Filipino WWII Veterans; courtesy Antonio Somera/Daguhoy Museum
Immigration and Racial Attitudes Toward Filipinos
Filipinos began migrating to California by the thousands during the mid-1920s, arriving primarily to work as farm laborers in the rural areas of the Central and Imperial valleys or as manual laborers in urban centers such as Stockton, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
At the time, the islands of the Philippines were a U.S. territory and Filipino immigrants were colonial subjects. While they were allowed to travel within the U.S., they were denied citizenship and not allowed to own property or establish businesses on American soil.
By the 1930s, there were almost 45,000 Filipinos in California. At the time, Filipino men outnumbered women 20 to 1. Romance and marriages between Filipino men and white women were common. Unfortunately, racist attitudes toward these partnerships greatly influenced the establishment of anti-miscegenation laws in California that outlawed interracial relationships.
When unemployment reached a critical point during the Depression, Filipino men, like Mexican and African American laborers of the time, experienced heightened racial hostility. Filipinos were unfairly accused of taking the place of white men, both at work and at home.