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Making a Non-White America

Making a Non-White America: Californians Coloring outside Ethnic Lines, 1925-1955

Allison Varzally
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    Making a Non-White America
    Book Description:

    What happens in a society so diverse that no ethnic group can call itself the majority? Exploring a question that has profound relevance for the nation as a whole, this study looks closely at eclectic neighborhoods in California where multiple minorities constituted the majority during formative years of the twentieth century. In a lively account, woven throughout with vivid voices and experiences drawn from interviews, ethnic newspapers, and memoirs, Allison Varzally examines everyday interactions among the Asian, Mexican, African, Native, and Jewish Americans, and others who lived side by side. What she finds is that in shared city spaces across California, these diverse groups mixed and mingled as students, lovers, worshippers, workers, and family members and, along the way, expanded and reconfigured ethnic and racial categories in new directions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94127-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Young Oak Kim, the son of Korean immigrants, recalled sharing city streets, playgrounds, and schools with “Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Mexicans, Jews, and affluent Caucasians” in Los Angeles in the 1930s and early 1940s. Estimating that no more than a handful of Korean families occupied the neighborhood, Kim related how, “right from the beginning, I had to learn to get along with everybody. I learned to get along with Caucasians as well as . . . I had a lot of Japanese friends, as well as Chinese friends.” When an interviewer asked him about racial tensions in the period, Kim insisted...

  6. CHAPTER 1 California Crossroads
    (pp. 15-45)

    “Like many other small villages in the wild, majestic mountains of the Sierra Madre de Nayarit, my pueblo was a hideaway,” Ernesto Galarza wrote of Jalcocotán, Mexico, his birthplace. As a result of economic and political instabilities wrought by the Mexican Revolution and capitalist expansion, however, this hideaway ceased to be a refuge. Seeking work and safety, the Galarzas and other peasant families began a series of migrations that would carry them across the Mexico-U.S. border. Passing through Tepic, Mazatlán, Nogales, and Tucson, the Galarzas finally reached Sacramento. They settled into the “Lower Sacramento . . . the quarter that...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Young Travelers
    (pp. 46-79)

    Born in 1912, Dora Yum Kim grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where her parents operated a pool hall frequented by single Chinese, Filipino, and Korean men. Despite the ethnic differences among the men, Dora remembered the district as a space where “you never thought about nationality” because “we were all Orientals to Americans, and we were all just here together.” Her own social and cultural choices reinforced her view of inter-Asian harmony during the 1920s and 1930s. She befriended local Chinese and Japanese Americans from whom she learned of new foods, games, celebrations, and vocabulary. Yum Kim learned from...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Guess Who’s Joining Us for Dinner?
    (pp. 80-117)

    When she was fourteen, a Mexican-American girl married a Filipino contract laborer in Stockton. The relationship did not last long but produced a son, Eddie Erosa, born in 1938. He grew up among similarly mixed families in the rural San Joaquin Valley. Reflecting upon the customs of his youth, Erosa explained that marriage to Mexican women “was the going thing” among Filipino men. This certainly was the case among members of his extended family; all his Mexican-American aunts chose Filipino partners, and his mother’s second husband hailed from the Philippines. The valley’s sizable numbers of mixed couples and single people...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Banding Together in Crisis
    (pp. 118-157)

    “The black boy was named Clovis Scott. He for whatever reason moved around with the Japanese crowd so when I went to Santa Anita camp, he was the only visitor I ever had. And he brought me a mirror because we were not able to bring mirrors to camp. But apparently I had written him and said I didn’t even have a mirror. And to tell you how limited my circle of friends were. . . . During camp when we were asked to make applications for leave, we had to make a list of friends on the outside who...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Minority Brothers in Arms
    (pp. 158-182)

    By the time readers get to this final scene in Chester Himes’s 1945 novel,If He Hollers, Let Him Go,Bob Jones, an African-American defense plant worker in Los Angeles, has been beaten up, betrayed by his girlfriend, chased by police, arrested, and falsely charged with rape. A local judge settles the case by arranging for Jones’s enlistment in the army. Jones sees the decision for what it is: a punishment no better than a prison term for a crime he did not commit. Two Mexican-American youths dressed in the distinguishing garb of zoot-suiters will share Jones’s misfortune of mandatory...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Panethnic Politics Arising from the Everyday
    (pp. 183-224)

    “Brotherhood is not easy. . . . It means living next to a Jew, eating next to a Negro, sitting next to an American of Japanese descent, working next to an American of Mexican descent,” argued Homer Jack in theLos Angeles Tribune,one of Los Angeles’s two Black newspapers, in 1946. Though arduous and painful to realize, Jack continued, minorities had no choice but to “live as brothers or perish.” He urged non-Whites to move beyond more superficial, intercultural activities such as visiting Little Tokyos or “slumming it in Negro nightclubs” and begin “reading pamphlets, distributing literature, organizing meetings,...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 225-230)

    Amid rapid ethnoracial change, twenty-first century Americans oscillate between doubts and determination that we can all get along. Will we blur as we notice the many ethnoracial lines that run through the United States? Which ones will fade and which ones will hold their color? Californians of multiethnic, segregated spaces in the past wrestled with these questions. They got along quite intimately, if not quite easily, forming relationships and families that crossed and faded ethnoracial divisions. Rather than intuitive tolerance, their interactions reflected a pragmatic and discriminating approach to living in a society of true diversity. Considerations of gender, class,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 231-274)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-288)
  15. Index
    (pp. 289-305)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 306-306)