man000979. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1n01373z
AND JUSTICE FOR ALL: PART V BY ROOSEVELT FITZGERALD
There was some movie, I don't remember the name, where in one scene this couple was walking down some city street late at night. I say late because there were so few people on the street and the streets were all shiny as though they had beenrwashed down--you know how it is in some cities-- the street cleaners do their job late at night while the rest of the city sleeps. Anyway, this couple passes a newsstand and there's an old woman there selling papers. Seems that there are two major newspapers and the guy hands her a bill and takes one of each, tells her to keep the change and hands both papers to his date or wife or sister or cousin or something. Whoever she is, she attempts to hand him one of the very large newspapers and he waves her off. "What's the matter, don't you want to know what's going on in the world?" she asks. "What's going on in the world stinks," he replied.
I saw this movie at the Grand Theater incNatchbz, Mississippi back in the early 1950s. I remember thinking, in my naivete, that he was wrong. You must remember, I was just a child and had not yet reached consciousness. Before the fifties ended I was a cynical as that guy in the movie. In subsequent years, as I studied history, I found that not only is.it true that "what's going on in the world stinks" but that it has always stunk and it is getting stinkier as the days/years go on. Take what happened to the Chinese beginning in the latter part ofcthe nineteenth century, and subsequent Asian immigrants.
Like anyone else, they wanted to make a better life for themselves. They had come to California even before the gold rush days but following the discovery of gold they came in greater numbers. Everybody came to America looking to get rich quick. The only problem was that there were some who
were convinced that they had a greater right to those riches than others.
All the while that the numbers of Chinese were small, there were few problems. As their numbers grew so did their problems. Right off the bat other miners instituted a foreign miners tax which was designed to penalize Chinese miners. Such a tactic was not surprising. Long before the gold rush, in 1842, the Encyclopedia Britannica gave the following description of the Chinese: "A Chinaman is cold, cunning and distrustful; always ready to take advantage of those he has to deal with; extremely covetous and deceitful; quarrelsome, vindictive, but timid and dastardly. A Chinaman in office is a strange compound of insolence and meanness. All ranks and conditions have a total disregard for truth."
Such descriptions were common. They helped pave the way for the really negative perceptions of Chinese people which began to evolve even from the very early days. Some fellow named Kearney parlayed those nativistic views into a cry which dominated California during the final quarter of the nineteenth century. No sooner than economic conditions deteriorated, he managed to fine someone to blame it on; the Chinese. Does that remind you of anything? Seems that many of those in California felt that the Chinese were taking jobs away from good American citizens. Something had to be done. It was. A reign of terror came into being. Chinese were beaten, chased off, murdered and worse and all in the name of Americanism. All the while these things happened the law stood by and watched and in many of those wild west towns they even participated. Such events as those did not contribute to Chinese having any more confidence in the American system of law and order than they had had in that in China. However, at least in China they had not been victimized because of their race. Here, in the United States, it was a horse of a different color.
Throughout the remainder of that century and on into the 20th century in western towns where there were sizeable numbers of Chinese those atrocities were repeated time and again. The regularity of their occurrences helped
create the saying: "Not a Chinaman's chance."
In the minds of many people, even today, all Orientals look alike. The treatment which the Chinese received during the nineteenth century spilled over into the twentieth century and affected others—notably the Japanese. The early stereotypical views of the Chinese were nationalized in the popular literature of the day. After a bit that evolved on into the electronic media. Early movies of the 1920s and 1930s halped pave the way for one of the most embarrassing events in United States history; the internment of Japanese following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Those citizens had their Constitutional rights violated and everyone had to know it because all those involved were well educated and represented the law. They were sent to relocation centers in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Those relocation centers were nothing more than peintentiaries. The people sent there were sent there without having committed any criminal activity. They were sent there because somebody was convinced that they might commit acts of sabotage. If we are to buy into that kind of thinking then everyone should be arrested and detained because anyone and everyone might eventually commit some sort of crime. Once again, the law of the land was used not to protect and to serve but to punish with a broad brush a whole group of people simply because of their race.
As we consider that subject of "Justice For All" we cannot ever forget to include these events which we have considered over the past month or so. Often, we become so enmeshed in the irregularities in our own little worlds that we become blinded to those matters which concerns other groups. It is important that we not isolate ourselves. What happens to us happens to others. As we note the similarities of treatment and become aware that all of us; African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans do in fact have a shared experience especially as pertaining to the justice
system of our country, we might begin to contemplate consolidating our efforts to bring an end to the common treatment we all get individually but which is the same collectively.
Look at the numbersr-just here in Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada. We would be amazed at what percentage of the total population we, collectively, make up. If it were possible to put an end to the petty bickerings which have kept us splintered for all these years, we could position ourselves to become a driving force in all three above mentioned communities.
Now is the time.