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JAPANESE AMERICAN IDENTITY & SELF-IMAGE
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:14:12 PM to reflect the 100 most recent valid responses.)

In relating with other Asian American groups, Japanese Americans most exhibit which of the following attitudes?
More Americanized than thou | 51%
More rooted in ancestral heritage | 0%
More anxious to be low key | 49%
More embracing of other AA | 0%

Which of the following has the most impact on the Japanese American identity?
Smallest percentage of recent immigrants | 36%
World War II internment | 51%
Japan's economic success | 6%
Smaller population than other AA groups | 7%


This poll is closed to new input.
Comments posted during the past year remain available for browsing.

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WHAT YOU SAY

[This page is closed to new input. --Ed.]
RE: who to blame for the internment

J. Edgar Hoover stated that there was no evidence that the Japanese American population would sabotage or spy for Japan. Although the FBI did have a list prepared of possible, let's call them, "trouble makers". Within hours of Pearl Harbor they began to arrest these men (though no charges were ever filed).

Most Japanese Americans who were interned will tell you they felt that the press on the west coast, particularily those owned by Hearst were to blame. Keep in mind, there was no mass media as there is today. No internet, cable, national broadcasting. There was radio and newspapers. That's all.

While the initial spark of anti-Japanese sentiment came from racists who felt threatened by the immigrants, it was the press that swayed popular opinion. If the newspaper had come out immediately and defended Japanese Americans instead of targeting them for suspicion and hatred then public opinion would have *probably* been different. Instead they engaged in Yellow Journalism (a phrase actually coined for the Spanish American War).

RE: the parellel to 9-11

The frightening thing about what happened post Pearl Harbor was that the rights of individuals were set aside for fear of what may come (an invasion of the US mainland?). The belief was then that the needs of national security superceded any other considerations, including our way of life. After all, if we don't defend ourselves then we are lost.

Today we can look at the past and now say, what are we defending if we have don't consider our way of life.

We certainly appear to have taken one step closer to a big brother state.

RE: the topic of JA Identity.

What is interesting about Japanse Americans is that immigration from their native land stopped for a long period of time and because of the war, contact also stopped. Oftentimes it was an intentional desire to cut off ties with Japan. The end result was that a wave of Japanese immigrated to America around the turn of the century and stopped in 1 generation. The children of those immigrants were born here and were American citizens. Those children, the Nisei, became a legendary part of America's greatest generation.

What happened to the Nisei, to simplify things, can be looked at in 2 groups. Those on the mainland (especially those on the west coast who were interned) and those in Hawaii. The mainland JA's lived in concentrated groups as minorities. The Hawaiian JA's lived as a majority. You cannot discuss JA identity without this consideration.

In looking at the results of the poll on this page, you can see the effects of the mainland experience. Almost 50/50 say that JA's exhibit a "more Americanized than thou" or a "low key" attitude. That, my friends, is a direct result of the WW II experience.

The Hawaiian Nisei were a far different group. They were and are, a more out-spoken and gregarious group.

What most people don't realize is that there is quite a difference between the "buddha-heads" from Hawaii and the "kotonks" from the mainland.
Go For Broke    Wednesday, December 25, 2002 at 00:52:04 (PST)    [24.55.59.235]
>>"...then place their hands in their pocket, start whistling and pretend like they're innocent, that's a load of bull."

hahahahahaha, yeah, that's what white people do when they automatically sentence asians in courts, even in this day and age, with this so called "due process" of theirs. American law and order is nothing but a circus act with no intentions of delivering what it promises to certain segments of the population. Sounds like you've already sentenced middle easterners in your head.

Why should the method of these arab terrorists bother you so? After all, they're not THAT different from whites when looked at from another angle. What bothers you is the impunity of these shoe-icide attacks, hmmmm? Let's see...

case #1: white people: commit wrongs, have children, grow old and die. no one left to sentence.

case #2: middle eastern terrorists: commit wrongs, die with their wrongs, no one left to sentence.

Looks about the same to me. LoL. Hits purdy close to home, doesn't it? Of course whites trusted this gov't of 'ours' many a times in the past too, and it sure did work out for them in the end, did it not? I guess it's about time to charge people with "future crimes" now, eh? Oh, wait, looks like whites have been doing that for quite a while now. nevermind.

kimchi d'evil    Friday, October 11, 2002 at 02:07:41 (PDT)    [152.163.189.233]
ka,
If ordinary citizens had opposed japanese internment what would that have done?

When the whole federal government (including the supreme court) decides to intern japanese because "we can't trust them", who can challenge that directive/executive order?

The answer is we generally trust the government to do the right thing and when they're wrong it's usually not until years later that redress is presented.

In the case of japanese internment, the government was wrong.

In the current case of being more vigilent about people who terrorize our country and plant bombs, then place their hands in their pocket, start whistling and pretend like they're innocent, that's a load of bull.

I trust our government in this particular instance. The stakes are too high and our enemy is so cowardly, covert and deadly.

Comparing japanese internment to our current law enforcement practices to thwart terrorist activity seems so naive and misplaced.
Political Observer    Wednesday, October 09, 2002 at 14:28:43 (PDT)    [167.230.38.7]
Political Observer-

Many Germans say that they did not send any Jews to the ghettos.

Of course, Nazi Germany was no democracy, but in a democracy like the U.S., don't you think that the constituents bear the responsibility on the actions of their elected representative?

I think you are right on the dot when you said, "Roosevelt signed the order but there was no feeling for asians at the time." Apparently ordinary white americans at the time didn't have the feeling that they should do what is right as opposed to what is "patriotic"--which is to stay silent and do nothing as their neighbors are being sent to camps.

I can't help but feel that I am seeing the same thing in 2002 with George W Bush claiming that anyone who opposes his military policies are being "unpatriotic," as hordes of Americans clap at his rhetoric for war.
ka    Tuesday, October 08, 2002 at 14:03:37 (PDT)    [168.103.180.35]
kimchi d'evil,
you wrote to me "White supremecists didn't intern the Japanese, ORDINARY white Americans did."

Not really. That really cannot be accounted for. The decision to intern japanese americans was done at the advice of military personnel and FBI, etc. Roosevelt signed the order but there was no feeling for asians at the time. They were expendable. Things have since changed for the better. Ordinary people and vultures took advantage of interned japanese americans, but the decision to intern them was not their.

At the time japanese kept to themselves and were no more a threat than some german and italian spies.

It was clearly a racist decision.
Political Observer    Wednesday, October 02, 2002 at 11:31:08 (PDT)    [167.230.38.7]
Political Observer,

Bull... White supremecists didn't intern the Japanese, ORDINARY white Americans did. The thought didn't even cross any of their minds whether or not it was the "right" thing to do. A non-issue, like breathing air.

As for spontaneously combusting middle-eastern men... not my problem, so what? Deal with it. Or don't you folks believe in due process anymore? It just goes to show, neither right nor wrong, but what 'you' can get away with. Why don't your law enforcement investigate those INCOMPETENT arses at airport security instead? They're largely to blame for all of it. Man, why even bother having baggage screeners at all?!?

Whatever man, middle-easterners are way cool, they don't deserve white america's ignorant shiznit.

So yes, the unquestioned "scrutiny," seizure of assets, etc. of arabs is in no way different than japanese internment... white institutional racism. And yes, East Asians, Middle-Easterners, etc... we're all on the same boat. What next? Is white america gonna start handing out candy if the rest of us minorities distance ourselves from the arabs, like we're *supposed* to?
kimchi d'evil    Wednesday, October 02, 2002 at 01:00:27 (PDT)    [205.188.209.140]
NE Asian Man,

I must say when I read your post it momentarily felt like my heart got caught in my throat. I'm glad you enjoyed my post but I think heroism is best left to the truly heroic. I would suggest that I am more your contemporary or humsafar, which is Urdu for fellow traveler. What seems clear to me is that the roads we both travel can at times be perilous and indefensable. The cargo of our inheritance we carry with us can frequently weigh down heavily and at times feels more like an affliction rather than a heritage. All the more reason then for us to lend each other a helping hand and lighten one another's burden. If my words in any way help make sense of it all or just helps reassure you that your struggle is not a solitary one then I am glad friend.

LAKA,

Thank you for your insight and for the information. I remember I was a high school senior living in Tampa when the riots occurred. Even though we were geographically far removed from the conflict, there was an enormous amount of tension and fear of spill over in our city. I can't even imagine what it must have been like being in the eye that storm. The Korean American community in California was unfairly demonized and attacked. No two ways about it. Ironically being targeted as a properous scapegoat for racial injustices spanning over 400 years while having only arrived 40 years ago; the Korean American community itself was a struggling minority still in the early stages of cultural adjustment trying to secure a piece of the dream for themselves.
I have a theory that may however explain the obtuse reaction, as you put it, by the Japanese American community. I call it the "antipathy of adjacency". What it means is that too often our greatest opponents and detractors always seems to be those who are closest to us. Those who would seem like our most natural allies can behave like our most implacable antagonists. While most whites or blacks (or even Asians) couldn't tell the difference between a Japanese and Korean, an Indian and a Pakistani or a Chinese and a Taiwanese; many within these minorities go to great lengths to creat an unbridgable gulf between each other. I concede that much of this is based in the long histories of our national origin, but a considerable amount of aversion is the product of trying to distance oneself from "similar minorities" (and I use this phrase loosely) in hot water so they won't suffer persecution due to being mistaken for one.
I see the divisions formulating among all sorts of ethnicities that could be mistaken for terrorists now. Christian Arabs distancing themselves from Muslim Arabs. Non-Arab Muslims harping that they are not Arabs. Hindu and Sikh Indians incessantly declaring no affiliation with Muslims from their own country. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges and points of weakness in the Asian American character. It is this fermentation of self-interest and backsliding that divides our already insufficient numbers. It dodges the greater virtue of having the moral courage to stand up and denounce the demonization of an entire minority in its principle. Heaven knows that I myself struggle to keep the greater good at heart and have tried to come to the aid of East Asians, Arabs, Hindus and Sikhs when I could both in life and on GoldSea. Its not always easy and I find myself at times discouraged by our dissonance coupled with our fewness. But rest assure it is not purely out of compassion I behave this way. It benefits me as it would benefit you. In the end it is the only way to be.

Peace..
Seaman    Monday, September 30, 2002 at 13:43:17 (PDT)    [68.101.69.58]
Seaman,

You're comparing two completely different scenarios. You sound like a bright guy. There'se really no reason why you can differentiate between american internment of law-abiding citizens and national with this current war on terrorism. Quite frustrating when reasonable people confuse the two.

Japanese were interned in 1942-45 due to their ethnicity - pure racism. Nothing magical or complicated at all. J Edgar Hoover and other white supremacists determined that you had to put japanese away so they wouldn't hurt us.

In this current war on terrorism you have evil people who disguise themselves as normal lurking around planting themselves in everyday american life then appearing with bombs and planes to destroy innocent people.

How many of those terrorists were white, black and latino? Not one.

Japanese americans have a right to be angry about what happend to them during world war II. Their image in america has been rebuilt and they contribute tremendously to our country.

There is no comparison between what happened to japanese and what is happening by law enforcement and intelligence agencies focusing on middle eastern men.
Political Observer    Monday, September 30, 2002 at 11:34:11 (PDT)    [167.230.38.7]

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