Monday, September 12, 2011

Fear of "The Oriental"

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.

In 1920, despite a fairly large Asian population in Orange County (including Fullerton), the Alien Land Law prevented Japanese residents from acquiring farm lands. Anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese policies had been enacted for many years in California, and are discussed in great detail in the paper “On California’s 1920 Alien Land Law: The Psychology and Economics of Racial Discrimination” by Gaines and Cho.

In a 1968 interview with research students from CSUF’s Oral History Program, Judge Raymond R. Thompson, whose family had lived in Fullerton since 1911, commented on the mentality behind such prejudicial policies:

“I remember the fear that the Caucasian had of the Oriental. The thought was that they worked so much harder and put in long days, the women worked in the fields and little children went out and worked. It was felt that it was impossible competition, that they would expand and multiply and acquire the land and the resources would just take over and drive out the whites. There was a lot of fear...The American working man was very fearful of the Japanese and the Chinese.”

This fear was made policy on a number of occasions, resulting in exclusion acts and land laws. The most extreme manifestation of this fear was, of course, the Japanese Internment camps during World War II. These did not come out of nowhere. There were already decades of anti-Japanese sentiment in California, including Fullerton.

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