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Lessons of Racism from World War II

September 08, 2020

When people think of racism, they often think of prejudice against African Americans. And while that racism has existed for a long time and does still to this day, there was tremendous hatred toward the Japanese in America long before World War II.

Americans did not like the fact that the Chinese were arriving in droves from China and working as laborers. They feared that these workers would replace them and they wanted to maintain what they considered racial purity. Japanese descendants got lumped in with the Chinese based on their appearance, and they were all negatively referred to as “China Men.”

The Naturalization Act of 1870 kept the Japanese from participating in America’s legal and political systems. They were not allowed to vote or serve on juries. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 stopped migration from China and there were anti-Japanese movements all the way until World War II began. Then everything worsened. The bombing of Pearl Harbor happened and deepened the racism gap between Americans and the Japanese and this was particularly difficult for Japanese-Americans who considered America their home.

I briefly discuss this history and the prevalence of racism for one reason: to contrast it with the fondness that one American boy, Danny, had with best friend, a Japanese-American boy named Ito.

How could Danny share the talk he’d heard, the unavoidable gossip? It was waiting in ambush while shopping for groceries or standing in line for a bus, or in the queue for movie tickets on a Saturday night. Everyone declared they’d “kick the butts” of that miserable bunch of little “slant eyes,” who didn’t know how to make anything of good quality. You could see their stuff in the “penny, nickel, and dime stores.” It was mostly junk with a dash of eye-appeal color. Danny could not believe that his best friend in the world had now been diminished into being nothing but a “slant-eyed” yellow peril.

Danny and Ito shared everything from the time they were children, and Danny knew exactly what his best friend was capable of, and it had nothing to do with being miserable or useless. He was, in fact, brilliant, capable, caring, and honest. He was the opposite of what Americans viewed him to be. But because of the divide of racism he experienced, he and his family was interned… He went on to do great things; just as many other Japanese –Americans did.

-David Radmore

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RAVES

“Honed Virtue caught my interest right from the start. I loved the interaction… Back in the 1930s, things were tough and kids had to grow up fast. The closeness of the two families was very natural and ethnic backgrounds did not matter. They learned from each other. We should have more of that in this day and age… …very entertaining and kept my Interest… enticed me to want to read the next book to find out what will happen… Two thumbs. It was refreshing and delightful.”

-Barbara Kaufhold Licensed Massage Therapist

5 Stars - Wonderful Insight into Growing Up During The Great Depression. I so enjoyed this book! The story of this young man growing up in rural Oregon during the Great Depression was absolutely spot-on. It echoed my family’s oral tradition as well as stories from my own youth.The story is so well told that I became totally invested in it by the end of the first chapter. It was such a page-turner that I made myself take breaks so that I could savor the story. I can’t wait to read the rest of this young man’s story along with Ito and his other friends. The next book in the series can’t come quickly enough for me. This author’s writing style is very easy to absorb. His segues into the background of the other characters feels seamless. The characters, their emotions and their conversations ring absolutely correct. This book will be in my permanent ‘Keepers’ collection. I will be reading all of this author’s work.”

-Janet R. Graham Water Quality Control Analyst