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OUR JAPANESE PROBLEM
Will there be a post-war "Japanese Problem"?
A Famous author offers an opinion . . . and a sensible suggestion.
By Edgar Rice Burroughs
Famous American Author, Creator of "Tarzan"
Hawaii Magazine ~ June 30, 1944
" I cannot forget that there are thousands of [Japanese] in Italy, fighting and dying at the side of other Americans; and I cannot conceive of America repaying them by disenfranchisement and deportation. There must be found a better way, a more American way."
Among the post-war problems for which we shall have to find a solution is that of the Japanese-Americans on the Mainland and in Hawaii and what to do with them. They total about 285,000, of which 160,000 are in Hawaii. The question is, do these people represent a serious problem, or only an imaginary one?
I can discuss the question only as it applies to Hawaii, where I have lived for the past four years. Yet some of my deductions may be equally applicable to the Mainland's Japanese problem.
My approach to the problem was colored by bitter prejudice. I believed that every person of Japanese ancestry should be deported, and not without reason. As long ago as 1935, on the occasion of my first visit to the Islands, the Japanese problem was one of the chief topics of conversation among whites of long residence here. They entertained two fears. ONe was political domination of the Islands by the Japanese. The other was that the Japanese would rise in a body and massacre the whites in the event of war with Japan.
Since Pearl Harbor, hatred of the Japanese has greatly increased. Some civic leaders who had formerly defended them have recently come to the conclusion that all Japanese, both citizens and aliens, should be deported to Japan after the war, and have openly advocated this.
Recently there have been other occurrences further to crystallize my belief that the Japanese problem was both real and serious. The Tule Lake CAmp affair was one. Another, the notably marked increasing impudence toward whites of some of the younger Japanese-Americans in Honolulu. The Japanese alien who recently spat on an American soldier in downtown Honolulu in no way lessened my conviction that we would be better off without any of them.
Then there was the article appearing in the Honolulu Advertiser, written by its Washington correspondent:
"Congress is anticipating a bad racial problem with the Japs after the war. Reports members get are that nobody wants them, even those fully loyal to the United States. They are not wanted in areas in which they are now interned; and the West Coast areas from which they came do not want them back, according to these reports. What to do with them will be a problem, because the feeling against the Japs will become more bitter as the war goes on."
Further assurance of the seriousness of the problem lay in the efforts that have been made by members of Congress to disenfranchise the nisei. Then there was the accepted belief in their resistance to assimilation. The recently released report on the torture and murder of thousands of Filipino and American prisoners of war made calm and unbiased judgment increasingly difficult.
* * *
Yet weeks devoted to research and to discussions of the subject with the very few civic leaders who would discuss it at all have aroused in my mind a question as to the existence of a real post-war Japanese problem in Hawaii. Here are some facts that have aroused this question:
Japan made war upon us, but he Island Japanese did not rise and massacre the whites. Complete political domination of the Islands by citizens of Japanese descent can easily be prevented by the simple expedient of not granting Hawaii statehood. The late Dr. Romano Adams, former Professor of Sociology, University of Hawaii, partially laid another bogey by compiling statistics which indicate that the birth rate among Japanese-Americans is declining.
The Tule Lake Camp affair really has no bearing on the subject, notwithstanding the fact that two or three thousand of the internees there are from Hawaii; as it is inconceivable that the Government will permit any of them to remain in any part of the United States after the war.
The stupidity of a few young Japanese-Americans who are impudent to white people is a trivial matter of no importance. The vast majority of the older Japanese, citizens and aliens alike, are co-operative and courteous -- as they have always been. The actions of a few little fools of their race can, I feel, be left safely to them to correct.
How many of the Japanese Americans here are loyal citizens not even they themselves know, but that they have been law-abiding citizens is beyond question. Take a look at their record. Statistics showing the average annual number of convictions for murder, manslaughter, robbery, burglary, fraud, embezzlement, forgery, and for all sex crimes during two six year periods, demonstrate convincingly that the Japanese have been law-abiding.
The seven principal nationalities or racial groups, including whites, represented in the Islands, were considered. The Chinese had the best record for crimes of murder and manslaughter, that is the lowest annual average number of convictions. The Japanese were next. But in convictions for commission of all other crimes (and especially sex crimes) the Japanese had the best record.
And as to their asserted resistance to assimilation, which I assume refers to social intercourse and inter-marriage. That cannot be justly charged against them without first proving that they have resisted assimilation more than we have, which is rather doubtful.
Finally, their potentiality for harm would be dependent upon their numbers. They presently comprise but .002% of the population of the United States. If you lived in a community of five hundred people, one of whom was a Japanese, who might or might not be a loyal citizen, would you live in very great fear of him?
In considering the problem from the viewpoint of the Hawaiians, the economic welfare of the Islands must be considered. Japanese constitute over one third of all gainfully employed people in Hawaii, one half of all craftsmen, three quarters of all domestic service workers (this is a pre-warContinued on page 19figure), over one half of all farmers and fisherman, more than one half of the proprietors of retail food stores and restaurants, five eighths of all auto mechanics, and about one third of the plantation workers. It would be economic suicide to deport all these people.
My research knocked my preconceived theories into a cocked hat. I approached the subject in the honest conviction that all Japanese should be deported after the war. I thought that we are faced with a very serious situation. Now, I don't know. When one comes to analyse it, it doesn't appear very serious.
However, if there is a problem, we should try to find a solution. It should be a solution that would decrease the Japanese population of the entire United States without resorting to Hitlerism methods.
There is also the problem of what to do about Japan after the war. If the solution of one of these problems would solve the other, that would be ideal. Perhaps it is possible.
Japan will continue to exist as a nation. If measures can be adopted that will insure that it will be a useful member of the family of nations and friendly to the United States we shall have accomplished much for the future peace and prosperity of the world and of ourselves.
There are on the mainland and in Hawaii many highly educated, brilliant, and presumably loyal American citizens of Japanese descent -- economists, scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers. It seems probable that it would not be difficult to find a sufficient number of these who would volunteer to go to Japan to instal a system of government along democratic American lines, under the guidance of a United Nations commission, that would make Japan a decent neighbor in the community of nations.
Later, others -- merchants, artisans, teachers, missionaries -- might gladly migrate to the homeland of their fathers in the knowledge that they could still enjoy the way of life to which they had been accustomed in America.
The plan is not altruistic. It is definitely realistic, and it is not difficult to visualize many ways in which its consummation would rebound to the advantage of the United States. If it also benefited Americans of Japanese ancestry, so much the better. In thinking of these people we should not judge them by our knowledge of the Japs we are fighting. A couple of generations of Americans living have altered them physically. They are larger and better looking than any of the Japanese prisoners I saw in t he South Pacific area, and I believe that they are spiritually different.
It would mean, for those of them who volunteered to migrate to Japan, escape from that discrimination with which all racial minorities in all countries have to contend, for they would constitute the ruling class of the country, backed, if necessary, by the armed forces of the United States.
It would mean for us at least a partial solution of an embarrassing post-war problem. There are many who advocate disenfranchisement and deportation. I think this plan is a better plan. As strongly as I feel both we and the Japanese would be better off if there were none of them on our soil. I cannot forget that there are thousands of them in Italy, fighting and dying at the side of other Americans; and I cannot conceive of America repaying them by disenfranchisement and deportation.
There must be found a better way, a more American way.
At a WWII Press Briefing
At his Post-War Home in Encino
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