Forgotten History: FDR's Persecution of Italians in San Francisco
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From The Atlantic:

What Makes Today’s America Different From the Country That Incarcerated the Japanese?

A conversation with a historian about the slow creep of discrimination, from the U.S. government to church groups


When Donald Trump and other Republican legislators proposed a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States last November, many commentators turned to history. My colleague Matt Ford argued that the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, along with the jurisprudence initially used to justify it, shows why these kinds of ethnic- or religious-based policies are flawed. More recently, Trump and his aides have spoken in favor of reviving a registry for Muslims entering the United States and undertaking “extreme vetting” of Muslims fleeing persecution, including potentially creating holding areas for them outside of the United States....

Looking back historically, the situation with Japan was obviously a little bit different in that there were political tensions growing between the two countries.

Here’s a video of “political tensions growing:”

Green: What would you say is the takeaway from all of this as we look ahead to more years of discrimination against different minority groups in the United States?

Blankenship: Japanese incarceration was completely based on racial prejudice and economic competition.

It had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. Nothing!

I suspect it’s only a matter of years until FDR is banished from the dime the way Andrew Jackson is getting removed from the $20 bill. Another couple of decades, and the only thing that will be remembered of Franklin Roosevelt is redlining, Japanese internment, and not letting in the St. Louis.

The hysteria that led to the West Coast Japanese internment in 1942 was somewhat similar ideologically to the center-left anti-Russian hysteria peddled by Hillary Clinton in 2016. It was feared at the time that Fascists were trying to conquer the world. (One difference is that the Axis more or less was.)

In retrospect, it turned out that all you had to do was ask Japanese people which side they were on. If they swore loyalty, you could rely on their oath. If they swore undying fealty to the Emperor, as about 5,000 did, well, you could rely on those guys to be a handful. The Japanese in 1940s America didn’t seem to have much concept of taqiyya.

But mistakes get made in wartime, especially right after the biggest defeat in American history. FDR had a lot of decisions to make in 1942. Rounding up Japanese American citizens on the West Coast was one he screwed up.

Something that has been almost completely forgotten is how much persecution there was by the Roosevelt Administration in 1941-42 of Italians in Northern California. I had never heard of it until I was reading an article about 2000 about the campaign by old Red Sox ballplayer Dom DiMaggio, Joe D’s high IQ brother, to get people to remember the abuses.

It doesn’t fit into modern obsessions so it’s forgotten. But here’s an interesting Los Angeles Times article from 2010:

State apologizes for mistreatment of Italian residents during WWII

Legislature passes resolution expressing ‘deepest regret’ for the wartime internment, curfews, confiscations and other indignities that thousands of Italian and Italian American families faced.

August 23, 2010|By Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Monterey — When Mike Maiorana was a boy during World War II, his family was like a lot of others in his Monterey neighborhood.

In 1942, his mother was declared an “enemy alien,” along with 600,000 other Italians and half a million Germans and Japanese who weren’t U.S. citizens. More than once, men in suits searched the Maiorana house for guns, flashlights, cameras, shortwave radios — anything that could be used to signal the enemy.

Like 10,000 others up and down the California coast, the family was suddenly forced to uproot. At their new place in Salinas, they had to be home by 8 p.m. or face arrest. And when the government seized fishing boats for the war effort, Maiorana’s dad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, saw his livelihood go down the drain.

“He was on the skids for the rest of his life,” said Maiorana, 75, who owns a boatyard and marina on the harbor where his father’s boat — as well as those of his uncles and several dozen other Italian fishermen — were confiscated.

Families like the Maioranas last week received a formal acknowledgement from California. A measure that swiftly made its way through the Legislature expresses the state’s “deepest regrets” over the mistreatment of Italians and Italian Americans during World War II. Not nearly as severe or long-lasting as the internment of Japanese Americans, the wartime restrictions are still little-known throughout California, where they were the most heavily enforced. …

No comparable measure has been passed by the state or federal government on behalf of more than 11,000 interned Germans, including some Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler.

Even before war broke out, the FBI had compiled lists of immigrants who were considered dangerous. Among the Italians, there were journalists, language teachers and men active in an Italian veterans group. After Pearl Harbor, about 250 were sent to camps in Montana and elsewhere. …

In New York, the FBI incarcerated Metropolitan Opera star Ezio Pinza and released him, without charge, three months later. In San Francisco, Joe DiMaggio’s father Giuseppe couldn’t visit the family restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf: As an enemy alien, he could not travel more than five miles without permission.

Enforcement was chaotic. On the East Coast, with its massive Italian population, there was no forced relocation. In California, the mandate hit Northern California harder than the Los Angeles area.

In the Bay Area, Pittsburg was home to Camp Stoneman, a jumping-off point for Pacific-bound troops. About 2,000 Italians were ousted from the community, with the burden falling most on elderly people who didn’t speak much English and hadn’t become citizens. …

Then there was the confiscation of fishing boats from California’s mostly Italian fleet. Paying their owners a nominal fee, the government used them to haul targets and refuel PT boats. But the cost of postwar repairs and a vanishing sardine fishery spelled disaster for many.

Angelo Maiorana, Mike’s father, owned the 95-foot Dux, which was returned to him in bad shape after four years in the Philippines.

“They gave him a $20,000 check, but it cost him $46,000 to get the boat back into condition,” his son said. “He was on his back, flat broke.” …

Most of the measures ended within a year.

The excessive treatment of Italians in Northern California was particularly strange because, unlike the Japanese aircraft carriers, which ran amok from 12/7/41 to 6/4/42, there was no conceivable way for Mussolini’s fleet to get to San Francisco. (Besides, the Italian Navy had largely been sunk by the British in a Pearl Harbor preview at Taranto in late 1940.)

It made sense on December 8, 1941 as part of the anti-Fascist hysteria of the time, but who can remember there ever was such a thing?

The funny thing is that by the end of the war, America was entering a long love affair with most things Italian that went on and on (until the cultural climate changed with the Sixties).

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