The Average American and International Affairs-The Vagueness of the Orient-A Definition by Former Ambassador Morris-"They say"-The "Yellow Peril"-International Insults-Physiognomy-What! the Japanese Should Learn About Us-Our Race Probrems-Racial lnlegrily-Assimilation-Californian Methods-The Two Sound Arguments Against Oriental immigrationCONCERNED with making a living, the Average American has as a rule neither the time nor the inclination to study international affairs. He expects his government to see to such things for him. He has no interest in what his goveernment is doing with regard to other nations unless his personal feelings are in some way involved. Thus if he be German-American he may take cognizance of our relations with Germany; or if he be a Russian- American he may desire that we recognize the socalled government of Lenine and Trotzky; or again, if he be an Irish-American he may wish the President of the United States to go personally to London and knock the British premier's hat off. But if he be simply an average unhyphenated American the chances are that he is disgusted with the clatter of the hyphenales and bored with the whole business of foreign relations and race problems. His main interest in governmental affairs at the present time has nothing to do with foreign relations but comes much closer to home. He is tired of paying heavy taxes, tired of paying exorbitantly for the necessities of life. He wants his government to remedy those two things. Then, because he is sick of hyphenated citizens and internal race problems, he wants immigration stopped.
If public opinion is fed with distorted facts, unworthy suspicions, or alarming rumours; if every careless utterance by thoughtless and insignificant men is to be given prominence in print; if every casual difference of view is to be magnified into a crisis, sober judgment and deliberate action become impossiple.- JOHN W. DAVIS, former Ambassador to the Court of St. James's.
The Orient is all vague to him. If he does not live on the Pacific Coast or in some large city where Japanese have settled, he may never have laid eyes upon a Japanese. Or if he has seen Japanese over here he may have seen them in the farming districts of the Pacific slope. Whether he has seen them or not, he has gathered some impression of them through newspaper accounts of the trouble there has been about them in California. He understands that their customs, religion, and food are unlike his-which may be taken as implying a certain lack of merit in them. He understands that Japanese women and children work in the fields. His own women and children do not work in the fields, but wear silk stockings, chew gum, and go to the movies-all of which, of course, counts against the Japanese, since to work in the fields is in these times almost un- American. And of course it is still more un-American to do what the Japanese labotirers did in California until the patriotic Californians stopped them; namely to save money and buy farms.
Then there is this business about "picture-brides" -my Average American may have heard vaguely about that, though probably he does not know that the Japanese Government, in deference to our wishes, no longer allows picture-brides to come here. He would not think of such a thing as picking out a wife by photograph. None of his friends would do it, either.
It may be well here to state the actual nature of the issue in California. This can be done briefly in no better way than by quoting an editorial published not long since in the New York World, a newspaper remarkable for the intelligence with which it has generally treated the Japanese question.
The World's editorial was published apropos an address made by Mr. Roland S. Morris, who served under the Wilson Administration as ambassador to Tokyo, and whose admirable work in Tokyo might have borne good fruit but for our unfortunate habit of relieving ambassadors, however able, when the political party to which they belong goes out of power.
Said the World:
In his address at the University Club on the Japanese issue in California, Roland S. Morris American Ambassador to Tokyo, refrained from discussing the merits of the case and merely defined the question in accordance with the facts. It is only in the light of the facts that a sound decision can be reached where argument and judgment run along the line of fixed prejudices.
As Mr. Morris explained, Japan does not question the right
of the United States, subject to its treaty obligations, to legislate on the admission of foreigners. While under the treaty of 1911, Japanese were granted full rights of residence and admission, the Tokyo Government accepted the condition that, it would continue limiting emogration from Japan to the United States in compliance with the "Gentleman's Agreement" of 1908.The Japanese Government and people are not seeking the removal of restrictions on immigration. The Japanese are not to American citizenship, but they have enjoyed in this country the same personal and property rights as other aliens. It is here that the friction has been created by the action of California.
In 1913 California deprived those aliens who were ineligible to citizenship of certain property rights. In 1920, in Mr. Morris's words, "this legislation was amplified by all initiative and referendurn act." What he does not state is that this measure was intended to discriminate against the Japanese in buying and leasing land.
Hence the protests of the Government at Tokyo. The Japanese object to what they regard as the injustice of being set apart as a separate class, suffering political disabilities and deprived of rights other aliens enjoy.
Mr. Morris leaves the issue open when he says: "The Japanese protest presents to all our people this very definite question: In the larger view of our relations with the Orient, is it wise thus to classify aliens on the basis of their eligibility to citizenship?"
In pursuance of its local ends, California has adopted a provocative position and played into the hands of Japanese jingoes and militarists.
Lamentably, these simple facts have been cast adrift upon a stormy sea of Californian prejudice. That sea, I fear, so fills the eye of the Average American that oftentimes he fails entirely to descry the shipwrecked waifs of Truth out there upon their little raft. Were he to attempt to state his views upon the California question he would in all probability quote as the source of his information that favourite authority, "They say."
"They say Japanese immigrants are flooding into California and buying up the farming land; they say the Japanese have large families; they say they don't make desirable neigbbours; they say that if things keep on this way they will ultimately control the state. Certainly we don't want any part of our country dominated by foreigners." The less familiar he is with certain Californian traits the more he is likely to conclude: "I guess it must be true or the Californians wouldn't be making such a row about it."
His tendency to reason thus may be enhanced by the recollection of a phrase he has heard: the '"Yellow Peril "-one of the most poisonous phrases ever coined. He does not know that the term was Made in Germany for the very purpose of exciting international suspicion and ill-will. He may not be alive to our real Yellow Peril-that of the yellow press- but may, upon the contrary, actually acquire his views on international affairs from such inflammatory sheets as those published by William Randolph Hearst, himself a son of California and a leader in the anti-Japanese chorus.
My Average American knows little of Californian politics, and nothing of politics in Japan. He does not realize that Californian politicians are largely responsible for the stirring up of anti-Japanese sentiment, precisely as earlier politicians of the state were responsible for anti-Chinese sentiment, and that in both cases vote-getting was a chief motive. It is sometimes very convenient for a demagogue to have a voteless alien race at hand to bully.
My Average American is probably unaware that more than two hundred thousand Californian voters cast their ballots against the discriminatory laws passed in November, 1920, even though the press of California was generally closed to spokesmen representing sentiment opposed to undue harshness toward the Japanese. Still less is he likely to be aware that politicians in Japan know all the tricks familiar to their Californian counterparts; that they, too, know how to gather votes by stirring up race feeling. So, when he sees in his newspaper-headlines that a Japanese whose name he has never before heard, but who, the paper says, is high in politics, has been talking of war with the United States, he begins to wonder whether those people over there are not, perhaps, looking for trouble. And when he reads of Japan's great naval building programme the notion becomes a little more concrete in his mind.
Of course he does not understand that, meanwhile, in Japan there has been going on a process precisely similar: that hostile and insulting things said by American politicians are cabled to Japan and published there, where they carry undue weight; and that while we are reading of Japan's naval programme and wondering what it signifies, Japan is reading of ours, and likewise wondering.
That any one could suspect the United States of aggressive purpose is inconceivable to my Average American. Though the United States has lately shown that she can fight, she has also shown she is loath to do it. The Average American has no feeling of hostility toward Japan, and the idea of war with Japan seems to him absurd to the point of being fantastic. There is, as he conceives it, but one way in which such a war could be started, and that is by Japanese aggression.
Assure him that the exact reverse of this view represents Japanese sentiment and you will stupefy him. "You must be wrong about that," he will tell you. "The Japanese must know that we hate war and that we have no more desire to fight them than to select our wives out of a photograph album." And he may add something about Japanese "inscrutability."
That is another point:
When my Average American meets a stranger of his own race, or of almost any European nationality, he can form, from the stranger's physiognomy, some estimate of his character. It is a type of face he understands. But the Oriental physiognomy baffles him. He cannot read it. To him it is as a book in an unknown tongue-a very symbol for mystery.
That it may be equally difficult for the Japanese to judge of us would not occur to him. Our faces are -well, they are regular faces; there is nothing queer about them. We aren't queer in any way. It is other people who are queer.
If certain simple facts about Japan were understood in the United States, and certain simple facts about the United States were understood in Japan, it might not follow that the two nations would thereafter cordially approve of all each other's policies and acts, but it ought certainly to follow that they could view such policies and acts with eyes more tolerant.
You and I, for instance, might not approve the aggressive methods of some canvasser we had encountered, but if we knew that his wife and family were crowded into a single room wondering where to-morrow's breakfast would come from, we could forgive the man a good deal. Similarly, if he were to see you or me bulldozing a helpless guest in our own house, his disapproval of our action might be mitigated if he understood that the entire neighbourhood had fallen into the habit of using our house as a common camping ground for undesirable members of their families, and that we had been goaded by these unwelcome visitors into a state of desperation.
What are the essential things for the Japanese to learn about us?
They must get a better understanding of our various race problems. They must realize that, important as the problem involving their settlers on the Pacific Coast appears to them, it is to us a minor problem-being one of the least of a number of race- problems with which we are confronted.
They must know that our population is derived from all the countries of Europe. And they must be made aware that though we have in the past viewed this situation with fatuous complacency, we no longer do so. Our old beautiful theory that the United States was properly a refuge for the oppressed of other lands has lost a wheel and gone into the ditch. Some of us have even begun to suspect that the oppressed of other lands were in certain instances oppressed for what may have been good and sufficient cause. We have found that some of these individuals, on arriving in the United States, become so exhilarated by our free air that from oppressed they turn into oppressors who would fain take our government out of our hands and run it in the interest of the Kaiser, the Soviets, or of Mr. De Valera's interesting Republic.
With these and other hyphenated racial problems we are continually contending. We no sooner meet one than another arises. Now we must needs create an Alien Property Custodian to take a hand. Now we deport a band of the more violent Bolsheviks. Now we summon glaziers to put new windows in the Union Club in New York, where the British flag (flying in commemoration of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, three hundred years ago) was hailed with bricks by members of a congregation emerging from St. Patrick's Cathedral, across the way.
We used to speak with loving confidence of something called the "Melting Pot," which was supposed to make newly arrived immigrants into good American citizens. Sometimes it did so, but we have lately learned that its by-product consisted too often of bricks and bombs.
We do not boast about the Melting Pot any more. Having overloaded it and found it could not do the work we put upon it, we want time in which to catch up with back orders, as it were. Meanwhile no new ones must be taken.
But while the problems growing out of European immigration have of recent years troubled us most, they do not constitute our greatest race problem. Always in the background of our consciousness, like a volcano quiescent but very much alive, looms our gigantic negro problem-the problem which for the sins of our slave-importing and slave-holding fore- fathers we inherit, and from which, according to our characteristic way of "meeting" great quiescent problems, we are always endeavouring to hide. For it is not our way to advance upon a bull and take him by the horns. If a bull seeks to be taken by the horns he must do the advancing. We Americans all know this about ourselves, but it is our way to excuse the failing by boasting of the tussle we will give the bull if he ever gets us in a corner.
There is no need here even to outline the tragedies of the negro problem, but there is one aspect of the matter which should be spoken of. Experience has shown that whereas immigrants from Europe can ultimately be absorbed into what we may term the American race, the negro, wearing the badge of his race in the pigment of his skin, is not to be absorbed. Even the octoroon is clearly distinguishable from the white. The negro race must, so far as the future can be read, remain a race apart.
The case of the Indian affords another example of the failure of two races, separated by colour and other physical markings, to fuse. In the early days of this country's settlement, when the Indians strongly predominated, they did not absorb the then few whites. When the time came that there was an equal number of Indians and whites, still they did not fuse. And now, when but a handful remains of the once mighty Indian nations, that remnant still retains its racial integrity.
Here, however, is involved no question of racial inferiority. Whites and Indians have to some small extent intermarried, and when both parties represent the best of their respective races, not only is there no sense of degradation to either, but the white descendants of such alliances are often proud of their Indian blood.
In this whole matter of the fusibility of races there is, then, no basic principle of inferiority or superiority. Such questions are here as extraneous as in the case of oil and water, which though they will not mix are not therefore designated as a superior and an inferior fluid.
The fact is that some inner consciousness tells us that the characteristic physical markings of the chief races of the world were not given them for nothing; that Nature intended the broad lines of race to be maintained; and we are told that crosses which disregard these natural race divisions are usually penalized by deterioration.
To find in this truth the faintest implication of insult would be absurd. It would be as ridiculous to resent the statement that "like seeks like," as to resent the statement that "honesty is the best policy."
No people insists more firmly than the Japanese upon racial integrity. The most fanatical English horseman could hardly be more finicky about the maintenance of pure thoroughbred stock. Marriages between native Japanese and foreigners are not encouraged and seldom occur. Among the upper classes they almost never occur. A citizen of Japan cannot enter into a legal marriage with a Korean or a Formosan, although Korea and Formosa are Japanese colonies. (I am informed that steps were taken in 1918 to make such marriages legal, but up to the time of writing this has not been accomplished.)
The law regulating the acts of the Japanese Imperial Family does not permit the marriage of members of that family with persons other than those of Japanese Imperial or noble stock. This law had to be amended in order to make possible the marriage, several years ago, of a Japanese Imperial princess, the daughter of Prince Nashimoto, with the heir to the Korean Royal Family-which family, by the way, now ranks as a sort of Japanese nobility. The marriage, it may be added, was unpopular with the Japanese masses, because of their strong feeling that Japanese blood, and especially Japanese Imperial blood, should not be diluted. Had the prince been a European it is not improbable that a louder protest would have been heard, for the Japanese does not, as a rule, look with favour upon Eurasians. There are exceptions, but in the main the man or woman of mixed Oriental and Occidental blood lives socially upon an international boundary line, on neither side of which is exuberant cordiality displayed.
The intelligent and patriotic sentiment of the United States is at present overwhemingly in favour of the stoppage of all immigration; and even if there comes a time when it is felt that the floodgates may again be opened, they will not, if wisdom prevails, be opened wide, but will admit only such aliens as are susceptible to assimilation.
What does assimilation mean?
It, means that the immigrant shall lose his racial identity in ours. It means that he shall be susceptible to absorption into the body of our race through marriage, or at the very least that his children shall be susceptible to such absorption. And this in turn means, among other things, that he shall have no ineradicable physical characteristics which strongly differentiate him from our national physical type.
This is one chief reason why, in my opinion, Orientals should never settle in the United States. Broadly speaking, they are no more suited to become citizens of the United States than are we to become citizens of Japan or China.
Another chief reason why Japanese labour immigration is not acceptable to us is that the Japanese can live on less than we can. They are willing to work longer hours for less pay. Also they are thrifty. These are virtues; but the fact that they are virtues does not make Japanese competition the more welcome to white labour.
This point also should readily be appreciated by the people of Japan, who find it generally necessary to exclude Chinese labour on precisely the same ground-that is, because a Chinaman can live on less than a Japanese, and can consequently work for lower wages.
Had California, in her desire to prevent the further acquirement of land by Japanese settlers, rested her case on these two clean-cut issues: namely, unassimilability and economic necessity; had she refrained from vituperation, taking up the matter purely on its merits; had she recognized her duty as a state to the Nation and coöperated with the Washington Government, instead of ignoring the international bearing of the question and embarrassing the Government by radical and independent state action; and had she, above all, shown any disposition to deal as justly with the Japanese as the circumstances would permit; then, without a doubt, the entire Nation would have been behind California. And what is perhaps as important, the whole matter could then have been presented to Japan in a reasonable and temperate manner, without offence, yet with arguments the force of which Japan could hardly escape.
But it is not apparently in the nature of the average Californian to go at things in a moderate way. Moderation is not one of his traits. His father, or grandfather, was a sturdy pioneer whose habit it was to express resentment with a bowie-knife and answer antagonism with a Colt.45. In the descendant these family traits are modified but not extinguished. If he does not approve of the manner in which an amiable alien wears his eyebrows he is likely to call him something-without a smile.
Antagonism? Why should he mind antagonism? He likes it. He feels the need of it. He must have something to combat-something to neutralize the everlasting sunshine and the cloying sweetness of the orange-blossom and the rose.
And alas, there is Senator Hiram Johnson, of whom the New York Times recently remarked that, "he would lose his proprietary political issue if the differences with Japan were peacefully composed. And we know," the Times continued, "that it is better to meet a bear robbed of her whelps than a politician deprived of his issue." And again, alas, there is ex-Senator Phelan-though the ex-, which has recently been added to his title, may tend, to some extent, to moderate his effectiveness as a baiter of the Japanese. And thrice alas, there is Mr. V. S. McClatchy, the Sacramento apiarist, whose "Bee" is trained to sting the Japanese wherever it will hurt most.
That the difficulties between the two countries must be harmonized, all thoughtful citizens of both will agree. For myself, I do not see how this can be fully accomplished without some modification of the present discriminatory alien land law of California- a law which, aimed at one alien group alone, is not in consonance with the American sense of justice.
The Japanese labourers who are already legally here-many of them originally brought here, by the way, at the instance of Californian employers- should be treated with absolute fairness. They should not be deprived of the just rewards of their industry and thrift. Their racial virtues should be appreciated and might well be emulated.
It should be clear, however, that for our good and the good of the Japanese, no further immigrants of their labouring class should ever enter the United States. And it should be equally clear that in such a statement there is no cause for offence.
The United States does not invariably act wisely. Neither does Japan. But the American heart is in the right place, and so is the Japanese heart.
Let us try, then, on both sides, to look at these problems with honest and disinterested eyes. Let us try to get each other's point of view. Let us even go so far as to make due allowance for the frailty of human nature, as exhibited on both sides of the Pacific.
But let us have no thought of straining good will by attempting to become on any larger scale inmates of the same house, dwellers under the same national roof.