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Analysis of racism expressed by Asian American writers Completed by University of Outline 1. Introduction 2. Racism analysis as depicted by the works of: a. Carlos Bulosan b. Sui Sin Far c. Younghill Kang d. John Okuda 3. Conclusion 4. Works Cited Introduction This paper analyzes how racism is defined, outlined and analyzed in the works of the Asian American writers who concentrate on conveying a particular message of shedding more light on the topic of bias and prejudice toward Asians in ‘the land of the free’. The general proposition of the Asian American writers depicted in this paper, mainly that Asians can only act American rather than become American, would seem to prolong the politically traditional designation of them as inassimilable aliens. However, I would propose that through the imitative excesses, Asians in America not only question the criteria of belonging that continually keeps Asians on the margins of American society but also reach high stages of the American Dream. In other words, Asian American who realizes that ethnicity is an American act can, perhaps, more thoroughly deconstruct and decenter American culture than someone who considers him or herself a “true white American”. This paper shows how through the Asian authors’ representation of “typical American” narratives, their characters become decentralizing masters of the American system. Controlling idea: Among the many false justifications of anti-Asian sentiment was the notion that the Asians were inassimilable, an unchangeable alien element who “showed no inclination to make America their permanent home. Subtopic: The authors depicted and analyzed in this paper challenge such notions by showing that Asians are not in any way lesser of Americans than any other nation or group that calls the US its homeland. In a short story entitled “Be American” Bulosan notes that place names mark the limits of the early Filipino immigrant’s world. They show the effects of not only nature (the labor demands of seasonal crops) but also the political and economic obstacles placed on the immigrants. The racism is illustrated by the fact that until after the Second World War, Filipinos were not allowed to naturalize (a fact that, rather improbably, the narrator claims to have withheld in order to better educate his overeager cousin). The Filipinos’ lack of citizenship further legitimized Depression-era employment discrimination and vigilante violence directed against them, turning their drifting and fleeing into a permanent state of dispossession.
A short exchange between the narrator and Consorcio (story’s main character), at a reunion before the latter’s eventual conversion to labor causes, hints at the depth of the cynicism from which the American dream must be rescued. Controlling idea: Another Bulosan’s story “As long as the Grass shall Grow” shows the instances of societal discrimination against Asians who came to America. Subtopic: The story, told retrospectively by a writer looking back on his first year in the United States, describes his early experience of prejudice and bias often expressed by his own countrymen. The author shows how people of the same cast learn to almost hate each other when they feel that somebody from their group might get ahead in his or her life. The reason behind such situation lies in the fact that the society simply discourages newcomers from learning and becoming American. The society rather had young Asians picking peas and doing some unskilled work. Author tells how his companions taunted him. Some of them even were talking about the matters that made him stop picking peas and look at them in a way that would scare them away (Bulosan 79). The narrator never read any relevant teaching materials and he is truly ashamed of it. What makes him different from the rest is that this boy is willing to learn, other are just passively obeying the unspoken rules of the society, “Asians have to pick peas”. Controlling idea: Sui Sin Far speaks of sexual discrimination against Asians. Subtopic: In her account, in ”Leaves,” of her time working in Jamaica Sui Sin Far recounts being sexually victimized by becoming the sexual prey of a naval officer. While this man’s name and nationality are never specified, his race and connection to imperialist machinery are clear and evoke the larger historical context of Western military production and exploitation of Asian prostitution. She explicitly links this man’s pursuit of her to racist assumptions (Sui Sin Far 226). Both by directly attributing words to this officer and by refusing to comment on his proposition she allows the blond man to impeach himself, revealing the extent to which the assignment of racial categories imposes the construction of gender.
In this light, Sui Sin Far’s peeling apart of erotic desire and Chinese womanhood might be read as narrative resistance to the image of the Chinese woman as prostitute. Controlling idea: The heroine of “Mrs. Spring Fragrance”, the first story in Sui Sin Far’s collection, serves as the representation of racism that aims to completely deny Asians of their native heritage. Subtopic: The main character in this story is described as even more Americanized than her merchant husband, which illustrates the notion of forceful adaptation to the American standards. “The Inferior Woman” (the second story of Mrs. Spring Fragrance and one that carries over the central characters of the first) contains the observation that when the protagonis first arrived to America, her husband wanted her to wear the American dress. The author illustrates that, as it often happens when the immense racial pressure is applied, this woman gradually gave in to her husband’s desires and eventually started to forget her Asia culture at all (Sui Sin Far 30). Controlling idea: Conventional rules of interaction between the sexes also serve in these stories to help locate a character’s relation to various communities. Subtopic: Sui Sin Far formulates interaction between men and women in American culture as less formal than that in Chinese culture, then represents Chinese American culture and specifically gender practices as made up of a combination of both. In “Mrs. Spring Fragrance” Mr. Spring Fragrance voices what is consistently Sui Sin Far’s representation of American relations between the sexes. In America, he says that a man may speak to a woman, and a woman listens, without any thought of evil; that Mrs. Spring Fragrance speaks to men who are not her husband serves as another indicator both of her Americanization and of the ways in which the Chinese-American community itself has adapted to America. It was done by incorporating certain mainstream American customs and values while retaining certain Chinese ones. In contrast to Mr. Spring Fragance’s description of America, China is described by the narrator a land where friendship between a man and woman is almost unknown. Sui Sin Far offers a similar contrast between American and Chinese marriage customs and similarly represents Chinese-American communities as containing both.
Mr. Spring Fragrance again becomes Sui Sin Far’s spokesperson, asserting of America that love comes before the wedding in this country. Controlling idea: To continue, the most dramatic statement of the theme of choice is in “Pat and Pan”, which serves as yet another representation of the racial bias and political pressure on Asians in America. Subtopic: This story shows how even the closest people may forget each other if they are placed in the communities with biased or prejudiced attitudes towards the representatives of other cultures (Asian in this case). The Chinese couple has raised the boy from a baby as their own. He speaks only Chinese, has only Chinese playmates, is inseparable from his little Chinese sister. Enter the meddling mission school teacher who cannot allow a white boy to be brought up Chinese. The author shows that racism only comes into effect when the person is removed from his or her familiar settings. When the boy is removed from his sister, he is friendly at first, but in their second meeting after their separation, influenced by his new playmates, he rejects her completely, shouting at her to get away from him. But when she reached the foot of the hill, she looked up and shook her little head sorrowfully. Similar notions about Korean families are depicted in “East Goes West” by Younghill. Controlling idea: John Okada No-NO-Boy is often taught in Asian American and ethnic studies courses that privilege the Japanese American male protagonists’ struggles to claim American identity. Subtopic: This story serves as an illustration of Asian American historical subjectivity during the key historical moments (before, during and after the World War II). No-No Boy uses an Asian immigrant mother to represent a version of Japanese ethnicity that the American-born son, Ichiro Yamada, must question and get rid of in order to construct himself as an Asian American subject. During the war, the U.S. government asked internees to sign a loyalty oath, which included the following questions: 27. Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered? 28. Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or to any other foreign government, power, or organization?
Okada shows how prejudiced the society of those days was by illustrating Ichiro who, having answered in the negative to both these questions, has been dubbed a ‘no-no boy’ and jailed as a draft resister. Although the novel recognizes that some people declined to serve out of a desire to protest the internment, it depicts Ichiro as having refused the draft primarily as an expression of solidarity with his mother, whose view of herself and her family as entirely Japanese now galls him. The novel opens with his return to Seattle after the war, where he must face not only the general anti-Japanese feeling of mainstream Americans but the disapproval of some Japanese Americans because he apparently has compromised the community’s efforts to prove its Americanism. The text suggests that the dissolution of the family is somehow the fault of the mother. Ichiro blames her not only for egging him on to become a no-no boy and for her militant loyalty to Japan but for expressing disapproval of American culture. Controlling idea: In short, various writing depicted in this paper confirm the statement made earlier that Asian Americans have been long discriminated against in the US by various political and social parties controlling America. Subtopic: On the one hand the inner conflict that these people have to deal with is clearly evident (they can’t become Americans and they can’t even hope for a decent living, yet they fight for their ‘America Dream’). At the same time, by understanding that the government and the country as a whole won’t give them anything, Asians are among those who come the closest to realizing the American Dream. They work hard, they have to give up their national identities (because it is not Asia anymore), but they strive for better life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to turn into Americans, they simply want to attain their American Dream.