in the camps than were American G.I.s (which may have been true, since much of the evacuees' food source was the camp farms they operated). Dies wrapped up his exploration of the "Japanese question" later that summer by reiterating demands that the WRA alter its policies -- but besides making headlines in the press, these pronouncements had little apparent effect on the changes that were already in motion at the WRA. And the Dies Committee would soon be more stridently focused on the looming "Red Menace."

The interest groups chimed in as well. The American Legion joined in on the rising anti-Japanese sentiments with its denunciation of the WRA's policy of "coddling the Japs," and longtime anti-Asian groups like the Native Sons of the Golden West (whose demeanor and behavior historically included vigilantism) became active in agitating alongside newer groups like the Pearl Harbor League. Some of these groups distributed signs proclaiming: "We don't want any Japs back here -- EVER!" These signs gained prominence in places like Kent, in the heart of what had been a thriving Japanese community in the White River Valley; the town's mayor, a barber, displayed the warning prominently in his shop, and earned a Time magazine appearance for it, pointing at the sign.

As it became evident, in late 1944, that the camps were going to be closed (thanks largely to the Supreme Court ruling in Endo ex parte), the agitation against allowing them to return became feverish. A Bainbridge Island man named Lambert Schuyler published independently a little pamphlet that had wide distribution titled: The Japs Must Not Come Back! Schuyler's core arguments were not very distinguishable from those offered twenty years before by the exclusionists:
As a nation we stand prejudiced against orientals. This is something which our bleeding-heart idealists have overlooked. They claim our basic laws, the principles upon which America rests, are unanimously in favor of regarding all men as equals. The fact remains, however, that according to our statute books all men are created equal except those with yellow skins. Any race, color or creed, say our laws, may become naturalized citizens of our country except the Japanese, Chinese and Hindu. These are judged unfit for assimilation in our society.

Mind you, we on the Pacific Coast are glad of it. What irks us is the loop-hole in our Constitution through which orientals may purchase the farm next door to us and defy us to kick them out. The loop-hole is this—all babies are created equal providing they are born in the United States. The Japs, Chinese and Hindus are no exception to this rule. Oriental babies born here are automatically American citizens. ... Obviously this is a contradiction of principle which cannot be justified within the bounds of either religious or political idealism.

For Schuyler, in keeping with the anti-Japanese tradition, the tenets of white supremacism and pseudoscientific racial eugenics were paramount:
The dividing lines between the races are necessary to prevent mixed breeding. The white race does want to survive!

There is no dodging it. This is a white man's country. The white man runs it. And he is not going to let his own rules of behavior drive him from his own soil. So, as long as we remain a people of spirit we will refuse to sanction the mixing of colored blood with ours. Japanese in America will never be the social equals of the whites for the simple reason that they are not assimilable. Germans? Italians? Jews? Yes. We can assimilate any of the whites. But the colored races are different. We reserve the right to reject from our midst those who are not patently assimilable.

His final solution: designate a passel of Pacific islands permanent territories of the United States, and then remove all persons of Japanese descent to this new permanent homeland. Of course, no one of Japanese blood would be permitted to become a permanent resident of the mainland afterward.

Schuyler was hardly alone. Up and down the coast, in a number of semi-rural communities that had formerly hosted Japanese families but mostly were in the process of becoming suburbs as part of the postwar boom, jingoes began organizing community meetings aimed at repelling their return. The one that circulated around Bellevue in April 1945 read:
Free MASS MEETING—Monday, April 2, 8 P.M., Bellevue

George H. Crandell, an attorney who lived on Hunts Point, headed up the Japanese Exclusion League. He claimed to the local paper, the Bellevue American, that a "Jap spy ring was operating on the West Coast" and that the return of the Japanese from the internment camps would pose a military threat until the war with Japan was over.

"Dozens of local organizations are springing up along the Coast in the so-called Japanese 'hot beds’ where they were thickly colonized before the war," Crandell told the American. "Each organization is trying to keep the Japs from trying to come back into that particular area ... Unless we do something about it, the Japs are going to move in with us. And surely none of us want that."

Crandell also had even grander motives. "We've got to do more than keep the Japs out of our own back yard. That won't solve anything. We've got to get them off the entire Pacific Coast, and we've got to do it legally and peaceably. But we've got to do it permanently, and it can be done if we're all willing to put a shoulder to the wheel."

The American also obliquely hinted at economic interests behind the gathering: the meeting, its story said, was sponsored by "a large committee of Eastside business men and women who oppose resettlement of the Japs in this area."

The League a little while later published a newsletter filled with articles about the various kinds of threat the returning Japanese presented. It included an editorial titled "A Program That All Can Back!" which outlined the League's political agenda:
Almost daily letters come into the headquarters of the Japanese Exclusion League from persons who are anti-Jap but who confess their inability to go along with the League's program because "it sets a precedent that will undermine the fundamentals of the Constitution and imperil other minority programs."

Let's re-inspect the program and see:

Item 1. Induce the government to keep all Japs out of the Western Defense Command until the war is over. That's just good sense, with a war on. If only one among them was a saboteur, the exclusion of all, to prevent his dirty work, would be justified. And we heard a man, close to the military intelligence service, say in a public speech that six known Japanese spies were now operating in Seattle alone.

Item 2. Deport all alien Japs and all disloyal Japs. Who will argue that this is either un-American or unnecessary?

Item 3. Stimulate interest in a national post-war election (so the soldiers can participate) to amend the Federal Constitution and provide that, after a certain date, NO MORE descendants of persons not eligible for citizenship may automatically become citizens merely because their alien mothers were here when they were born.

Japanese now constitute only one-tenth of 1 per cent of our population. No great danger there. The peril lies in permitting fast-breeding races that are not assimilable to go unchecked, and to make American citizens of them as fast as they are spawned. Give them a few years and they will make good of their boast of dominating America. And they'll do it without firing a shot. They will VOTE OUR COUNTRY AWAY FROM US.

If that kind of law is un-American, we set a bad precedent many years ago. We had such a law once. And we kicked it out the window.

The April 2 meeting attracted about 500 people, and Crandell, as expected, launched into his expected diatribe against the evacuees, concluding that "the one and only way to solve the Japanese question is to exclude them forever from all American territory!" Another speaker asked for a show of hands from all "who favor exclusion of all American-born Japanese from this country," and about 400 hands went up. However, the meeting broke up after some in the audience began heckling the speakers. The same fate befell a similar meeting scheduled for the same evening in Seattle. And in Bellevue, a counter-meeting was held a couple of weeks later denouncing any attempt to keep Japanese farmers from returning to their homes.

In the end, the forces opposing the Japanese families' return to the newly developing suburbs won out, not so much by virtue of having scared them away or intimidated them, but largely because of economic forces interacting with the conditions created a generation earlier.

At the time of the evacuation, as a lingering effect of the Alien Land Laws, very few of the Japanese farming families owned their own farms; most still lived the itinerant tract-to-tract lifestyle of the truck farmers whose efforts had turned so many of these formerly marginal lands into valuable properties ripe for development. After the camps closed, many of the evacuees found that their former farms were in the process of being platted for suburban neighborhoods, or that in any event the white landowners were intent on doing the same.

The result was that after the war, the Japanese evacuees largely resettled in urban areas and took up occupations other than farming. Whereas at the time of the relocation, over 60 percent of the evacuees were employed in agriculture, after the war less than 20 percent were so engaged.

On the other hand, the blindly elminationist bigotry that had erupted during wartime -- which had indeed characterized nearly the entire history of Asian American immigration -- had played its course. The exclusion of Chinese and Filipinos, both allies in the war, was dropped in 1944, as was the prohibition against their naturalization.

And the American public -- instructed, no doubt, by the remarkable example of the segregated all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose blood sacrifice as the most decorated unit of World War II gained national attention -- gradually shifted its attitudes about the ability of Japanese immigrants to become fully American. With the passage of the McCarran-Walter Act in 1952, even Japanese immigrants were finally permitted to become U.S. citizens.

More important, widespread attitudes about the inability of Asians to assimilate in American society were, over time, demolished utterly. Nowadays, hardly an eyebrow is even raised at the kind of interracial marriage between Asians and Caucasians that seemed such a horrific prospect in the 1920s.

However, influence of the eliminationist bigotry that had informed the transformation of American immigration law during these years was never fully erased. By early in the 21st century, it would come creeping back out of the woodwork.

Next: The Structural Legacy

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