Haw provides different angle on Executive Order 9066

Haw provides different angle on Executive Order 9066

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Chinese-American recalls prejudice during WWII era

Jaden Ventura | The Feather Online

While Executive Order 9066 relocated Japanese-Americans and immigrants, it affected countless others like Thelma Haw.

Editor-in-Chief Alexander Rurik, ‘19, chose to interview Thelma Haw, a Chinese-American lady who experienced resentment against minorities following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This is the third of three articles showcasing the stories of those affected as a result of the Japanese attack. Read Rurik’s first two articles: Japanese-American internment survivor recalls life during WWII and Yamaguchi reflects on time spent in Japanese relocation camps.

Although World War II began in 1939, the United States of America did not officially join until 1941 after the Japanese bombed the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In turn, many on the mainland began targeting Japanese-Americans, immigrants and other minority groups with prejudice and hostility.

Before long, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, commencing the round-up of over 120,000 Japanese-Americans to relocation camps spread across the western US.

Prejudice against loyal Japanese-Americans and immigrants was heightened substantially after this. Many were unfairly beaten, thrown in jail, had property or houses damaged and some businesses refused to serve them.

I’m Chinese, but people can’t tell us apart so we were discriminated against as well. We were so afraid because people can’t tell us apart. They were beating up the Japanese kids here in Fresno because of the war. They were blaming them for everything and we didn’t want to be beaten up so we had to start wearing pins that said, ‘I’m Chinese-American.’ — Thelma Haw

These events highlighted the prejudice against the Japanese. Unfortunately, other minority groups received similar treatment. Thelma Haw experienced this during and after WWII.

“I’m Chinese, but people can’t tell us apart so we were discriminated against as well,” Haw said. “We were so afraid because people can’t tell us apart. They were beating up the Japanese kids here in Fresno because of the war. They were blaming them for everything and we didn’t want to be beaten up.

“It only occurred at the beginning of the war until the Japanese were taken away,” Haw continued. “So from the time the war started to when they were taken away, it was a problem. They were beating them up and destroying Japanese property. They felt the Japanese were responsible for the bombing and the killing of Americans even though most of them were born here in America.”

Jaden Ventura | The Feather Online

Haw and other Chinese needed to wear pins that said, “I’m Chinese-American” so they would not be targets of prejudice aimed towards Japanese. 

Haw explained they needed to wear pins that read “I’m Chinese-American.” With similar features, they did not want to be mistaken as Japanese.

“I think one of the reasons people didn’t realize there was so much prejudice against the Asians is that we were called the ‘model minorities’ because we were very quiet,” Haw said. “We didn’t make a lot of trouble and we didn’t riot. We didn’t go killing people and things like that so it wasn’t noticeable that there was all this prejudice, but it existed.”

A model minority is described as a demographic group whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success, measured by income, education, low criminality and family stability.

Racial prejudice against Asians began before WWII when Chinese immigrants came to the US to work in the mid-19th century, affecting economic competition. However, the prejudice against Japanese became heightened again after Pearl Harbor, especially in California.

Haw elaborates on her feelings towards the anti-Japanese sentiment during WWII.

“When I found out all my Japanese friends were going to camp I was thinking, ‘America is at war with the Germans and the Italians too,’” Haw said. “‘Why aren’t they putting them in the camps? Why are they picking on the Japanese?’ But it was because they could see who the Japanese were, and it’s hard to tell who is German and Italian.”

However, the issues at hand have not completely died out. As a nation, we battle the history and continuation of it. Racial issues can not be solved if people lack understanding of them. Hearing experiences such as Tokubo’s, Yamaguchi’s and Haw’s experiences and understanding them can help us learn to not make the same mistakes. 

Haw worked as a teacher, certified financial planner and jewelry designer. She currently resides in Fresno, CA. Editor-in-Chief Rurik interviews Thelma Haw in November in the video below. Senior Jaden Ventura filmed and edited the video.

Read Rurik’s two related articles, Japanese-American internment survivor recalls life during WWII and Yamaguchi reflects on time spent in Japanese relocation camps. For more articles, check out Home ec. students learn how to avoid, deal with conflict.

This author can be reached via twitter @alexrurik23 and via email: Alexander Rurik.

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By | 2017-12-06T15:52:35+00:00 December 5th, 2017|Features, Top 5|1 Comment

About the Author:

Alexander Rurik

John Steinbeck said, “It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.” Over the summer Alexander Rurik, ‘19, joined a group of 24 people on the North Shore of Oahu to volunteer and assist running camp for local, underprivileged students. This experience solidified his desire to work with students in various outreach programs even while he continues plans to major in biomedical engineering. Alex is shifting from Feather sports and blog editor into the role of co-editor-in-chief. While on staff the previous two years, he and his fellow staffers earned two CSPA Gold Crowns and one NSPA Pacemaker. His goal to visit all the national parks in America stems from his love of hiking, birdwatching and nature. Finally, Alex enjoys playing tennis and works as a Spikeball ‘Baller Ambassador in the Central Valley. This author can be reached via twitter @alexrurik23 and via email: [email protected]

One Comment

  1. Nathan Mount
    Nathan Mount December 6, 2017 at 8:18 am - Reply

    It’s super cool that you have the opportunity to something like this Alex. I feel like when you’re apart of The Feather it opens up so many possibilities for students and it is amazing.

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