Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies



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4. Conclusion

Regardless of the fact that there is a tendency nowadays to condemn the prewar American attitude toward Japanese immigrants as a result of racial prejudice, it is important to bear in mind what other influences shaped public opinion. It is undeniably the truth that society was racist back then, however, that does not make their thinking inherently irrational. Many of the conclusions that led to the repression of Japanese Americans were actually not based on the assumption that their race was inferior and were not completely illogical either. As the foregoing text shows, anti-Japanese sentiments were for a large part rooted in the fear of war with Japan which was not always entirely baseless. Japan´s rapid rise to the position of a world power to be reckoned with made claims about the dangers of mass immigration more plausible, especially when Japanese Empire began its own territorial expansion not only into continental Asia, but also into the Pacific, drawing closer to American shores.


Ever since the victory over Russia at the break of the century, Japan was viewed as
a potential threat owing to its demonstrated strength and continuing military build-up. This anxiety gradually transformed into one of the foundation stones of the
anti-Japanese sentiment on the American West Coast and brought forth the exclusionist movement.

Exclusionists reacted on and in their propaganda frequently made use of the changes of Japan-U.S. relationship and the intensity of public support for their cause was influenced by those changes as well. At the same time, the relationship between these two countries was repeatedly shaken by the movement´s activities, most notably in 1924. Although the immigration question was very important for the Japanese government from the moment first imperial subjects were allowed to settle overseas, the series of the most serious clashes over the immigration occurred many years later in the interwar period. During that time, the United States began to pay greater attention to the problem as well. The main reason was the experience of war which made people across the world increasingly sensitive to the danger of anything of the kind happening again. Both countries thus strove to find a peaceful solution to the problems arising from the presence of Japanese on the West Coast. However, the goodwill of diplomacy in the end lost to anti-immigration activists who had grown more and more radical in their demands. The consequences of the anti-immigration legislation passed in the 1920s were grave. As the Immigration Act served as an argument against Japanese liberals and raised the popularity of militarists, it played a part in the change of government and subsequent turn toward militarism in Japan. Japanese military conquest of Manchuria then gave birth to a paradoxical situation. The preceding anti-Japanese propaganda gained even more support since the fears of war with Japan, repeatedly recalled in the media and popular literature, were retrospectively justified.

It comes as no surprise that the lives of Japanese Americans were influenced by these events as well. Already repressed as an evil force threatening the work and living standard of American laborers, the immigrants were also deemed essentially alien and unable to assimilate. The sad truth is that the Japanese really did fail to assimilate to an extent that would prove these claims false. However, the cause was not that their character would make them essentially Japanese no matter where they lived, but the obstacles built by the anti-Japanese propaganda and opposition to the equal treatment of immigrants and white workers. As a result, immigrants formed somewhat isolated
self-reliant community which was easily portrayed as a colony and a potential fifth column. Subsequently, in the 1930s the community had to suffer the consequences of worsening relationship between their new and old homeland. Although many of the members considered Japan just as alien as the rest of American citizens did, there were contacts maintained with the families living overseas and, as was mentioned, in the past the Japanese government had shown enough concern over its subjects abroad to raise suspicion about their loyalty to the United States. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this prewar suspicion was proved right in the eyes of the society and consequently led to the relocation of Japanese Americans in the name of national security. As the thesis attempts to show, all these factors constituted essential parts in the formation of the anti-Japanese sentiment on the West Coast and subsequent relocation.

It is important to study the histories of immigrants because their experience can serve as an example of the mistakes that the society should want to avoid in the future. Since the arguments used to justify hostility to Japanese Americans in the 19th and 20th century are and have been used in various modifications against immigrants in other countries and eras, it is apparent that the immigration and assimilation still pose


a problem in the world. Moreover, as the world grows more and more interconnected, international migration becomes a common thing resulting in the increase of multinational states. At present, the idea of separate nations living in separate states seems much less viable than it did after World War I and thus it is necessary to search for the ideal way of coexistence instead. This process involves a thorough examination of the way people think and reasons that make them think the way they do. Consequently, these can be analyzed and categorized either as ideas that help in the search and ideas that hinder it and therefore deserve to be chased away. Although such changes of opinion may occur quite quickly in the mind of an individual, overcoming stereotypes circulating in the whole society which are often inherited by following generations requires more time and effort. Fortunately, this process may be facilitated with the help of strategies based on the lessons learned from our past mistakes.



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