Chapter 18, Asian Stereotype, Rickie Rests In Peace And Apple Pie
I wondered now and then.
I'm not Japanese, Chinese or Pinay, I'm mixed up Asian. Why didn't he marry a blond college girl?
Santa Clara Valley had very few blacks. It never experienced the black versus white racial experience of other areas. There was racial prejudice and even historic racial segregation but for Asians and Mexicans. It is hard to believe now but back then there were relatively few Asians because they were excluded from immigration until 1962. There were no Koreans and Vietnam was never heard of.
Prior to 1962 California Asians were Japanese, Chinese and Filipinos, most of who were born in the USA or Hawaii, not a state until 1959. Towns had their Chinatown, even if only a restaurant or 2, remnants of what once was the segregated Chinese ghettos. The Chinese, while on the right side during World War 2 were more often referred to as Chinaman more than by a racial denigration term like Chink. Among the white population, however, there just weren’t that many except in San Francisco Chinatown, a few in every public high school, who drifted through unnoticed. Most still lived in a “Chinatown” and stayed separate, their exposure to others via chop-suey, served in a restaurants. Almost all were Cantonese.
The Japanese, more numerous, were scattered among the white population after their WW 2 internment. They worked hard, were obsessed with achievement, took many of the academic honors in school, and never talked about their internment. They had gained respect after their terrible treatment during the war due to heroics of the 442nd Regiment, the most decorated unit in the history of American warfare. Still, they were known as “Japs”.
Like the Japanese the Filipinos were scattered among the white population. There
racial status was more ambiguous. Many were thought of as Mexicans or even as
possibly Portuguese who ranged in complexion from fair to dark with no definite
color line. They lacked a common pejorative racial designation reflecting their
uncertain status Mexicans were the big race minority.
They consisted of 2 groups, those who spoke fluent English and considered themselves white regardless of skin color and those who spoke Mexican, were dark complexed and did physical and farm work. Those who considered themselves white often could trace their ancestry back to Spanish days, even to land grants, (stolen from them by the 49’ers once the gold ran out), making them the true natives. The Spanish speakers, however, also were usually born in the US, typically Texas or Arizona and had come up following fruit picking harvest.