Date of Award:
Master of Arts (MA)
David Rich Lewis
David Rich Lewis
In this thesis, I examine the Utah Nippo, a newspaper that published in Salt Lake City, Utah, in Japanese and English during World War II. People of Japanese descent are called Nikkei. The immigrant parents are termed Issei and their U.S. citizen children are Nisei. I look specifically at the Utah Nippo English section editors' messages to Salt Lake City's Nikkei population and draw out the paper's editorial themes intended for resident Utah Nikkei—and for the larger Euro-American population.
After the 7 December 1941 Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government ordered that Nikkei on the West Coast be imprisoned during the war. This disrupted all Nikkei's lives, including those in Utah who were not imprisoned. Newspapers on the West Coast could not publish, making the Utah Nippo one of three Japanese-language newspapers that published during World War II. It was a voice for community leaders and editors who urged Salt Lake Nikkei to behave in certain ways that (they believed) would prove a certain loyal American identity. Such an identity was comprised of prescribed behaviors: supporting the government and war effort, attending patriotic activities, keeping a low social profile, and quietly enduring the fear and discrimination directed at them as Nikkei in the midst of a national war against Japan.
The Utah Nippo painted the model minority stereotype during World War II, although scholars view as a postwar concept imposed on Asian Americans. The model minority stereotype is that Asian Americans are the "best" immigrant group in the U.S. because they achieve in Euro-American institutions. This is not true and is a racist stereotype. However, in this thesis, I argue that the model minority image was one which Nikkei wanted to cultivate during World War II because it meant that they were truly and successfully American.
Another influence on the Utah Nippo that I discuss in this thesis is the Japanese American Citizens League, or JACL. Although not entirely dictated by the JACL, the newspaper content was influenced by the League's wartime campaigns for working with the U.S. government and behaving loyally. The JACL planned meetings and conventions that had patriotic themes and messages in them. Nikkei who attended would, supposedly, learn about how to better their American image. The presence of the announcements showed Euro-American observers that the community and League were working together to be adequately American. Nikkei in community leadership roles actively encouraged this image because it meant safety by assurance of Americanism.
Other focuses in the Utah Nippo include specific examples of behaviors and demands that racism in the U.S. stop. Individuals and editorials highlighted behaviors that helped or hurt the group image. At the latter part of the war, the newspaper focused on ending racism in the U.S. within Nikkei communities and as they resettled throughout the nation after being released from camps. Although the Utah Nippo printed such sentiments, not all residents necessarily agreed with or did as the newspaper suggested, yet the articles indicated the identity that editors and leaders hoped to create. In light of the tenuous situation that Salt Lake Nikkei felt they lived in, it made sense for individuals to outwardly conform and incorporate the paper's behavioral guidelines in order to deflect suspicions over loyalty away from the group.
Fassmann, Sarah L. B., ""Super Salesmen" for the Toughest Sales Job: The Utah Nippo, Salt Lake City's Japanese Americans, and Proving Group Loyalty, 1941-1946" (2012). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations, Spring 1920 to Summer 2023. 1286.
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