Thursday, April 19, 2012

Black and Jewish Responses to Japanese Internment

After today’s discussion about “Wilshire Bus,” I wanted to look more into certain racial and ethnic group responses to Executive Order 9066. I stumbled upon an article by Cheryl Greenberg regarding the reactions of Blacks and Jews to the Japanese Internment ( Both black and Jewish peoples at the time endured exclusion, harassment, and violence because of their race and ethnic backgrounds. Both groups recognized that the struggles they dealt with were similar to that of other oppressed groups, leading to the growth of alliances between various black and Jewish organizations. One activist in the mid 1930s commented on how the treatment of Jews in Germany at the time paralleled past treatment of blacks.
Thus, the idea of solidarity between minority groups certainly existed when Executive Order 9066 came out. Yet neither blacks nor Jews protested in any significant way the internment of the Japanese. Only one black organization, the NAACP, and one Jewish organization, the NCJW, raised any concerns at all. The internal minutes of most groups show that the Executive Order wasn’t even discussed. Greenberg concludes that the silence of blacks and Jews during this time resulted from their own attempts to show themselves as loyal and supportive of the war effort, their varying reasons for supporting WWII in the first place, convert racism, and an inability to see the extensiveness of the racism of the internment.
This led me back to “Wilshire Bus” and the silence that meets the drunk, racist man. Even Esther, who can offer solidarity to the old woman, remains silent and finds a way to internally distance herself from the attack. But the truth is that Esther should not have to bear the entire responsibility of the bus’s silence, just like blacks and Jews should not have to bear the entire responsibility of the American people’s silence.

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