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neck, and write them upon the tablet of thy heart." Then thou shalt have good
SOCIAL ASPECTS OF THE JAPANESE PROBLEM
Frederick Starr, University of Chicago (retired), Seattle
I am, of course, not intending to take up the political side of the Japanese problem, nor do I intend to give any attention to the recently passed immigration law. I regret the law because of its race prejudice so clearly shown, and because of the grave consequences which it inevitably involves, and which we can under no circumstances escape.
I am here for a quite different purpose to discuss the social aspects of the Japanese problem. First, let me say, we have the Japanese with us and they will remain with us. It is a great mistake to think that because an exclusion law has been passed there will no longer be a Japanese population to deal with. It will continue through all time. We shall never get away from it. It is to be hoped we shall deal with it wisely. I will quote a few words from Mr. Gulick, who knows well the political side of this matter. He speaks definitely upon this subject, no matter what law is passed now or in the future. He wrote this five years ago, but on the whole, with one difference, his statement stands very well as he wrote it.
Even if Japanese immigration be completely stopped, it is not likely that the Japanese population will "dwindle away." There are already in California some 15,000 Japanese women of child-bearing age, most of them still young. There are approximately 20,000 Japanese children, of whom presumably one-half are girls who will be married in the course of the next fifteen or twenty years. There are approximately 40,000 men, of whom about 25,000 are not married. Some of these will return to Japan permanently; some will die without marrying. But not a few, becoming prosperous, will go to Japan, find their wives, and return with them to America. There will not be these unmarried men, no matter how prosperous, going back to Japan to get their wives. With that exception what Mr. Gulick says is as true today as when he said it. Continuing, Mr. Gulick says:
Under these circumstances, while it would be foolish to forecast the future Japanese population in any statistical way, it is quite clear that even though Japanese immigration may be completely stopped by federal legislation, Japanese population in America and in California is never likely even to "dwindle." For a decade or two departures and deaths may perhaps balance births and arrivals of wives, parents, and children. But a growing Japanese population will always be with us. This fact should be recognized and frankly faced. Energetic steps should be taken to give that population full justice and equality of treatment. Only so shall we have a right to expect it to be really Americanized and thoroughly loyal.
I will quote a few words from Mr. Roosevelt bearing upon the matter of what treatment we should give to immigrants who are in our midst. In the final analysis it is absolutely necessary that we shall see the problem from a dispassionate point of view, and in dealing with a problem so complex and
vital as the immigration problem, we should approach it in the spirit which is so well expressed by ex-President Roosevelt:
We must treat with justice and good will all immigrants who come here under the law. Whether they are Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Gentile, whether they come from England or Germany, Russia, Japan, or Italy matters nothing. All we have a right to question is the man's conduct. If he is honest and upright in his dealings with his neighbor and with the state, he is entitled to respect and good treatment. Especially do we need to remember our duty to the stranger within our gates. It is the sure mark of a low civilization, a low morality, to abuse or discriminate against or in any way bumiliate such a stranger who has come here lawfully and is conducting himself properly. To remember this is incumbent on every American citizen, and it is, of course, peculiarly incumbent on every government official, whether of the nation or of the several states.
Remember it was we who forced the gates of Japan open and compelled her to come into relations with the outside world. Remember Japan did not at first send laborers to the United States unrequested. In other words, this immigration business is a thing for which we are responsible. We encouraged it; we compelled it. Now, having the Japanese here, it is only wise and fair that we should do as Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Gulick say, treat them decently. They are here legally. Whatever laws there are now, the Gentlemen's Agreement was observed. Mr. Roosevelt himself said: "The arrangement we made (the Gentlemen's Agreement) worked admirably and entirely achieved its purpose."
These are very simple propositions. We may safely say we are going to have a Japanese population; it is not likely to be smaller; it is here legally and honestly and it deserves fair treatment on the part of Americans, who boast that fair play belongs to each and all, everywhere.
Now, taking up the social aspects of this question, I wish to lay down a few simple propositions relative to this Japanese population. First, it is docile and amenable to a remarkable degree, although it is right in its persistence in demanding the respect which is its due. Second, it is anxious to adjust itself to the conditions it finds, whether they are fair or unfair, kind or unkind, so as to get along happily in every way with us. Third, it is an industrious and intelligent population, anxious to learn and to inform itself, anxious to give return for value received, and (as they say out in California) "carrying the work intrusted to them through to the end."
Again and this is the only statement where I shall quote figures—we often hear it said that we do not want America to be a dumping-ground for the worthless, the degenerate, the poor and weak of other lands; we do not, of course. We have never had that kind from Japan. It is not a criminal nor a degenerate population, which breaks the laws. It is very rare that the Japanese are in law courts, or arrested for offenses against our laws. Few are in our poorhouses and insane asylums. Here is a datum from California. It is taken from California because there they have the problem to a larger degree than any other section. That is why, all through, I shall quote California. This is recent. It says that all state insane asylums had a total of 11,567 inmates. And how many do we
find are Japanese? One hundred one. How about prisoners? The prisons had a total population of 4,430, and the Japanese element was thirty. Let us reduce this to the equivalent per ten thousand of the population, and all state asylums have twenty-nine persons as inmates out of every ten thousand; there are but ten Japanese out of every ten thousand who are insane. The prisons have eleven convicts for every ten thousand of the population; of Japanese there are three convicts for every ten thousand in the population. I want to emphasize this fact that we are not dealing with dumpings. The Japanese came here poor, perhaps, but not degenerate, nor criminal, nor imbecile. Japan has not dumped her refuse on our country. Our Japanese population is not degenerate, vicious, nor criminal. It is a loyal population, with American tendencies. If I get time later on I shall say something about the way in which the Japanese have shown loyalty in times of crisis in this country. As a characterization of this population, I say it is loyal, and with American tendencies; it is docile, amenable, dignified, anxious to adjust itself, industrious, law-abiding, with good health as to body and mind. It is not a bad population to have with us. I hope it will remain with all its good qualities, which I have simply named and not enlarged upon.
I want to call your attention to this. The laws are unkind; they were brought about by hostility and hatred. The laws under which this population live are harsh and have an element of hatred in them. How are they to be enforced? With hatred, with race prejudice? With kindness, with decency, with honesty and honor? Or politically? In my home city there was an election a while ago, and the district attorney, who was running for office, took pains to state how actively he was going to put these laws into operation. Without hesitation he intimated that he was going to apply them to this people as though they were criminals, when they are only the unfortunate victims of circumstances for which they are not responsible, and into which they have been led. There is danger of other district attorneys trying to make political capital by emphasizing the vigor with which they will enforce these laws without regard to mitigating circumstances. Continue that awhile, and are you going to have a population that is loyal, amenable, good, and desirable, or are you going to have a population that will have been made devils by the devilish way in which they have been treated?
To come more specifically to my subject of social phases, I shall call attention to three things which have been agitated to a great extent. In connection with one of them I shall call attention to dangerous misunderstandings. The first is labor competition: underbidding, crowding out of workmen from certain markets. The second is the "awful" birth-rate. I am afraid that if I were to say all that is in my mind about this, some of the people connected with this Conference would shake their heads sadly, for I maintain that a large share of the present agitation for birth control is due to cowardice and selfishness. After all, the production of children is natural. A good, healthy, vigorous man has
no time to think of theoretical birth control. He is too busy making a place for himself and his family after him. There is a good deal of rot about this subject. But I refrain. I shall, however, speak about the birth-rate among the Japanese. The third is the claim that the Japanese are non-assimilable.
First, as to labor. An audience interested in the subjects in which you are interested realizes perfectly the fact that a population from any given country, immigrating into the United States, drifts into one or another field of work; it knows how overwhelmingly some things are in the hands of one given class. This is inevitable. When I was a boy there were certain things we knew the Irish would be employed in. They are not in those things now; they have been crowded out; they are in better jobs. They are merchants, are on the police force, and in state and national politics, at which they are very skilful. They have been crowded out from the things they were in. We might go on. I remember when all bootblacks were Italians. You do not see Italians blacking boots today. I remember when there were no Greek restaurants anywhere. Now we have them in large numbers-in Chicago. It is perfectly natural for a people who come from any district, if they can get work of a certain kind, to take it; it is natural for their successors and friends to drift into the same thing. Almost all Japanese at home are agriculturists, and of a hard and intensive kind. Overwhelmingly the population of Japan is agricultural. So when Japanese come to new lands, they are going to be found in the fields, in agriculture, and in the kind of agriculture they are used to. They are not accustomed to complicated implements, nor to enterprises on a big scale; they are used to a deal of careful attention; with tired backs and aching legs they care for each individual plant. They came here because they thought the chances were a little better in those directions. They found districts where they could do that kind of work splendidly, to a degree such that their production has come to be one-sixth of the total agricultural production of the great state of California. There is no element of our population, which has come from outside, but has crowded out someone. If only those crowded out find better fields as they pass on, the situation seems to be a happy one. That is what happened in California. One-sixth of the agricultural production of the state is produced by Japanese labor, and represents such products as strawberries, asparagus, onions, tomatoes-things which the white man likes to talk about as profitable, but which he does not go into. When Senator Phelan-I never realized the possibility of giving a lecture upon Senator Phelan until I began to get ready for this affair; it would be possible to prepare a most telling lecture on the subject—says that Japanese labor leaves no room for the white man, Colonel Irish answers him. Colonel Irish says he is a farmer himself. Maybe so-he is at all events a landownerand he has been in the habit of hiring Japanese to work his land. He says that the claim that the Japanese have crowded the white man off the fields is a lie. There was no white labor in the fields where the Japanese have been working and producing, and we needed labor there. The Japanese were willing to do it.
It is interesting and curious how they have adapted themselves. I think Colonel Irish is nearer the truth than Senator Phelan in his statement. They have added to the productive area and to the income of the state, and their loss will be severely felt in California, as it will be also in Oregon and Washington. Neither the Mexicans, nor the Armenians, nor the Portuguese are going to give the satisfaction that the Japanese have given. Do not misunderstand me. This statement is not based on race prejudice. These nationalities have their admirable qualities; but a Mexican is not going to give the satisfaction, in the production of strawberries, asparagus, onions, and celery, that the Japanese have given in those three states.
The second point is the matter of the birth-rate. I could not help laughing when I saw myself announced on the program as an anthropologist and found I was expected to be scientific; I hope, however, that I am going to talk sense. I am not going to indulge in deep anthropology about this birth-rate. The Japanese birth-rate in California has been alleged, in a quotation from Mr. Phelan, as “a child every year for every picture bride." Senator Phelan and Mr. McClatchy, of the Sacramento Bee, are also credited with the statement that at the present rate of increase there will be more Japanese in California in thirty years than white persons. This birth-rate is terrific "one child a year for every picture bride"-"in thirty years more Japanese in California than white men"! "And," says Senator Phelan, "they immediately convey their real estate to their infant children almost as fast as they are born." Of course; they have to do so. There is nothing else for them to do, because the law has put them in such a position that, in order to save the property which represents the work of years and hard effort, they are obliged to put it in the names of their infant children. It is a shame; but they are driven to it. That is one of the strange things about Senator Phelan. He never sees where he is leading to.
I have whole pages of this birth-rate business, but I must condense. What is the actual ratio of population of Japanese in California today? Two per cent. Is it not interesting, when 98 per cent of a population that numbers three millions trembles over the frightful increase involved in the 2 per cent? More Japanese than white people in thirty years! That is prodigious multiplication.
There is another thing Colonel Irish said; it is on this matter: "In their statements made to the committee on immigration of the United States Senate, there were found to be twenty thousand picture brides, and each gave birth to a child once a year, etc. There were 4,738 births in that state for that year. Quite a shrinkage! There must have been some sixteen thousand brides asleep at the switch."
From 1915, for a period of five years, there were a good many Japanese coming in under the Gentlemen's Agreement. More came than were anticipated, and the law was construed in a way we had not thought of. It permitted them to bring wives, but we did not think of their bringing wives in just the way they did, so numerously. Especially in Mr. McClatchy's and in Mr. Phelan's heart, this