The Traces of Racism Still Exist in Society Today

During the last decades of the twentieth century African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Indians in the Pacific Northwest all struggled to combat racism and discrimination in many forms. What types of discrimination did these groups face and what did they do to counter it? Who were the leaders involved in these struggles and what were the outcomes? Lastly, what significance do you feel these struggles have had and still have for people living in the Pacific Northwest today?

In the last decades of the twentieth century in the Pacific Northwest, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and Indians all struggled to gain the rights that the whites in the region had.

There were many trials that they had to go through and there were events and people that gave them a voice. Leading up to the end of the twentieth century there were already racial situations that had been setting the stage for a small rev these different races. The Second World War noticeably altered the region’s racial composition.

Between 1941 and 1945 the Pacific Northwest experienced a significant influx of blacks and the forced removal of the Japanese. When the war began, the Seattle and Portland areas each had approximately eight thousand residents of Japanese ancestry. Prevailing AntiAsian prejudice together with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor created among Pacific Coast residents an almost hysterical fear of Japanese invasion (Schwantes, 417). Anyone with as little as one-sixteenth Japanese blood could be incarcerated. Ironically, the twelve hundred Japanese Americans already living in Idaho were not relocated, and as a re,sult some people at risk in other areas moved voluntarily to Idaho to escape interment.

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What they could not escape was prejudice. When, for instance, Idaho firms hired Japanese workers, the Pocatello Central Labor Union protested: “We request all members of organized labor to refrain from patronizing all business establishments employing Japs” (Schwantes, 418). This shows e atmosphere of how the Japanese were perceived in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-twentieth century. The Japanese were discriminated against the most during the early to mid-twentieth century and some incidences early on even involved acts of violence and murders.

Many blacks moved to the region to take industrial jobs. Of 7,541 non-white workers in Portland on 1 September 1944, 7,250 were employed in the shipyards. Other black arrived as army and navy personnel. Though the black population in the region remains small compared to that in other parts of the United States an estimated 14,000 in Washington in 1943-racial hostility caused some smaller communities to exclude blacks from almost nearly every form of public recreation. Discriminatory signs such as “We Cater to White Trade Only” appeared for the first time in Northwest cities (Schwantes, 419). Scuffles between white and black industrial workers flared on occasion in Vancouver, Bremerton, Seattle, and other cities, and the question of admitting blacks to union membership remained controversial (Schwantes, 420). Blacks were as well trying to find a place for themselves in a dominantly white area. They would go on to gain some rights.

For several years, Indians all over the Pacific Northwest utilized their sepaseparate nationtus to sell goods and services on reservations that were banned elsewhere. Typically this meant open-air stands that sold tax-free cigarettes or highhigh-poweredeworks. The Indian Gambling Regulatory Act passed by Congress in 1988 allowed Native Americans to expand the scope of their enterprises by operating casinos in states where such gambling was already allowed, even if only for charitable purposes. Such casinos created thousands of jobs in poverty-stricken areas and offered tribes their first real chance at economic self-sufficiency (Schwantes, 518). Washington’s Tulalip have built retirement homes for their elders and the Lummis have started youth sports programs using income from their low-stakes casino operations, but gambling has also been the subject of much criticism (Schwantes, 518-520). This shows a group (Indians of the Pacific being discriminated against and countered it by starting their communities on the reservations. Larry Echohawk was inaugurated Idahas o’s attorney general in 1991, he was among the first Native Americans to be elected to a statewide constitutional office in the United States. The Wyoming-born EchoHawk is a member of the Pawnee Tribe. “My family is the realization of the American he stated on the eve of his inauguration (Schwantes, 519). This is a supporter of Native Americans in a political position of power during the late twentieth century.

In the 1992 election, Idaho voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment that prevented Native Americans in the state from launching casino-style games on their reservations under provisions of the 1988 law. Idaho’s Attorney General Larry EchoHawk, himself a Pawnee, warned that while gambling could raise a lot of money quickly, it was no panacea for the tribes: “Emphasis should be on education and giving reservation youth a hunger for learning, not on get-rich-quick schemes” (Schwantes, 520). The Native Americans started to gain political confidence in the late decades of the twentieth century as they were a highly discriminated group of people before the twentieth century over popular debates over land and rights.

Going forward a few decades in the African American movement for rights, the 1960s were full of people advocating for equal rights in many different areas. There was already some leeway starting to take place but there were key leaders and campaigns that put dreams into reality. This movement in Seattle was achieved by small communities of African Americans and sympathetic whites and Asians (Taylor, 2). Along with Martin Luther King Jr. making huge moves, there was much going on behind the scenes in places like Seattle. Historically black Seattleites had several rights routinely denied African Americans elsewhere in the United States, and particularly in the south. The city’s black male citizens had voted since 1867 and black women received the right to vote in 1833 (Taylor, 2). Black Seattle was unquestionably affected by the massive Southern civil disobedience campaign in the early 1960s. The city’s African Americans gave moral and financial support to civil rights activists in that region. Seattle blacks, however, recognized that the racism they experienced in the Pacific Northwest differed only in intensity from that faced by African Americans in the south. While both blacks and whites agreed the racial climate was less hostile than in comparable cities its size, the African American community nonetheless faced a wall of vast indifference (Taylor, 2).

Much inequality during this time was based on job discrimination. Especially in a time when Boeing and other larger companies are becoming extremely successful which means more job openings, blacks weren’t the ones who got them. Just because Seattle did not experience the everyday hostile and violent city encounters like Eastern cities like Detroit, Newark, or Watts did, so people figured there was no racial problem in the Pacific Northwest (Taylor, 3). There doesn’t need to be blood to create a racial problem though. Even though the African American population increased by 71% between 1950 and 1960, as late as 1967 black Seattle had only one state representative and no voice in the State Senate or the City Council, or School Board (Taylor, 3). The small population meant small political power and it was true that the black community didn’t have a voice when they needed it in Seattle. These people were the start of organizations that were exclusively representing the black community which longed for people to lead the movement.

Works Cited

  1. Taylor, Quintard. “The Civil Rights Movement in the American West: Black Protest in Seattle, 1960-1970.” The Journal of Negro History, 80, no. 1 (Winter, 1995): 1-14.
  2. Schwantes, Carlos Arnaldo. The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1996. Print.

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The Traces of Racism Still Exist in Society Today. (2022, Aug 08). Retrieved from

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