Asian American History
Nowadays, United States is often associated with the term “melting pot”, which refers to the assimilation of immigrants who were initially heterogeneous with their own distinct backgrounds. Corresponding to that fact, racial discrimination has been significantly reduced within “melting pot”, in which people gradually understand the differences between them without aversion. However, back in the past, many Americans conceived of Asians as strangers.
They were not willing to understand and embrace the biological and cultural differences that set Asian immigrants apart from Europeans and early Americans. Coolie trade, which brought numerous Asian immigrants to the United States as indentured laborers, resulted in numerous stereotypes of Asian immigrants. Even though the coolie trade ended, the stereotypes persisted despite the fact that Asian immigrants came to the United States as free laborers and harbored their own aspirations to prosper as citizens. Usually, the stereotype toward Asian Americans associates with their biological features.
For example, in excerpt called “Mistaken Identity” from Henry Kiyama’s graphic novel, in which an American woman solicited an educated Japanese boy to serve her, it is shown that Americans tended to generalize Asian Americans as cheap sources of labor, by lumping various ethnic groups into one similar racial group based on their shared biological features. The cultural differences between early Americans and Asian immigrants affected the early American view point toward Asian immigrants. For instance, Samuel Gompers subtitled his article Have Asiatics Any Morals? nd explained how wives were secluded under surveillance while husbands were given freedom. This fact could be considered immoral according to the standard morality of Caucasians but it is natural if understand Confucianism values, in which male was valued as head of the household and naturally more important. “For many years it has been impossible to get white persons to do the menial labor performed by Chinese and Japanese,” stated Samuel Gompers. This fact corresponds to Asian perspective that is different from one of early Americans, especially of the Caucasians.
Asian immigrants were willing to work although the only given tasks were menial that Caucasians did not consider preferable. Asian immigrants’ way of life was laborious, diligent, and humble; they did not complain about their given environments and quit their jobs like Europeans. Asian immigrants had their own American dream to achieve citizenships and prosperity, and in order to accomplish their goals, they kept on working despite harsh and unfair working conditions. However, one distinction that can be made between Asian immigrants and American laborers was there was no justice for Asians.
They were purposely denied the resources to defend themselves and influence legislation by Americans like Samuel Gompers who deviously published lies that suggested that Asian immigrants were willing to accept the poor working conditions and low wages in order to dominate over their competitors. Eventually, Asian immigrants began to dominate the American job market; as a result, American and European laborers started to view them as threats and lobbied for discriminatory laws which resulted in immigration quotas.
In order to hinder the success and progress of Asian immigrants, many Americans like Samuel Gompers viewed them as strangers and prevented them from gaining equal protection under the law which further isolated from the major society. In 1879, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was presented before the United States Senate, Hon. James G. Blaine it publicized that the because of Asians in America this country would never become homogeneous all the while referring to European immigrants as “family. ” Blaine also claimed that Chinese should neither be neutralized citizens nor voters, restraining their opportunities to become part of major society.
It was clearly stated that Asian immigrants were not to be accepted as part of the majority. As Asian immigrants experienced severe racial discrimination from other minority groups and White Americans, they banded together to create their own enclaves thereby isolating themselves from the majority. Samuel Gompers testified that the Chinese laborer would work cheaper for Chinese employers than for someone from major society, making Chinese owned business to be more competitive compared to others and eventually led Chinese into gradual invasion of one industry after another.
In other words, Asian immigrants were strongly united in order to improve their standards of living however they could, despite their lack of citizenship and voting rights. Initially, Asian immigrants not want to conform to the majority culture, instead they wanted to become successful entrepreneurs in order to return home rich. Due to severe instances of discrimination, the willingness of Asian immigrants to assimilate significantly decreased—they would rather remain as strangers, retaining their culture and language by forming their own unions in the local communities, such as, Chinatown and Little Saigon.
In real life, there are Asian immigrants—usually the elderly—who consider American culture to be wicked and inferior, while claiming that their traditional culture is somehow valuable and deserving of respect. In Major Problems in Asian American History, A 75-year-old Philippine-born man, who immigrated at age of 63, indicated that he wanted to be an American citizen, but he would always be a Filipino.
This is a prime example of some Asian immigrants isolated themselves within their own cultural enclaves, which from prevented them from assimilating and losing their cultural identities. Due to the numerous stereotypes assigned to Asian immigrants many Americans were reluctant to accept Asians as potential American citizens; instead they were quick to cling to the coolie stereotype and naively supported racist laws. In conclusion, Asian immigrants immigrated to the United States with different biological, cultural, and ethnic differences that differed from European immigrants.