The Life of Asian Americans
The initial arrival of Asian Americans was followed by great welcoming because, during the industrialization era, Asians were viewed as a cheap source of labor. However, as the Asian population increased, they were regarded as a threat, and the U.S government began imposing laws that would prevent Asian immigration such as the Chinese Exclusion Act. Asian Americans faced increased discrimination especially during the Great Depression when they lost jobs and access to relief. Also, during World War II, the Japanese suffered the violation of civil rights when the U.S government turned their settling location into military bases. The current paper deals with the relation between the interview of an Asian American Chen Yang and the history of the early Asian Americans’ life. Despite all the challenges the Asians faced in the U.S, going back to their native countries was never an option.
Industrial Era in the U.S
The Asian Americans faced mistreatment in Hawaii. Hawaii was home to Japanese, Chinese, Philippines, and Korean immigrants. The working conditions among the Asian workers led to suffering and an increased rate of disease transmission. Despite the Hawaii plantation working conditions being harsh, the Asians preferred working in the U.S rather than going back to their native countries. The use of the contract system in Hawaii led to an increased Asian population, especially the Chinese because men brought their families. However, after the gold rush, plantations, and railroad constructions, the Asians formed Chinatown in the 1870s and moved to urban centers such as San Francisco. Racism played a significant role in the employment discrimination against Asian Americans. Hayashi claims she was discouraged from studying medicine in California due to increased racism (97). The Asian Americans avoided conflict that resulted from racism by being self-employed. Hayashi states that the Chinese did not want to work for less than one dollar after the Japanese immigration resulted in lower wages and therefore looked for decent jobs (100). The role of men in Asia has changed as men started handling female work. The Asian Americans faced forced eviction from their areas of settlement. In the 1880s, anti-Chinese movements occurred and this led to the eviction of the Chinese in Rock Springs and the Northwest of the U.S. The anti-Chinese sentiments of the 1870s resulted in the removal of Chinese immigrants from California. Chen Yang states that his family was stripped of their status through the implementation of the anti-Asian law. The whites claimed that losing a status would result in the automatic loss of property. Chen Yang states that despite the hardships he faced in the U.S, his father decided that going back to China was not an option. Hayashi states that the California legislature formulated the immigration laws that prohibited Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S (98). According to New York Chinese Merchants Oppose Exclusion, the Chinese Exclusion Act prevented further Chinese immigration as laborers and stated that any Chinese child born in a foreign land could not become an American citizen through naturalization (106). Land ownership became difficult for the Chinese.
The Japanese immigrants went to the U.S in search of plantation jobs in Hawaii. The U.S took advantage of cheap Japanese labor to offset the Chinese unions and strikes. Hayashi states that the Japanese represented an equally cheap source of labor that resulted in increased hate by the Americans which led to racial discrimination (99). Chen Yang had been in the fifth grade by 1944. Chen Yang’s classmates comprised of Vietnamese, Korean, Filipinos, Japanese and Chinese. The class consisted of many ethnic groups that were classified as Blacks, Asians, and the Spanish. Chen Yang stated that the Asians faced discrimination due to anti-Asian sentiments, and people of color were defined as a non-working class in the U.S. Asians faced racial discrimination especially when they required representation. The Japanese provided cheaper labor even more frequently than the Chinese (Hayashi 99). Organic Law of 1900 freed the Japanese by rendering Japanese contracts in Hawaii void. The Gentlemen Agreement between the U.S and Japan in the 1900s allowed Japanese laborers in the U.S to come with their families. The Agreement did not eliminate Japanese immigration as in the case of the Chinese but established certain restrictions. The Japanese population increased in the U.S since they did not come as laborers but as settlers. The Japanese faced discrimination because there were much more of them after the Land Law Act had been passed. The Land Law stated that any individual who could not become an American citizen through naturalization would be prohibited to own land in the U.S. The Land Law was set to discriminate against the Japanese and this impacted all Asians negatively. The Japanese started to register lands using the names of their children that were born in the United States. In return, the California legislature in 1920 passed Alien Land Law that prohibited Japanese immigrants from leasing land.
The Asian Americans faced race riots. In 1930, anti-Filipino riots led to the destruction of Philippines properties in California. Chen Yan states that intermarriages between the Asian American people and the whites were prohibited, and any white woman who married an Asian lost her citizenship. Chen Yang stated that according to the whites, intermarriage led to the loss of superior white genes while increasing the dominance of the Asians. The Asian Americans faced discrimination after the passing of the Intermarriage Act in 1884 which prevented whites from marrying the Asian immigrants. According to the California District Court of Appeal, in Roldan’s case in California court of appeal, the court denied him the right of marrying Marjorie Rodgers who was a white woman (220). The miscegenation was reflected in Section 69 which prevented Asian domination in the U.S as well as the dissolution of the white race (222). Moreover, the 1922 Cable Act prevented U.S females from marrying Asian immigrants, and in doing so, they automatically lost their citizenship. However, the Filipino population was not affected by the Cable Act.
The Great Depression in the U.S
During the Great Depression in the 1930s in the U.S., Asian Americans faced difficult times and discrimination in the labor market. The economic recession was adverse to the whites and harsher for the racial minorities. The unemployment rate of Asian Americans doubled the level of unemployment of the whites. Chen Yang stated that the Asians were considered minorities and were seen as a burden so that according to the white population, the Asians had “myopic lenses” that were used in distinguishing class and race in the U.S. The Asian Americans were replaced by the whites in their workplaces. For the first time, during the economic recession, white women took household jobs from racial minorities. Racial discrimination increased, and Asian Americans became denied access to U.S government public jobs. The Asians were denied access to relief while violence at the workplace increased. The population of Asian Americans increased in the U.S urban centers due to the search for jobs. The Asian Americans experienced low pay and poor working conditions. Affording shelter in towns became difficult due to the rise in living standards. The Asian Americans suffered massive layoffs and became subjected to immigration laws in 1924 that prevented any immigration from Asia. Quotas were set to reduce the total number of immigrants from the Asians in the U.S per year.
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World War II
During World War II, the Japanese faced harsher discrimination after Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S government detained the Japanese American Leaders without representation despite them not being charged with any law-breaking activity. World War II marked the period when Chen Yang and his family suffered the most. They lost access to relief and faced increased discrimination. The Asians suffered anti-Asian immigration laws that prohibited immigration such as setting quotas until 1965 when the quota had been removed. After the removal of quotas, the number of Asians coming to the U.S increased.
Uyematsu claims that a total of 110, 000 were detained (11). The U.S Executive Order 9066 allowed the U.S military to forcefully send immigrants back to their native states and create military zones within the U.S borders. The Japanese that settled on the western coast of the U.S were removed, and some of them faced imprisonment. Uyematsu states that the Japanese were forced to leave the U.S and abandon their belongings (11). The Japanese Americans were denied U.S citizenship through the implementation of target policies such as the U.S imposing travel curfew and travel restrictions for the Japanese immigrants. World War II led to the violation of the Japanese Civil Rights. However, the Japanese in Hawaii volunteered to join America to fight in Europe.
The Asian Americans faced discrimination and racism, especially in the spheres of representation, intermarriage, land ownership, and immigration. Chen Yang stated that his father leased his land to him when he was 19 years old. A few years after, the California legislature amended the Land Law and prevented the Asians from leasing land to prevent those who were born in the U.S from acquiring land. The U.S government took measures to reduce the Asian Americans’ dominance by setting immigration quotas, forcefully removing the Japanese from the U.S, implementing intermarriage laws that prevented intermarriage, and limiting land ownership among the Asian children who qualified to be natives of the U.S through naturalization. The Asian Americans faced race riots, low wages, and poor working conditions. During the economic recession in the U.S, the Asian Americans faced an increased rate of unemployment that became twice the whites’ unemployment rate because their jobs were replaced by those for the whites. The Japanese wages in the U.S were also affected because they accepted low pay that was lower than a dollar daily. Chen Yang stated that in 1933 his father worked in a laundry while his mother lost her job. The Chinese reduced the Japanese low-wage effect by starting self-employment activities such as laundry which resulted in the change in the role of men. The Asian Americans faced difficulties in immigration until 1965 when the immigration quotas were removed. Since then, the rate of Asian immigration to the U.S has increased.
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