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1942 v. 1992: News Accounts Contrast Essay

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Updated: May 2nd, 2022

A rule of thumb about clubs and committees suggests that the secretary is actually the most important officer because they record the actions of the organization. In the same way, the scribes of modern society, the newspapers shape how events and are remembered. Newspapers document what people are thinking, their priorities, and their assumptions, or at least, what a journalist thought about these.

Comparing news accounts from more than one period, with the advantage of historical distance and historical perspective permits the reader to spot differences. For this discussion, the two periods to be examined are January 8 of 1992 the same date in 1942, In the case of these two time periods of the early 1990s and the early 1940s, the most dramatic difference that colored the news was the war brewing in Europe.

However, there was a myriad of other differences as well. January 1942 was before the civil rights movement, as well as before the women’s movement. These and other changes are reflected in a variety of places in the newspaper.

Demonstrating the profound changes that have occurred in race relations, consider the article titled “Whites in Hawaii Arm for Defense in Fear of Japanese Residents”1. This report highlights anti-Japanese suspicion and bigotry a year after Pearl Harbor when many of the 150,000 Japanese staffed the ROTC and the Territorial Guard. White Hawaiians feared their Japanese neighbors could “rip off” their armbands, and open fire2.

The authorities quoted in the article acknowledged that they could not put every citizen of Japanese ancestry into a concentration camp, but this option is reported as being under serious consideration.3 Hindsight indicates that this was actually done in many places, an outcome that would seem shocking if not for the response of many to 9/11. Finally, in an almost throwaway sentence, the correspondent mentions the various ethnic and racial identities that inhabit the island.

He mentions the Philippines, Chinese, and Koreans by numbers of the population. The writer lumps Portuguese, Spaniards, and Puerto Ricans together. Then he mentions the 1000 “Negroes” living on the island.4 Several features of this section of the article are notable.

The combining of the Portuguese, Spaniard, and Puerto Ricans would be considered carelessly insensitive today, although people disagree on how best to describe people whose ancestry is from a former colony of Spain or Portugal, versus those emigrating directly from Spain. Of course, residents of Puerto Rico consider themselves Americans. The use of the term “negroes” would be widely considered inappropriate and ignorant today.

A similar use of this now-offensive term appears in an announcement of an art and craft exhibition of works by African American artists, referring to them as “Negro” artists.5The article notes that the exhibitors come from Karamu House of Cleveland6, which the article describes as ‘discovering and training the abilities” of African Americans since 1915.7This sounds quite modern, but the pairing of craftwork and the fine arts suggests a different set of expectations for African Americans than for artists of other races.

The committee of sponsors includes a varied group of notables, both African American and white. There is Marian Anderson, Ethel Waters, Asa Phillip Randolph, and Langston Hughes, for example, representing the arts and union organizing In the African American community. However, the names of white sponsors include the most prominent and wealthy of the day.

Marshall Field III, of the large Chicago store fortune, Louis Crane, of the Crane Paper fortune, and Mrs. William S. Paley, the wife of CBS’ founder, are instantly recognizable names8. It is tempting to wonder whether such an exhibit demanded the support of the very wealthy and powerful in order to be staged at all, although there is no explicit evidence for this inference in the article.

African Americans also clearly had a mixed experience during the war. This is evidenced by contradictory articles on military installation race riots, apathy, and a pageant honoring blacks’ military service – all in the same week.91011

In the area of women’s rights, the industry is reported to be ready to train and hire women to replace men absent at war.12 However, companies would title women “technical aides,” rather than according to a more substantial title. The article notes industry’s having “ignored” past applications, despite the numbers of math and science majors qualified for the newly established training programs.13

Another training program for women to repair autos noted (without apparent sarcasm) that a “child often” could accomplish this task.14While on such jobs, women could presumably wear the jumpsuit and smock styles for “factory and farm “pictured on the same page.15

As an indication of how much things stay the same even while changing, the 1992 commentary expresses mixed feelings regarding “Women in Combat” dying in the Iraq war.16This demonstrates people’s continuing uncertainty about women’s appropriate role in the armed forces, as well as in society as a whole.

This discomfort has persisted, even as N.O.W. celebrated 25 years of advocacy for women’s pay equity and reproductive rights.17 An article entitled “Subtle Discrimination” points up ongoing challenges that women faced in progressing professionally.18 On the other hand, in a hopeful international move for women’s dignity, Japan acknowledged the “comfort women” abuses of WWII.19

In an article in which race and gender intersect, a 1992 report on infant mortality is shown to have understated the problem.20The correspondent notes that that cause was that the infants’ race was incorrectly assumed to be the same as the mother’s.21This article shows that race labeling continues to be a troublesome obsession, and one with practical, sometimes negative effects. The article additionally shows that women and infants continue to feel the fatal impact of problems affecting birth and child health that arise from poverty.

These problems existed in 1942 as well, as evidenced by a novel of 1940s Harlem, The Street, re-published and reviewed in 1992.22The problems of maternal and childhood poverty can include lack of access to good health care, improper nutrition, crowding, substance abuse, lack of prenatal care, and inadequate support systems for mothers and infants.

The problems of disparities in living conditions are addressed as well with regard to persistent differences in criminal statistics between racial groups, as well.23This suggests that, despite civil rights achievements and changes in attitude noted in a study of evolving and improving attitudes towards ethnicity, much has not changed enough.

Even a brief dip into a newspaper from 50 years previously shows major changes in a variety of aspects of life. Unconsciously or not, journalists record the trends and attitudes of their time, even if only in what they assume or leave out. In this 50-year period, in the area of race and gender relations, laws and regulations have been advocated for, passed, and implemented, to encourage greater equality.

There is evidence of this in the two time periods of studies. However, sadly, despite this legal progress, the evidence from newspapers in 1942 and 1992 suggest that there was a disheartening lack of practical change in the conditions of people’s lives in the interim between these two times.

Bibliography

New York Times.January 8, 1942.

New York Times.January 12, 1992.

New York Times.January 12, 1942.

New York Times.January 11, 1942.

New York Times.January 8, 1992.

Footnotes

1 “Hailey, Foster. Whites in Hawaii Arm for Defense in Fear of Japanese Residents,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, p.5.

2 “Whites in Hawaii Arm for Defense in Fear of Japanese Residents,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, p.5.

3″ Whites in Hawaii Arm for Defense In Fear of Japanese Residents,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, p.5.

4″ Whites in Hawaii Arm for Defense In Fear of Japanese Residents,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, p.5.

5 “Art Notes,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, p.27.

6 Karamu House still exists as a theatre in Cleveland.

7 “Art Notes,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, p.27.

8 “Art Notes,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, p.27.

9″ Negroes Kept In Camp After Louisiana Riot: 28 Soldiers, Woman, Trooper Hurt in Alexandria Flare-Up,”

New York Times, January 12, 1942, p.9.

10 “Negro Groups Find An Apathy To War: Conference to Suggest Ways to Arouse Members of Race,”

New York Times, January 11, 1942, p. 30.

11“Negro Service Men Honored By Revue: Pageant Depicts Role of Noted Members of Race in All This Nation’s Wars,” New York Times, January 12, 1942, p. 23.

12 “Defense Plant Survey Reveals Demand for Women in Industry: Training Institute Here Reports Increased Call for Them to Fill Jobs Now Available as Technical Aides,” New York Times, January 9m, 1942, p. 25.

13 “Defense Plant Survey Reveals Demand for Women in Industry: Training Institute Here Reports Increased Call for Them to Fill Jobs Now Available as Technical Aides,” New York Times, January 9m, 1942, p. 25.

14“ Women To Study Autos: Course in Motor Mechanics to Be Started Tonight,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, P.25.

15 “Wartime Fashions for Factory or Farms On Display for Women Called for Duty: Garments Are Designed for Usefulness and Style of Sturdy Cotton Fabrics and With Free-Action Sleeves,” New York Times, January 8, 1942, P. 25.

16 Quindlen, Anna “Women In Combat,” New York Times, January 8, 1992, p A19.

17 Barringer, Felicity.“ NOW Reasserts Its Role as Outsider: A group tries to be all things to all feminists,” New York Times, January 12, 1992, p. 14.

18Sanger, David.” Fighting Subtle Discrimination,” New York Times, January 12, 1992, p. F23.

19“ Japan Admits Army Forced Koreans to Work in Brothels,” New York Times, January 14, 1992, p.A8.

20“ Death Rates for Minority Infants Were Underestimated, Study Says, “New York Times, January 8, 1992, p.A14.

21“ Death Rates for Minority Infants Were Underestimated, Study Says,” New York Times, January 8, 1992, p.A14.

22 Fein, Esther.“ An Author’s Look At 1940’s Harlem Is Being Reissued: Author’s Look at Harlem Is Going to Be Reissued,” New York Times. January 8, 1992. P. 13.

23 Frank, Barney. “Race and Crime: Let’s Talk Sense,” New York Times, January 13, 1992, p. A15.

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