Free Essay

The Rugged Road to True Freedom

In: Social Issues

Submitted By andrewenright
Words 1609
Pages 7
Andrew Enright
Professor Long
EXPO 1213-008
October 10 2015
The Rugged Road to True Freedom The United States of America is a place some people only dream of residing in. During the early twentieth century, hundreds of Japanese people ventured towards America—a land of freedom, equality, and justice. These people left an unstable homeland in search of peace and prosperity with the hope of providing a better future for their children. Ronald Takaki, in his book titled Strangers from a Different Shore, remarks that “America represented liminality,” and so Asian immigrants “could imagine what they could do in an unformed America, and their dreams inspired them to take risks. They wondered what they could become, unfurled before the winds of change and challenge”(42). This represents Japanese extravagance as a whole—traveling beyond known boundaries in pursuit of new freedom. Yet what seemed free wasn’t free at all, but rather a future of harsh treatment. Japanese-Americans crossed the boundaries of their homeland only to come into contact with more boundaries in America—of racism, American legislation and ultimately internment—which taxed the extravagance of Japanese-Americans. Throughout the next several decades, Japanese extravagance morphs to deal with America’s act of yarding them in through its legislation. In 1885, the Japanese government announced it would be sending six hundred immigrants to Hawaii. Many who crossed the frontier were financially distressed and viewed “themselves as dekaseginin—laborers working temporarily in a foreign country. Their goal was to work hard in order to ‘return home in glory’ after three years”(44). Many immigrants had the goal of working only a short time quickly returning back to Japan with their acquired sum of money. Americans, from the start, tended to dislike these new immigrants because they were good at what they did. Americans were also unhappy with the fact that hundreds of Japanese immigrants were not going to stay in America indefinitely. Likewise, the Japanese involvement in the American economy was often seen as a bad thing because they took jobs from Americans. The more they settled and prospered, the more Americans envied them.
Due to the financial opportunity proposed in Hawaii, Japanese migrants became attracted to the opportunities on the mainland United States. A large majority of the immigrants who came to America were young, well-educated, and “had a higher literacy rate than their European counterparts”(45). Filling the needed jobs with young, well-educated Japanese-Americans seems as if it would have a positive impact on American society. Japanese-Americans found themselves being driven out of their jobs by the white labor league, however. Japanese workers “adopted a strategy designed to avoid ethnic antagonism in the labor market,” specializing in new areas of work where they wouldn’t have to compete with white laborers. For the Japanese did not see the true problem they faced: “white workers resented not only Japanese competition but their very presence in America.” A California farmer describes the Japanese threat “as a germ of the mightiest problem that ever faced this state; a problem that will make the black problem of the South look white”(204). Under the influence of racism, a group of Japanese laborers took sides with Mexican laborers to form the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association. Prejudice in the working world did not extinguish Japanese extravagance, but rather enhanced it. Their confidence grew, and they strived to break threw new boundaries in society.
Alongside racism, Japanese-Americans found themselves being ratcheted up by American legislation. The alien land laws passed by California legislature in 1913 and 1918 denied landownership to Japanese immigrants. The laws were put in place to limit Japanese “presence by curtailing their privileges, for they would not come in large numbers and stay if they could not acquire land”(206). The inability to own or lease land was a major obstacle for the Japanese immigrants and these laws “threatened to turn the immigrant’s dream of settlement into a chimera. An Issei from Santa Paula, California, called the land law a ‘death sentence’ for the Japanese”(206). Japanese migrants came to America with the idea of purchasing new land and establishing new farms and businesses, but because they were not allowed to own land, these ideas were extinguished. As a result of the Ozawa case in 1922, a law was passed that denied eligibility for the Issei to gain citizenship. The Ozawa case not only solidified the Issei’s citizenship status, but also handed anti-Japanese supporters justification for their discrimination. During the same year, Congress passed the Cable Act which meant that anyone marrying an Issei would automatically lose their citizenship. This act added restrictions to who the Japanese could marry. Realizing their lack of a prosperous future in America, the Issei’s extravagance was becoming tarnished and their focus was shifted to the future of the Nisei generation. The Issei knew they had paved the path for the future generations and looked toward the future, trusting that their children would be able to do things they could not.
The Ozawa case and the Cable Act were just the beginnings of anti-Japanese legislation. In 1924, Congress passed the Immigration Exclusion Act which barred all immigration from Japan. These instances of American legislation caused the Japanese immigrants to morph their extravagance and find new ways to overcome new boundaries. American legislation revealed the immigrants who truly wanted to live permanently in America with the hope of one day gaining national citizenship. Many immigrants left America and went home because they couldn’t see their future in America. Some immigrants persevered through all the racial prejudice and legislation, enhanced their extravagance in the process and “no longer entertained the slightest desire to return to their native country” and much like a carp, “they had swum against the currents of adversity”(212). Twelve years later, the Cable Act was repealed and gave immigrants more freedom towards marriage. Even though the Japanese immigrants had overcome one boundary and gained a little freedom in America, they would soon find themselves tackling the most significant boundary yet—internment.
Five years after the repeal of the Cable Act, Japan bombed the United States largest naval base, Pearl Harbor. As a result of Japan’s actions, “Japanese Americans were losers in this war right from the start.” Pearl Harbor changed thousands of Japanese immigrant lives in an instant. Suddenly, Americans became extremely racist towards the Japanese and through United States propaganda, Americans began to look at the Japanese immigrants as an inferior race. Challenges like never before arose for both generations of Japanese immigrants, and “a kind of hysteria about Japanese Americans began to spread”(Spickard 105). Racism towards Japanese Americans grew and American ignorance began to show. A lieutenant general stated that “‘A Jap’s a Jap. They are a dangerous element, whether loyal or not. There is no way to determine their loyalty.’” American opinions of the immigrants were based on the actions of the Japanese who were not brave enough to come to America and gain freedom. Many people tried to harass the Japanese and keep them from moving east. The Governor of Idaho, Chase Clark, said: “The Japs live like rats, breed like rats and act like rats. We don’t want them buying or leasing land or becoming permanently located in our state,” But this mistreatment and discrimination would only strengthen Japanese extravagance because they wanted to push through hardship and prove their loyalty to Americans.
The world of the Japanese-Americans was quickly flipped upside down and the Japanese-Americans were run out of society. The army “decided to move everybody out by force and to incarcerate them in concentration camps.” Japanese internment became the graveyard or birthplace of Japanese extravagance during the 20th century. Immigrants found themselves selling and leaving behind all they had worked towards here in America. They were forced into secluded areas surrounded with barbed wire and were separated from their family. Some thought this was the end of their journey in America. Some immigrants began to forget their extravagance and couldn’t see their future in America. During these times of internment, Japanese immigrants were yarded and secluded from American life. Other immigrants strengthened their extravagance and wanted to “proudly embrace the imprisonment of their people as their best chance to demonstrate their patriotism by doing whatever self-denigrating thing the White American populace asked of them”(110). For these Japanese Americans, internment became a boundary of racial prejudice that needed to be crossed. The continual stream of racism tested the immigrants’ loyalty to America. Submitting to American oppression, Japanese extravagance grew and they wanted to show their loyalty by coping with the discrimination.
After the conclusion of World War II, Japanese began to have hope once again and their extravagance soared. They could finally see an end to the oppression they found themselves under. In 1952, Congress passed the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization act, allowing Japanese and other Asian immigrants to become naturalized citizens for the first time. The exclusion of immigrants was no longer based on race, but now based on those who were unlawful, immoral, and who were diseased in any way. Those who were willing to assimilate into the American economic, social, and political structures were able to gain citizenship. Japanese immigrants had finally overcome the boundary of American citizenship. Overcoming these boundaries of citizenship showed Japanese perseverance through the hard times. Over the next several years, they broke through more boundaries of racism and prejudice. However, this would not be the end of anti-Japanese sentiment and Japanese extravagance will once again need to morph and deal with legislation in the times to come.

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