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Unfortunately, the opinions of many white Americans during this time were of disapproval rather than acceptance of the "melting pot" that was America. Takaki's work is also surprising when the subject notes Asian-Americans had lived in the United States for well over "150 years" yet still their existed much in the way of prejudiced behaviors toward young and old Asian-American's alike.
Takaki providers a wonderful insight of Asian-American culture stating they were diverse in nature, and inclusive of many different people including the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Philippino, and Laotian people, that "filled the streets with color" (Takaki, 1998, 4). Typically however they worked in lower class jobs and in garment factories where the author notes, "Chinese and Korean women hunch over whirling sewing machines, with their babies sleeping nearby" (Takaki, 1998, 4). Such a thought in contemporary society is haunting, given the United States prides itself on diversity, liberty and freedom for all. The segmentation of Asian-Americans during the early years is akin to the caste system in India one may say, with elegant positions and jobs during the 19th century reserved for high or middle class white or Caucasian-Americans.
Ping confirmed much of this information, as she noted it was very difficult for her and her husband to gain respect until he got a lucky break because of a job offer in New York. Ping noted when she first came to the United States, she lived with her husband in a room that was as small as a balcony, and the room was in an apartment shared by many other Taiwanese people. This correlates with the information Takaki spoke of when reflecting on the Asian-American experience during the 19th century. Ping noted she tended to still remain segregated on first coming to the States because of her limited English. She was more likely to align with other Asians and spend time with other Chinese students when she later went to school.
Ping also noted she only lived in that small apartment for a year, after which time she moved upstate because her husband received an admission offer from the University. So, Ping and her husband left the Chinese community in America, the one they were so familiar with, to move to a community or neighborhood dominated by white or Caucasian-Americans.
Kurashige and Murray (2002) note Asian-American history did not start during the 19th century, but rather immigrations increased during this time. Kurashige & Murray suggest that the presence of Asian-Americans dates far back, to the colonial period in American history, in places like Louisiana and other Southern areas. The authors place more emphasis on modern society, and how Asian-Americans are gaining ground and "transforming the face" of the American Culture (Kurashige and Murray, 2002). No longer do they have to take the lowest class jobs; rather, many Asian-Americans now own their own businesses, whether they are Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Laotian and even Asian Indian (Kurashige and Murray, 2002).
Ping confirms this historical context stating she was able to finally make a reasonable living after she attended University. She had to struggle much however, during the process, which required much in the way of perseverance, hard work and patience. However, once she moved to New York Ping notes, "life did become immensely better" especially after she and her husband received their Master Degrees in computer science. With a Master Ping and her husband could seek better paying jobs.
Kurashige and Murray do emphasize as does Takaki (1998) the many struggles endured during the 19th century, struggles that centered on the rights of people, including civil rights and suffrage for citizens of all races within America. In modern society according to the authors, Asian-Americans have moved past the prejudice and stereotypes endured during the 19th century, and instead share a history of struggle, but do also live their lives richly, filled with pride related to their ethnicity. This pride results from the many accomplishments and changes seen among the Asian-American people, especially those that are not working class but upper class citizens, who often serve as Entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Ping's comments align with the historical context provided by Kurashige and Murray (2002). Of interest are her comments about who she associated with when she first came to America. During that time she noted many American's still held prejudice's against the Chinese, largely because they were considered inferior. Ping suggested most people would hold her in high regard if she suggested she was Japanese or Korean, but not Chinese. However, Ping, after having struggled so long to succeed, as had so many other Chinese immigrants, chose to tell people that she was Chinese rather than lie about her ethnicity just to "fit in" or make friends with the American people.
Ping suggested that about a decade ago, she felt no shame about her Chinese culture even though many Americans considered her inferior. This idea of the Chinese being inferior may stem from the history of China as outlined by Takaki (1998) and Kurashige and Murray (2002), who acknowledged the poverty and primitive living many Chinese people endured under the socialist and communist regimes. While Ping still tends to have more Asian than non-Asian friends, she notes life has vastly approved for Chinese people and other Asian-Americans. Ping and her family to this day have no problem proudly announcing their Chinese heritage to the world. Ping is and has always remained loyal to her culture, even though she fled her homeland to realize greater opportunities in the United States.
Ping confirmed much of what Takaki (1998) and Kurashige and Murray (2002) provide a historical fact. In fact, her story fits with the exact historical context each author provides. During the 19th century there was little acceptance of people that were "different." Many Europeans populated the United States, and they for the most part were welcomed. but, like many ethnic groups, the American people were not as willing to accept the Chinese people flocking to the United States. Despite this the Chinese persevered, and Ping Wang is evidence that not only did many persevere, they also went on to live long, happy, healthy and rewarding lives.
The Chinese did struggle much under the communist regime, as noted by Ping and the authors. Many did want to flee or immigrate to America, as did other people living in other countries that were governed by a socialist party or dictator as a leader. Unfortunately, many immigrants found once they finally arrived in the United States, they realized much prejudice and stereotyping existed among the American people. Despite appearances, America was not yet 100% ready for the changes that other immigrants including the Chinese may bring to America.
However, this gradually changed with time, as more and more the United States became a wholly diversified nation. Fortunately like many other Asian-Americans, and as Kurashige and Murray confirm, Ping and her husband were able to overcome these obstacles and live a richer and rewarding life because of it.
Takaki, R. Strangers From a Different Shore:…[continue]
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