We have throughout the semester and in the past few classes discussed the assimilation of immigrants into America. A common theme that was discussed was the theme of trying to change who you are to fit the group you are in. In my perspective, it is that many Americans expect perfection from others around them and in return immigrants that come to America try to fit into these norms. This is because of the growing culture of striving for perfection that grew in America. We refer this theme to people that have just immigrated but what about ourselves? For example, when we scroll through our Facebook feed, Instagram feed, or any other types of social media platforms we see pictures of friends who really don’t look the way that they appear. These pictures are of friends that have used filter after filter in this strive for perfection. I think when people think of assimilation they don’t think about this concept. Furthermore, transitioning from one area to the next we change ourselves and sometimes we don’t truly show who we are. When going from high school to college, there might be some things that we do, act, wear, or more to try our best to seem “perfect”. But, I’d argue that it is important for people especially immigrants to stick to their roots and to not be afraid to show the qualities in them that others may view as imperfect.
Immigrants have faced an innumerable amount of hardships while trying to assimilate into the United States. On Monday, we briefly discussed our trip to the Museum of Chinese in America. Before visiting that museum, I was totally unaware of how much discrimination Chinese immigrants faced. They came into this country in search of new opportunities and freedoms, and were utterly discriminated against.
There were certainly many images that had stuck with me throughout the trip, especially the propaganda image, titled “The Coming Man”, which was created in the year of 1881. This shows a cartoon of an evil looking Chinese man with long nails taking over and monopolizing all of the different work industries at the time. When white laborers began to organize for higher wages, American capitalists turned to Chinese workers to fill the need for human labor to open the frontier, fuel the industrial revolution, and support a new middle-class lifestyle. The Chinese were caught in between big industry and labor. Labor organizers used ideas of white supremacy to rally the working class. Prevented from joining labor unions, Chinese demands for better working condition fell into obscurity. White workers labeled the Chinese as the enemy. Americans accused Chinese workers of stealing their jobs, as well as being unfit for citizenship.
Even though this happened in the late 19th century, this issue is still relevant today. Many people in this country claim that immigrants are stealing jobs from American citizens. During Monday’s discussion, we touched upon how racism can still exist through different mediums, like putting up a rent flyer that says “Chinese only” or “Whites Only”. This makes us reflect on the fact that history does repeat itself in a strange and scary way. It makes me ponder on what the future holds for America.
On Monday in class, we were debriefing the class visit to the Museum of Chinese in America. Our discussion of the Museum led to many topics relating to Chinese Americans as well as Asian Americans in the US. The topic of discussion that I found particularly contentious and worthwhile examining was Asian people in Hollywood movies. The problem with these movies is that there aren’t a lot of Asian actors acting in them. To make matters even worse, there aren’t even Asian actors or actresses playing the parts of Asian characters in the movies. As it was mentioned in class, Katherine Hepburn played an Asian character in a movie and wore makeup to look the part, something called “yellow face.” Katherine Hepburn wasn’t the only actress of her time that wore a yellow face to portray these specific characters. Professor Rosenberg mentioned how this wouldn’t very well pass by people today because it’s very demeaning and derogatory. But, I find it funny how even though yellow face doesn’t occur as frequently today as it did before, there are still non-Asian actors and actresses who play Asian parts in Hollywood movies. To some, it might seem trivial that this still happens today and that it doesn’t have to mean anything in the greater scheme of things. But to think that would be ignorant to the fact that Asians are not only underrepresented in these movies, but misrepresented. Why does this happen? The only parts that Asian Americans are able to get are usually the stereotypical roles such as kung-fu or martial arts characters, especially with Chinese Americans. I’m not necessarily saying that this is a bad thing since several Chinese actors, such as Jackie Chan, were able to take advantage of this gap that Hollywood badly wanted in their movies to be viewed as worthy in the movie industry. But I think that in a nation with so much diversity, why don’t we see this diversity in the movies we watch? Minority characters are so rarely seen in these films and usually they’re never the main lead as they’re usually the supporting characters at the most. Personally, I don’t think that’s as bad as the idea that Asians are misrepresented. I think once we fix the misrepresentation of Asian characters in Hollywood movies, we can focus on fixing the underrepresentation.
One of the things we saw at the Museum of Chinese in America, as well as something we discussed in class on Monday and throughout the semester, was how certain groups of people became stereotyped in America. In the museum, we saw some of the stereotypes against the Chinese people, especially cartoons reminiscent of Nazi propaganda against the Jews. Today everyone agrees that such stereotyping about a person, or group of people, is evil and wrong. Despite this, our nation, as well as our politics, is littered with this injustice of stereotyping. On one side of the political spectrum, a religion is assumed to be filled with terrorists. While on the other side, someone who supports the President of the United States is deemed a racist deplorable. In modern America stereotyping has not only turned into something about race but also became our media and politics. In the 2016 election, we got a view of this. Our presidential candidates made our politics more about name calling and less about the issues. This problem is also further incited by the American media. I am not saying the media is evil. The press is what makes this country great by keeping our government in check. The problem with the modern media is it promotes this stereotypical culture. This is in part due to the way we intake information. On our phones, we can access stories from thousands of news outlets. The only way a news outlet can attract views is by having a catchy provocative title despite only having shaky supporting facts. All news media on both sides are guilty of this. In turn, our political arguments started to be along the same lines because that is what would make it to the front page. In order to make progress, we need the media to talk about the issues and stop stereotyping in order to sell papers. I believe this to be one of the main causes of the deep divide in modern America. There is no way to have a meaningful discussion if the argument is “I don’t like Trump because he is a racist” or “I don’t like Hillary because she is a crook”. We as Americans should be better than that. We should look at the issues and the facts and not merely make assumptions because it says it on Facebook. We should also look at the people who disagree with us and not assume their viewpoint as automatically stupid but should try and understand their point of view and where they are coming from. This is the only we can make progress and make America great again.
In class today we discussed a controversial poster that read “looking for roommates Chinese preferred.” At first I did not really like the sound of it. It seemed unfair to those of other ethnic descent to display such a thing publicly. However, now that I have thought about it some more I think that if having a Chinese roommate was very important to the person who made these posters, then there should be no problem with what he wrote. We discussed the possibility that perhaps he should have written nothing and eventually just only reached out to those of Chinese descent, but I think this would have created more problems. If I was looking for a roommate and saw this poster I would realize that applying would be useless, but if it said nothing about preferring a Chinese roommate then the poster would probably get my hopes up just to have them later crushed. If somebody would prefer to live with someone similar to themselves, then I probably would not want to live with that person anyway and wouldn’t want it to be a secret that they preferred someone with a different background.
Applying for things is very stressful. I have recently applied to many internships, and honestly I have no idea if I am going to get any of them. One reason that I am left with this mystery is that when applying to jobs there aren’t always clear cut qualifications that indicate what the employer is looking for. I’m not saying that employers should point out that they are looking for a 6’2 , 20 year old Jewish guy that goes to Baruch, but I think that would definitely make the whole process easier. Now, while that gets fishy when it comes to finding a job because of all of the laws protecting different ethnicities… I think that restricting a search may be a good idea in other types of applications and processes. For example, there is an honors program at a college in New York which states that a student cannot get in unless they have a 1400 or over on their SATs. This system may not seem fair at first, but imagine when applying to colleges there was no stress because you pretty much knew whether or not you were getting in. I think that would take a huge weight off of people’s shoulders and decrease a lot of worries.
While singling out a certain ethnicity nowadays may be frowned upon I think that unless it is truly damaging to another ethnicity it may not be the worst idea. We should consider the fact that while writing “Chinese preferred” on a poster might bother some people I think that not being accepted as a roommate and being in suspense for a while could bother people even more.