Sunday, September 02, 2007

Prejudice Redux?

I'm in Chicago at the American Political Science Association meeting. I'm here on PoliPointPress business, but at least one other benefit may flow from it. Yesterday I visited with Susan McWilliams, an assistant professor at Pomona College, and Matt Bokovoy, an editor at the University of Oklahoma Press, about reissuing Prejudice, one of Carey McWilliams's most notable books. First published in 1944, it demolished every argument for the evacuation and internment of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast. It was also cited repeatedly that same year in a Supreme Court dissenting opinion to Korematsu, which upheld the constitutionality of the internment.

This book should be in print, not only for its historical value, but also for its durability and compelling backstory. McWilliams didn't oppose the internment publicly, presumably because he was serving in state government under a Democratic governor and a Democratic president. But as soon as he left his post in late 1942--incoming governor Earl Warren had already said that his first official act would be to fire him--McWilliams turned his attention to that massive injustice. The result was a brave, commanding, and sometimes disturbing work, published while the camps were still operating.

I'm pleased that Susan is on board and that Matt is interested. Oklahoma specializes in books on the American West, especially race and ethnicity, so it looks like a good fit.



At 8:00 AM , Blogger Matt Bokovoy said...

I'm pretty excited about doing a new edition, so thanks for the recommendation. It should resonate with some of the immigration acrimony coming from conservative Californians.

At 9:03 AM , Blogger Peter Richardson said...

Yes, I was thinking the same thing. In fact, I was just rereading Prejudice when I came across David Starr Jordan's comment in 1907 that "a permanently alien non-voting population makes for social and political disorders" (95). But I don't think Jordan, the first president of Stanford University, foresaw today's immigration acrimony in California; in fact, he predicted that "the next century will see an Anglo-Saxon [Mexico] instead of a Spanish one" (Brechin, Imperial San Francisco, 218).

At 9:24 AM , Blogger Louise Nelson Dyble said...

Yes, great idea! If I ever teach California history again I will use it,


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