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Japanese Prejudice

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Japanese Prejudice

David Guterson depicts real-life prejudice during World War II in his fictional novel Snow Falling on Cedars. During World War II, prejudice towards the Japanese was strong. Japan had attacked America, and because they had attacked us that meant that every Japanese person was responsible in some way. Similarly, in the novel, Kabuo Miyamoto was blamed for committing the murder of Carl Heine because of his race rather than facts. The white people were eager and willing to point their fingers at the Japanese because it was easy for them to do so during this time period.

“The roots of racial prejudice began with an ideology that Jacobus tenBroek identified as ‘antiforeignism’” (Moore). Antiforeignism is the position of a person’s beliefs that outsiders are bad. In America, antiforeignism towards Asians began with the Chinese when they came to America and were willing to work for less than the white people. It expanded to include Japanese as well, and soon all Asians. This belief led to concerns about “yellow peril.” “Congress reacted to [these] concerns…by passing a series of laws that ‘barred on the basis of race individuals who were Chinese, Japanese, and Korean from entering the United States legally’” (Historical). When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the feeling of discrimination exploded in the United States. Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt even stated, “A Jap’s a Jap, and that’s all there is to it…[T]he Japanese race is the enemy race” (Historical). The general United States population became prejudice towards all Japanese after the Pearl Harbor bombing on December 7, 1941.

It is no wonder that Americans felt strong prejudice towards the Japanese people during this time. They felt that their country had been invaded in the workplace by taking the white peoples’ jobs and now has been attacked militarily. The media did not help calm this prejudice. The “press and radio slanted the news with a Hearst columnist urging that ‘the Japanese Americans in California should be under armed guard to the last man and woman…and to hell with habeas corpus until the danger is over” (Brown). The phrase “A Jap’s a Jap” became popular during this time. The Los Angeles Times quoted, on April 14, 1943, “that ‘A Jap’s a Jap…It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen or not…I don’t want any of them…They are a dangerous element…There is no way to determine their loyalty’” (Brown).
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