The Affect of Racism


In a community of "five thousand dam souls" (Page 5 Parg ?) as described by David Guterson in his novel, Snow Falling on Cedars. A community that concentrated a variety of ethnicity, among them was both Whites and Japanese. As a result of the racial differences, racism came to exist and have impacted the life’s of both children and adults in that isolated island called San Piedro. It was responsible for the internment of Kabuo, Hatsue, and their families, the breakup of Hatsue and Ishmael, Kabuo\'s loss of his land, and perhaps for his indictment for murder.


Before the war years, Kabuo\'s father, Zenhichi made an illegal agreement with Carl Heine senior. It was an agreement to an eight-year "lease-to-own" contract. Money changed hands, land was promised and terms were set. Unfortunately, the war came and the Japanese Americans were sent away to internment camp. Nothing was quite the same at wars end. When the Miyamoto has returned to claim the land, they discovered that the victim’s mother, Etta, cheated them. She sold their seven acres of strawberry land to another farmer. She claimed it was because the last two payments were missed during their internment. This disreputable action was caused by her racist feelings toward Japanese. This is evident in her conversation with her husband, she said, "We’re not such paupers as to sell to Japs, are we? For new clothes? For a pouch of fancy pipe tobacco?" (Page 119 Parg ?). Her racist feelings cost Miyamoto his land and raised tension between the two families. Revenge was the motive suggested when Kabuo was charged with the murder to Etta’s son.


Snow Falling on Cedars opens up in the middle of Kabuo Miyamoto’s trial. He stands accused of the murder of a white fellow fisherman by the name of Carl Heine. In this murder case, racism played a very important role in affecting the judgment and outcome of the trial. The evidence lead the investigator, Sheriff Art Moran, to believe that Kabuo was somehow involved. Art Moran discovered the mooring rope and fishing gaff on Kabuo’s boat had the victim’s blood on it. The coroner believed the head wound was caused by some sort of Japanese martial art weapon. The coroner’s inaccurate findings were due mainly to his dislike of the Japanese people. As all the evidence pointed towards Kabuo, he became the likely culprit. Luckily, new evidence came into existence to turn the case from a homicide to an unfortunate accident. Ishmael was able to prove that the wake of a large ship caused Carl to fall from the mast and that was what caused his death. If it wasn’t for prejudice of the coroner and the revenge motive this trial would never have gone so far or would never had happened in the first place.


The internment of all Japanese by the U.S government was racist motivated. The government felt the Japanese couldn’t be trusted to be loyal to the United States. They feared that their loyalties to their homeland would cause them to spy, even if they were born in the United States and swore to be loyal. Some Japanese men jointed the army and fought against their home country to demonstrate their loyalty and because they believed that they are America and no longer consider themselves as Japanese. The U.S. felt the risks were too great and they couldn’t take the chance on whether they were loyal or not and placed them into internment camp for safety purpose. I believed that internment camps were basically useless, a waste of money and time. If the Japanese were to have spies they would need to bribe officials who were in a position to get useful intelligence information and not some Japanese farmer.


Racism has put an end to the relationship of Hatsue and Ishmael. Being born in that period of time was tragic for these lovers. It was the time when World War II had just broken out. Tension between the Americans and the Japanese had grown stronger, because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. U.S had declared war on Japan. The war changed everything, the life’s of people, the relationship between the White and the Japanese and their perspective toward each other.