Weird History

Anti-Japanese Racism Was So Bad During WWII That Chinese Americans Had To Wear Labels

At the onset of the 20th century, the United States was not the most welcoming country to Chinese immigrants. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to yet more blatant racism, Chinese Americans were unable to find jobs, had to establish Chinatowns where their families could live peacefully, and still had to always pledge their unwavering patriotism to the United States, lest they risk further social ridicule.

However, this all changed on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, killing 2,000 American soldiers and injuring 1,000 others, spurring the United States's involvement in World War II. Yet, for Chinese Americans, this suddenly meant they were no longer viewed as the enemy. Rather, the US and Chinese immigrants now shared a common enemy: Japan.

In order to further establish their loyalty to the United States - as well as to protect themselves from the brutal surge in racist violence and forced internment to which Japanese Americans were suddenly being subjected - Chinese Americans began to wear signs, pins, and flags declaring their Chinese descent and in some cases became active participants in the racist culture that had erupted in the US since the Japanese attack.