Essay Sample on Asian American History - Asiatic Exclusion League

Published: 2024-01-23
Essay Sample on Asian American History - Asiatic Exclusion League
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History United States Immigration Asia
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1822 words
16 min read


During the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the United States noticed many Japanese immigrants were moving into their country. There were already other Asian Immigrant groups in the US, such as the Chinese, but racism and discrimination were very much present and prominent. The increase in Japanese immigration led to the establishment of the Asiatic Exclusion League in San Francisco in 1905. The purpose of this organization was to stop Japanese immigration into the United States and also to make the lives of the Japanese immigrants in America unbearable to force them to leave America. The aim of the Exclusion League was not only to harass the Japanese immigrants but all other settlers who originated from Asia.

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This research paper will examine who established the Asiatic Exclusion League and how it was set up. It will also discuss how the organization attempted to stop Japanese immigration and the methods the Exclusion League deployed to harass immigrants. Many of its efforts to kick immigrants came by creating laws that were unjust to them. Although these efforts were mainly focused on Japanese immigrants, they also rejected the immigration of all Asians, including Koreans and Hindus from India. They also opposed Chinese immigration; however, by the time the organization had been established, the immigration of Chinese had already been banned. The paper will also discuss the effects of the Asiatic Exclusion League on immigrant groups other than the Japanese.

The Asiatic Exclusion League was a white supremacist organization that had a big following, and "whites" were the majority. In many circumstances, they physically attacked and harassed Japanese Immigrants on the streets who, in some cases, even included children, elders, and women. The paper will also examine specific recorded cases in which these attacks occurred. Finally, the paper will discuss the long-term effects and influences of the Asiatic Exclusion League even after it was disbanded.

Brief History

The Japanese and Korean Exclusion League was formed in 1905 in a mass meeting held in San Francisco, California. Some of the people attending the meeting were European immigrants, labor leaders, Patrick Henry McCarthy, and Andrew Furuseth (Lee 539). The men attending the meeting were angry with the foreigners; they assumed they were hindering their economic advancement. Two years later, the organization changed its name to the Asiatic Exclusion League. The organization now included South Asians and Chinese immigrants in their exclusion agenda. Ironically, some of the founders of the organization were immigrants from Europe. Patrick Henry McCarthy was a European immigrant from Ireland and Andrew Furuseth from Norway (Lee 540). Other European immigrants were also present in the meeting. The double standard in the treatment of European and Asian immigrants suggested a difference between the experiences of immigrants from the East and the West in the United States. Japanese immigrants did not have the right to naturalization in America, unlike their counterparts from Europe. Immigrants from European countries were allowed to participate in politics, while settlers from Asia, such as Japan, were not allowed in politics, which denied them a chance to fight for their rights. According to Lopez, this state of powerlessness was a dominant theme in Japanese immigrant history (61).

Unemployment, recession, and financial difficulty contributed to the formation of the Asiatic Exclusion League. The laborers living in the United States were threatened by the increasing number of immigrants moving into the country from Asia. This was not a new situation; in the late 1800s, Indian settlers faced hostility, discrimination, and violence on their arrival in America. The resentment of non-Asians in America also led to the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers (Lee 540). The existing resentment towards the Asian immigrants and the economic insecurities led to the formation of the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League, which later turned into the Asiatic Exclusion League. The first president of the league was a Norwegian immigrant named Olaf Tveitmoe (Lee 540). The founders of the league believed that California was a 'white man's country' and that allowing the invasion by the Asians would change the identity of the land. This and many other beliefs held by the Exclusion League were false. The hostile attitude and speeches by the league led to the 1907 riots in Bellingham, Washington (Atkinson 1). The town was home to almost a thousand members of the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League. The lumber mills in the town employed hundreds of Asian immigrants.

Methods Used by the League

On the one hand, the Asiatic Exclusion League used peaceful, legal means and the spreading of lies and propaganda to advance their exclusion agenda. In some cases, white supremacists who opposed the immigration of Asians into the US used violence and brutal means to advance their anti-Asian plan. The league's agenda sat on the basis that it was wrong to absorb the Asiatic cultures into their own. The exclusionists argued that the Japanese and Chinese immigrants were immoral because of their non-Christian culture; therefore, assimilating them would compromise the morality of American society (Lee 545). These and many other arguments used to advance their exclusionist motives were not factual. The exclusionists further framed the immigrants from Asia, particularly the Japanese and the Chinese, as political and posed a threat to America (Lee 543). This idea viewed them as undesirable and even dangerous to Western civilization. Individuals, organizations, and labor groups used the Japanese as scapegoats, blaming them for the economic hardships and lack of jobs. Most of the individuals in the labor groups were immigrants from Europe. The exclusionist arguments from the agitators highlighting the unsuitability of the Asians and the dangers of assimilating the immigrants eventually led to the violence against and exclusion of the Asians.

In one of its many campaigns to exclude Asians, AEL developed an operation to shut out Japanese and Koreans from American Public schools. The San Francisco Board of Education concluded that the Japanese and Koreans would be segregated into Oriental schools where their Chinese counterparts were (Ling 128). The decision was later overruled, and the Japanese were allowed to enroll in American Public schools. However, as part of the Gentleman's Agreement between Japan and the US, the Asian country government refrained from issuing passports to laborers. After the Gentleman's Agreement, the Exclusion League gained popularity in other parts of America and even Canada, with over 200 organizations claiming affiliation with the movement (Atkinson 3). By 2020, the Asiatic Exclusion League has seceded in segregating the Japanese from public schools, excluding the Japanese and the Koreans like the Chinese, and prohibiting Asians from ownership and leasing of property (Ling 134). Riots and brutal violence were used to scare off the Asian settlers in America. The rioters moved through towns populated by Asian immigrants breaking windows, beating the victims up, and dragging them out of their homes and places of work (Lee 550).

Cases of Attacks

The Bellingham riots were one of the most impactful attacks on Asians in the US by members of the Asiatic Exclusion League. The riots happened in Bellingham, Washington, on 04 September 1907 (Atkinson 1). Hundreds of white men working at the local mils attacked the homes of Asians working and living in the town. The Indians were the target of this attack because most of the foreigners in the town at the time were Sikhs. The Asians were beaten up, forced out of their homes, and had their valuables taken by the exclusionists. The authorities were in collaboration with the exclusionists because no action was taken to prosecute the attackers. The victims of the attacks were confined in City Hall, apparently, for their safety. During the attacks, over one hundred Asians were forced out of the town; they fled to British Columbia. Some of the Victims who fled to other towns such as Everett faced similar circumstances in their new destinations. There have been other cases of attacks towards Asians in the town before and after the famous Bellingham riots; in 1907, another group of East Asians was expelled from the town (Atkinson 4). In 1942 the Japanese were excluded from Bellingham. In 1942, the Japanese American residents of Bellingham were confined as prisoners after the bombing of Pearl Harbor as ordered by President Roosevelt, the then-president of the United States (Atkinson 5). The internment targeted all settlers from Japan and any person of Japanese ancestry living along the US West Coast. Nonetheless, before the bombing, there was evidence of prejudice against the Japanese in America.

Attacks carried out by the Anti-Japan Laundry League formed in 1908 are other cases of attacks towards Asians in the United States (Atkinson 3). The attacks happened in San Francisco and were orchestrated by laundry workers. The attacks included physical attacks on the Japanese laundry owners in the area, picketing the laundries, and intimidation of the laundry customers. The attacks on the Japanese-owned laundries and intimidation of the customers successfully led to the shutting down of many laundries in the area and even the expelling of the Japanese from the town. The attacks were backed by the authorities as they enforced the efforts of the exclusionists by enacting laws prohibiting Asians from owning property.

The 1907 Vancouver riots were the eventual result of the growing enmity between the immigrants from Asia and the laborers and inhabitants of Canada and the United States. The riots happened on 07 September, two days after the outbreak of anti-Asian riots in other parts of the United States (Atkinson 8). This kind of attack had happened before in Vancouver against Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century. On the first day of the attacks, the rioters targeted East Asians and Chinese living and working in Vancouver. On the second day of the attacks, the rioters targeted the Japanese community in the town. They moved through the streets of Vancouver, assaulting the Asian immigrants and breaking windows. The attacks lasted for three days. The riots triggered similar events in Richmond against the Japanese.

Impact of the Asiatic Exclusion

The exclusion of Asians from America during the 19th and 20th centuries has had immediate and long-term effects on the parties involved. The immediate result of the exclusion was the banning of Japanese people from moving to the United States and Canada. The riots also affected the Indians living in Western countries; the Asian settlers were prohibited from voting or participating in local politics (Chen 300). The anti-Asian riots in the United States along the West Coast along with the exclusion campaigns by the local news led to the exclusion of Asians from legal US citizenship. The divisions were cemented by the 1924 National Origins Act (Chen 300). The motive of the act was to create a system that ensured the population of the US remained dominated by whites. This act led to the strengthening of white supremacy organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, the American Legion, and Daughters of the American Revolution, who lobbied for the act. The racism and xenophobia that happened in the late 19th and early 20th centuries may have contributed to the deteriorating diplomacy between the United States and Asian countries such as Japan.

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