I am writing in response to the cartoon in Saturday’s edition that relates to the recent discussions regarding Dr Seuss books that will no longer be printed.
This is due to his inclusion of several racist characters and characteristics highlighted in 6 of his books. Unfortunately, his racist themes were much worse in his earlier years. One cartoon was published soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
It is understandable that the public outcry against Japan would be expected.
However, Dr Seuss’ cartoon draws the Japanese Americans on the west coast of America (note CA, OR, and WA) as “5th Column” agents of Japan in a horribly stereotypic manner.
This hysteria and stereotyping soon led to the incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the west coast, most of whom were US citizens.
As a result, they lost their homes, jobs, farms and their freedom for most of the war years. So, two months and 12 days after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed EO 9066 which forced Japanese Americans to show up at assembly centers in April where they were held until shabbily constructed concentration camps were built in the most desolate parts of the US. Prior to Roosevelt’s EO, J. Edgar Hoover stated that no Japanese Americans were suspected of subversive activities but the incarceration went ahead.
The result was that over the duration of the war, not one Japanese American was charged with spying or sedition by US authorities.
Also a segregated military unit, made up of Japanese Hawaiians and Japanese Americans became the most decorated unit in US military history. Another group of Japanese Americans became translators and interpreters in the Pacific theater of the war and are credited with shortening that theater by several years.
As popular and loved as Dr Seuss became, there are still issues of his past that conflict with his eventual image. Unfortunately, for the west coast Japanese American communities it wasn’t politically incorrect at the time!