The fact that racism was an integral part of the U.S. history is undeniable. However, little concerns are represented in regard to the role of Asian immigrants arriving to the New World. In the context of narrative history of Oriental minority groups inhabiting the United States, an acknowledged historian Ronald Takaki introduces a unique perspective on the Asian American history.
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In particular, the scholar asserts that racism has become the major factor determining the diverse experiences in the U.S. history. More importantly, he reconsiders the influence of capitalism on attitude to Asian immigrants in 20s and 30s of the past century. During this period, planters developed cultural diverse mechanisms of controlling the flow of labor power.
Representing Chinese workers are tool for advancing capitalism, they strive to create the competition and encourage indigenous population to accept the working conditions. Therefore, the Asian ethnic groups are often neglected in the Asian American history because their roles were confined to workforce development only.
In his book, Takaki asserts that from all ethnic groups arrived to the continent Asian people were the most excluded ones from the written record. Myths and stereotypes about Asian people as foreigners and aliens are more common in American society. In particular, the historian notes, “many existing history books give Asian Americans only passing notice or overlook them together” (Takaki 6).
Though American people express their ignorance toward Asian ancestries in an innocent and casual way, the ethnic group is still underestimated. In addition, U.S. history often neglects the achievements and discoveries made by Asian people that contributed to economic and social development of the country.
The issue of racism in Asian American history should be reconsidered with regard to the arguments introduced by Takaki. This is of particular concern to the stories the historian reveals while thinking over Asian identity.
Takaki expresses his concern with social position of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino, as well as analyzes how they treat their contributions to the U.S. history in general and Asian history in particular. To enlarge on the issue, it should be stressed that “in the telling and retelling of their stories, the elderly immigrants reclaim the authorship of their own history” (Takaki 9). The younger generation should be aware of the experiences that their ancestors endured.
Insufficient attention to the history of Asian Americans is proved by lack of written records describing their lifestyles and traditions, as well as defining their place in the American history. In fact, because Asian immigrants were mostly regarded as workers taking lower positions in society, they were rarely mentioned in historic books. To support the idea, Okihiro claims that Asian history, like history of other people of color is enriched with remarkable events, contributions, and achievements.
It also bears huge importance for the overall history of humanity. In particular, the historian presents a family album that “…is emphatically personal account that is often isolated from a social context – an insularity that is both is attraction and its danger” (Okihiro 94). The events illustrated images of poverty, despair, and isolation. They also highlight the social relations in which Asian people have been engaged while arriving in the United States.
Visual history of Asian Americans, therefore, reflects vividly the structure of the community in immigration. Moreover, it identifies individual identity and its role in the social order. Thus, individual accounts of people’s lives in immigration allow a historian to define the social relations tracing their attitudes and beliefs. Confronting the reality of America, ‘Orientals’ did not expect that their historic significance would be underestimated.
Although the Asian Americans sought for better life and appraisal in a new world, they also strived to maintain the sense of belonging to the ethnic community. Therefore, the immigration policies and legal regulations established in the United States have shaped relationships with Asians.
In particular, Hing insists, “[Asians] learned to selectively ignore, rediscover, reinterpret, recombine, rewrite, and recycle laws, treaties, and agreement to respond to shifting and often conflicting views about Asians” (341). Thus, immigration policies have a potent impact on gender, social status, employment rates, income, and identity.
Asian American history is also closely associated with constant attempts of American authorities to controlling and remaking the ethnic minorities. However, limits of legal control provide consequences of immigration regulations. In particular, policy makers typically considered Asian people as “a monolith, seldom acknowledging their social and cultural diversity” (Hing 190). The U.S. government characterized Asian Americans as objects, neglecting their ingenuity in response to regulations.
Moreover, they considered that these ethnic minorities should not be involved in political and economic processes and, therefore, the dynamics of immigrations was insufficiently controlled. Such an attitude to the roles of Asian Americans in developing the U.S. history points to racial inequality, discrimination, and pressures.
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Misconceptions created about the contributions that Asian immigrations reflected the narrow viewpoint on the American history. A great number of existing history books attain secondary importance to role of Asian Americans in building the history of United States. As a result, wrong stereotypes have been created about pioneers and outstanding figures that played a pivotal role in building the U.S. nations. Many Asian representatives were even excluded from this list of contributors.
Reluctance to include Asian activist relates to the wrong images of cultural identity and background of the people. In fact, many stories about the immigrants need to be reconsidered and included into books to complement the U.S. history and make it more meaningful for the Asian American people.
In this respect, Takaki emphasizes, “the view of Asian immigrants as “sojourners” and European immigrants as “settlers” is both a mistaken notion and a widely held myth” (10). Many newcomers from Europe and Asia planned to stay in the United States for a short period of time. Many sojourning travelers had left their families expecting to find a well-paid job in America and return home after a while.
Many immigrants from Europe remained in America for a much longer period; they immobilized by getting married and raising family here to become the part of the American society. However, the majority of newcomers from Asia felt they are not encouraged to stay in the United States despite the fact that Asian people had lived for three generations here.
Unequal and discriminative attitude to the newcomers closely relates to the theory represented by Simmel. In particular, the sociologist explains discrimination as the intention to the society to consider intruders as the ones that corrupt national identity.
Therefore, they are “in a state of detachment, viewed as clannish, rigidly attached to their old country and their old culture” (12). Such an assumption, however, is inadmissible to the current policy of globalization and cultural diversity. Moreover, the United States can be regarded as a country of multiple cultural diversity.
Estrangement stands out when immigrants inhabit the new land and develop trade relations in an effort to establish ties of locality and kinship. Within the context of the host society, the newcomers are not considered from the angle of their individuality and identify, but from the angle of their alien origin. Thus, American society was reluctant to consider tradition and nationality as part of American culture. Lack of cross-cultural awareness was among the most important factors determining racism in the United States.
Detachment of American society from traditions and customs of marginal groups reveals their inability to face cultural diversity. Merger of cultures and nation has always been a complicated process and, therefore, Asian Americans met strict opposition on the part of the dominating society. In this respect, Takaki’s arguments in favor of Asian American history are justified.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that U.S. history is closely intertwined with such urgent issues as racism, inequality, and discrimination. Insufficient attention to the Asian groups living in the United States is an unquestionable fact because few written records mention their roles and contributions to the development of American society.
Ronald Takaki, an acknowledged historian, challenges the American history to emphasize significant gaps in recounting the events related to immigration. In particular, the scientist emphasizes negligent attitude to the Asian nation, including Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino as an important source of controlling labor power. Asian American marginal groups lack original ties and relations with the dominating society because of the wrong stereotypes created in regards to their identity.
Hing, Bill. Making and Remaking Asian America. US: Stanford University Press, 1994. Print.
Okihiro, Gary Y. Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture. US: University of Washington Press, 1994. Print.
Takaki, Ronald. From a Different Shore: Their History Bursts with Telling, In Strangers from a Different Shore, Ronalrd Takaki (Ed.), US: Little, Brown and Company, 1998. Print. pp. 3-18.