The first Chinese immigrants flooded to America, in the hopes of “striking gold” during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Unfortunately, the citizens of California greeted these newcomers with many unfair laws. Beginning with the Foreign Miner’s License Tax Law of 1850, the Chinese experienced nothing but bigotry from the citizens who surrounded them. This inequality peaked when President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, barring the immigration of Chinese workers for ten years. During that time, the immigration of Japanese in search of work rapidly increased. These immigrants also faced racial discrimination, from their ineligibility for citizenship to the laws prohibiting Japanese from owning land. The full extent of this prejudice was revealed in 1942, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, allowing the Secretary of War to “prescribe military areas … from which any or all persons may be excluded.” This order allowed for the unconstitutional relocation of over one hundred thousand Japanese American citizens. Racist Californians instigated the Japanese American internment during World War Two for personal and societal economic gain.
Racism in California
Before, during, and after World War Two, Californians showed an attitude of bigotry and racism towards non-European immigrants in their midst. These citizens, who initially deemed the Japanese innocuous, became outraged at their presence when Japan showed their military strength in their defeat of Russia in 1905. As a response, over 60 labor unions joined together to form the Oriental Exclusion League, while other organizations focused on ruining the Japanese, such as the Anti-Jap Laundry League. These organizations persecuted the Japanese as an invading force, even after legislation stopped the flow of immigrants and neutralized any threat of Japanese invasion. In an article written in 1921, during a time of extreme prejudice, Baron Shimpei Goto addresses this irrational fear of invaders, explaining “the assertion…that at the present birth ratio the Japanese of the state will outnumber Americans in seventy years is an abstract statement based on imperfect statistics” (104), the polite way to explain that the facts were fabricated. The various organizations advocating against the Japanese immigrants often created false statistics supporting their opinions, presumably because the accurate numbers did not support their cause. This manipulation of information supported the unfair treatment of the Japanese.
The Japanese Americans sustained many injustices during the pre-World War Two era, including exclusion from traditional establishments and occupations. It was noted, “the [economic] argument and the discriminatory measures are plain contradictions” (Goto 105-106). Although the stated goal of Californians was to have a unified population, their actions belied their true motives. The colossal nature of the assimilatory feats performed...