The pain and the suffering, the oppression, and the exclusion all describe the history of Asia America. When they arrived to the United States, they become labeled as Asians. These Asians come from Japan, China, Korea, Laos, Thailand, and many other diverse countries in the Eastern hemisphere. These people wanted to escape from their impoverished lives as the West continued to infiltrate their motherland. They saw America as the promise land filled with opportunity to succeed in life. Yet due to the discrimination placed from society and continual unfair treatment by the government, the history of Asian American was being defined and written every day they were in America, waiting to be deported because of the complexion of their skin. Striving everyday to conform and mix with society, the Asian American faced constant rejection and exclusion from the American way of life, defining the history of Asian America.
The Asian Americans came to America with a common goal: to seek work and make money. In the article The Centrality of Racism in Asian American History, Takaki tries to frame the Asian American history and describe the hardships and unfair treatment absorbed by the Asian American. Takaki asserts: Employers developed a dual wage system to pay Asian laborers less than white workers and pitted the groups against each other in order to depress wages for both. “Ethnic antagonism”- to use Edna Bonacich’s phrase- led white laborers to demand the restriction of Asian workers. Throughout the article, Takaki shows the hardships endured by the Asian Americans due to the oppression and discrimination from the “whites.” These Asian Americans lost their low-wage jobs, and they realized their only options were to become “shopkeepers, merchants, and small businessmen.” The Asian Americans were excluded from the labor market, and the only means of survival was to be a self-entrepreneur. They were forced to separate from society and start their own businesses. Even today Asian Americans have been labeled as Laundromat and restaurant owners. This fear of Asian Americans stealing their jobs influenced the government to respond. Hence, the Asian Americans have a rich history of holding a wide range of occupations throughout their history.
The government targeted the Asian Americans as a threat. As Takaki asserted, “Unlike European immigrants, Asians were also victimized by the institutionalized racial discrimination of public policies.” These policies include the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the National Origins Act of 1924. The social image of America can clearly be seen as only “whites” when the government institute policies to encourage European women to arrive to America so the immigrants can form families, while Asian women were barred the entry to prevent families to form for Asian Americans. Furthermore, the Asian American was denied naturalization when the government instituted the “The Naturalization Law of 1790.”2 Thus the Asian American would not be able to exert any political pressure without the ability to vote. These extenuating circumstances continue to shape the history of Asia America.
In addition, the fear of the Asian American can be seen beyond the governmental exclusion policies and social pressures. Takaki explains how during World War II, the president issued Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese Americans to be incarcerated in internment camps by the federal government. If the United States were afraid of people who had origins with the enemy, then the Germans and the Italian Americans should have been incarcerated. The Japanese Americans were feared especially from their skin complexion. Even though two thirds were citizens, the American government lacked the trust in these people to remain loyal to the country. This kind of specialized treatments of Asians is unique only to Asian Americans, and this is what defines the history.