Strangers From A Different Shore Essay, Research Paper
Strangers From A Different Shore by author/professor Ronald Takaki has brought a new perspective of my growing knowledge of the hardships and endless obstacles that Asian-Americans have struggled with through their immigration experience. Immigrants of Asia represent many countries and many different situations that have brought them to this “better” country with hopes for “more opportunities” to succeed. Asian-Americans are those whose roots are from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, China, Cambodia, Korea, and Hmong to name the most common. Asian-Americans have overcome drastic situations to carry the status that they do today. Currently Asian-Americans represent the fastest growing minority group in the United States. Half of all immigrants that enter the U.S. annually are Asian. Asian-Americans come from the same part of the world, the same continent, yet their struggles have left them in different situations. Although the commonalities of hardships that exist between the Asian ethnic groups are greatly the same that can also be separated from likeness just as easy. A common ground brings these people together but their separate countries and even within a country different regions will strive and be defeated or surpass the others in their separate historical ways.
Takaki, a professor at U.C. Berkeley in Ethnic Studies and the grandson of immigrant plantation laborers from Japan has both the knowledge and personal passion of Asian-Americans that allows him to go into great details of the history and diversity of this ethnic groups struggle to become recognized in America for who they are and why they are here instead of what they did for this country. Takaki goes in depth on nearly many occurrences that each Asian country has overcome and currently deals with.
Longing for gold wasn’t just an American issue. The topic of gold affected many people including the Chinese. About the same time gold was discovered in California, famine hit the Guangdong Province in southeast China. Hearing about California’s gold, many Chinese men left for America hoping to make a fortune and return home a few years later to their loved ones. Few struck it rich and the rest fought to survive. The Gold Rush in California and the Pacific Northwest increased the demand for railroads to connect these remote parts of America. Building railroads required lots of low-paid labor, which hungry immigrant Chinese provided. By 1880, there were about 300,000 Chinese in America, but American accepted few once the railroads were completed. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first time in American history that immigration restrictions were aimed at one ethnic group.
Some Chinese were forced onto boats returning to China and some left on their own. Discriminatory practices by real estate agents and homeowners prompted Chinatowns to develop, which were basically the Chinese ghetto. The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943 and immigration laws were changed. Now, the Chinese could bring their women from home because the population was mainly males. Today, strong Chinese communities exist in the West, especially in Los Angeles, which has become a contemporary Ellis Island for the Pacific Rim. Descendants of the first wave of Chinese immigrants now excel in engineering and the sciences instead of the fields from which their fathers were barred.
When America’s Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred the Chinese from providing America with cheap labor, the Japanese arrived to fill the void. Japanese immigration to America began in 1882 with Meiji Restoration. Many rice farmers in southwestern Japan were heavily taxed and hoped to make their fortunes in America. More than 30,000 Japanese went to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations between 1885 and 1894. In the 1890’s until 1924 there was many Japanese immigrating to America. These were what the Japanese called “Issei,” or first generation immigrants. Unlike the Chinese who first went to California to do railroad work, many Japanese went to the Pacific Northwest where they could work in the fishing and timber industries that needs their labor. Unlike the Chinese, Japanese immigrants included more women, so families could be started. Some women came with their husbands; others arrived as “picture brides,” met by unknown future husbands in America. Their children, the second generation, are called “Nisei.”
The 1924 Immigration Act cut the flow of Japanese immigration. Eventually Japantowns emerged, otherwise known as the Japanese ghettos. In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and introducing war, which led to the signing of “Executive Order 9066.” This gave the Issei and Nisei 10 days to sell everything they had. None of their rights were protected because although the 2/3 of the 120,000 people who were thrown in the internment camps was U.S. citizens by birth it did not matter. Today Japanese-American communities exist, especially in Pacific Coast cities like Seattle and Los Angeles, where Nisei Week celebrations continue and so does strong economic power that Japanese-Americans withhold.
Many Filipinos replaced the Japanese as laborers in Hawaii and on the mainland, especially after the 1924 Immigration Act. They worked in fields doing seasonal work and migrated throughout the west following the crops. When Japanese-Americans were evacuated during World War II, Filipinos were among those who farmed the abandoned lands. As with the Chinese, World War II improved the condition of Filipino-Americans. After America liberated the Philippines in 1944, Americans attitudes toward Filipinos improved. Immigration restrictions eased as G.I.’s brought home brides and professionals arrived. Their communities thrive in America. While a small number of Koreans cam to Hawaii in 1903, the real flow came after the Korean War. G.I.’s once again brought home war brides and students came to American universities. Unlike other Asian immigrants, many Koreans didn’t leave home because of economic hardships. Koreans economy did well after the war. The lure of American education, threat of fighting communist North Korea, and political actions by South Korean government prompted many to start new lives in America. Koreans had many of the same hard lives as the other Asian groups.
When the Vietnam War ended in 1975, hard times did not end for the people of Southeast Asia. While they no longer feared the war, they now faced great hardships and terror at the hands of victorious Communists: the Viet Cong in Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the Pathet Lao in Laos. While many supported new rulers, many fled, fearing for their lives. Together they formed the largest short-term immigration of people ever to the United States. Between 1975 and 1985, 100,000 immigrants a year came to America. This is what affects me the most of all immigration. This is where my mother, my grandmother, and me fall. My mom came here in 1975 and I was born in 1977, then we fought to bring my grandmother here in 1985. Unlike other Asian immigrants who came looking to make their fortunes, most of these immigrants came from refugee camps. Many escaped through jungles and drifted at sea in tiny boats. Those lucky enough to survive and arrive in America had to deal with emotional scars from their ordeal. Many Cambodian and Laos immigrants were farmers from small villages with no knowledge of Western culture. Some Laos hill tribes such as the Hmong, came from cultures that were untouched by the Industrial Revolution. The adaptation process for these people has been nearly an unreal experience.
On Sunday, April 30 there was a landmark date for the remembrance of 25 years since the Vietnam War ended. This was a sad time to remember. It marks a time of lost family and friends and the fall of a nation. With the power of communism on the up rise lives were endangered and worlds overturned. Not to mention all the other people who were affected by the war. The Americans who lost their lives and the surrounding Southeast Asians countries and their immigrants who are still left with unfulfilled promises struggle everyday to let a terrible image pass them.
Takaki has shown me that Asian-Americans have the same racial discrimination problems that African-Americans have had to endure. Whereas African-Americans were forced here and Asians chose to flee their countries they in turn dealt with the same treatment by Americans and the government. The same harsh discrimination and the same treatment that they were less than an Anglo have resurfaced. It is a shame that we don’t teach our population how history really happened, instead we cover it up to make it look less than it really was.
Stranger From A Different Shore by Ronald Takaki