Okihiro calls upon Asians in America to use women as a technique of telling American history because of their deprived position. Through history, women have never existed in peace because of various reasons. Okihiro observes that the black/white binary should not be the only way of telling American history. Asians are treated in the same way as women because they do not have peace in everything they do. Asians are always labeled as people of low status in society, just like women.
The writer observes that Africans and other people of color are urged to merge into the mainstream because it is believed that their culture is inferior. The minorities have developed American history, yet their efforts are not appreciated in society. Equally, women have participated in nation-building, yet their culture is never recognized in society. According to Okihiro, important American values and ideals emanate from the margins. This means that Asians, African Americans, Latinos, Indians women, gays, and lesbians are responsible for the growth of American culture. The groups mentioned have restored democracy in the course of their struggle. In chapter two, the writer notes that the struggle between Africans and whites have left Asians wondering whether they are yellow, black, or white.
Society does not consider the presence of Asians, which makes them behave like women who are always present in society but not seen. However, the writer comments that it is possible to categorize Asians under Africans than whites. Scholars perceive Asians differently. For instance, sociologists perceive them as intermediaries-minorities. In this regard, they are very important as far as labor is concerned. They supply all forms of labor that are both skilled and unskilled.
Historians on their side depict Asians as sojourners and aliens. In chapter three, Okihiro supports his sentiments that Asians have been grouped in the same camp as women in American history. This paper will, therefore, draw examples from various American histories to show how women are equated to Asians in America. Examples will be cited with respect to time, region, and representation.
Examples from American History
The feminist theory considers ways in physical differences between men and women are used by culture and social structure to show that women are allocated inferior and degrading activities such as motherhood and secretary. This shows that women are subjected to stereotypes, which portray them as weak and emotionally dependent on men. Women are often excluded from public activities, whereby they are relegated to the private domain of the home.
Women are ascribed specific feminine qualities and identity through socialization so that throughout history, women live in a state of false consciousness. Problems affecting women can be traced back to the writings of scholars such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Fredrick Angels. Engels asserted that women’s subjection began with the rise of private property (Engels 89). The emergency of private property subordinated women to men. In the same way, Asians in America view their position in society as being interfered with by other members, especially the whites.
Asian scholars borrow from the works of Angels to describe their deprived position in society. They view Asian subjection as a product of the overall exploitations and injustices that are found in a capitalistic society. They view exploitation as inevitable in all white-dominated societies. Political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of whites. However, the scholars concede that it is impossible to change the existing relationship without revising the social structure.
Asians continue to observe that there is no social structure that can hold for long if it is maintained through subjugating and exploiting a section of its members. The white race gained power and authority during the 18th century when they invaded various parts of the world. Culture, religion, social structure, and the existing international system are some of the factors that support white domination.
Culture is one factor that has been used to oppress and dominate Asians in America. Asian culture is never respected at all. They are always viewed as traditionalists because of their ways of living and religion. For instance, the Chinese are accused of being pirates because their culture demands them to work hard in order to fulfill their societal roles. Japanese on their side have faced problems as regards money laundering. They are seen as people who like shortcuts in life. In the modern world, Americans accuse the Chinese because they produce cheap goods, which give competition to European American goods.
Takaki observes that ethnicity and racism have been used extensively to deny Asians their rights in America (5). In the modern world, Asians are treated with low esteem because their race is believed to be inferior. Chinese immigrants and other Asians participated in the construction of the Transcontinental railway in the 19th century, but their efforts are not mentioned anywhere. Only the names of prominent people such as Abraham Lincoln are heard. During the American Civil War, Asians participated actively in order to end slavery. However, their efforts are never appreciated. Only Africans and whites are claimed to have participated in the war that ended human injustices.
Takaki argues that people from the Middle East are always mistrusted because they are linked to terrorism (10). Their culture is devalued since they are branded as violent and brutal people in the world. They are always under government scrutiny and, in extreme cases, are subject to profiling. Okihiro argues in his works ‘margins and mainstream’ that minorities such as Asians should look for ways of merging their cultures with those of Europeans (28). This is mainly because their culture is believed to be outdated.
On the economic front, Asians do not have the power to influence major decisions. They are incorporated into the financial system as underdogs. Their main role is production because they can only offer their cheap labor. They are non-owners of the means of production.
Before the American Civil War, Asians offered their labor free. They were treated in the same way as slaves. For instance, the Chinese were employed as home servants, where they were supposed to prepare food for their white masters. After the war, Asians did not get any fair share in the financial system. They could still be employed as home laborers. In this case, they were paid although the amount paid was not commensurate to their work. In other words, exploitation changed its form from iron chains to golden chains. The bitter pill of slavery was coated with sugar.
The trailer reveals the reality that we are still negative about women in society. The movie blames the media for focusing too much on the activities of men while neglecting women. The media highlights only the efforts of men in the political arena and other areas of influence in society. The media is accused of using women negatively. In all advertisements, women are portrayed as objects that can be used to satisfy the needs of men.
The movie shows that it is difficult for women to ascend to positions of influence in society because of media stereotypes. The media has taken over the socialization role of the family meaning that it is so effective in changing people’s perception. The media has made people believe that women are inferior and are objects for use by various segments of society. Women are portrayed as people who are there to entertain men due to their beauty, sexuality and youthfulness. They are not there to offer leadership in society.
This shows that the American character is still negative about women in society. Women experience various problems that emanate from male patriarchy. In the socio-political arena, women are like the proletariat who produce goods for the market. They do not have powers to challenge the position of men, who are like the bourgeoisie. The main conflict existing in American society is the conflict between women and men. The movie shows that gender disparity is the main area of concern to many scholars and policy makers. The movie suggests that unless the media changes its perception towards women, nothing much can be attained. This is because the media controls all forms of life in the modern society. The media is so efficient in socializing individuals because it will always make sure that people follow what it wants them to follow. Women should be presented as people with integrity and self-worth. This will increase their chances of becoming leaders.
Gary Okihiro warns that it is irrational to explain American character in terms of white/black binary. American character can be explained in many ways, which would help an individual understand what goes on in the state. His works on margins and mainstream explain what it means to be a true American (Okihiro 48). Several events explain why American character should not be described in terms of a single conflict. At first, there was a conflict between colonialists and Americans, which lasted for several years. The conflict is still felt in the modern world. Afterwards, there was an issue of representation.
Some groups were not equally represented in governance, which resulted to various conflicts in society. The issue of class ad ownership of property is another issue proving that several conflicts exist within American society. The conflict exists in the modern society. Furthermore, there is a problem of religion. Many religions have entered into conflicts to solve differences. Religion played an important role during the American Civil War. Some Christians were anti-protestant while others supported Catholicism. It was not an issue of slavery alone because some whites supported the activities of Africans claiming that slavery was anti-Christ. American character can be said be to be both positive and negative. Compared to other states, American character is more constructive.
Positive American Character
To begin with, the conflict between colonialists and Americans brought about many changes in the state. It also showed that Americans are ambitious and determined people in the world. It is observed that what Americans want will always be achieved no matter what it takes. The colonialists erected measures that would help them dominate Americans forever. Americans were never allowed to air their problems because they were supposed to supply cheap labor to colonialists.
The British had strong military that could easily subdue Americans whenever they tried to resist colonial rule. Many Americans languished in poverty in their own country while foreigners enjoyed the spoils of society. Americans showed that they are people who can achieve what they want by uniting against the British. American Revolution resulted from political upheaval of 18thcentury. Thirteen colonies united to demand for independence from British. The colonies were against the rule that lacked representation.
The parliament of Great Britain governed colonies without involving them in making key decisions. Consequently, all the thirteen colonies established provincial congress, which was an equivalent of governmental institution in 1774. The British attempted to re-impose direct rule but the states united to resist the move in 1775. The states proposed self-governance, which forced them to fight the American Revolutionary War of 1775 to 1783. The states decided that the British tyranny could no longer be tolerated.
Americans proved that they could change the world by adopting republicanism and neglecting oligarchic rule that was common in Aristocratic Europe. Americans rose up to challenge the international system at the time after some political and social transformations had taken place. This was an era referred to as American enlightenment. Republicanism was based on liberalism. Consequently, Americans were able to form a democratically elected representative government, which catered for the rights and wishes of each person in society. The US government addressed some fundamental issues that touched on the constitution in 1788.
This showed that Americans were always proponents of change. The constitution was adjusted in 1788. The adjustments replaced the provisions of the articles of confederation and perpetual union. A strong federated government was established in 1788 to replace the former system instituted in 1781. Americans continued to do well when they established the United States Bill of Rights in 1791. The constitution allowed people to exercise their natural rights.
The American Civil War was a conflict that was based on slavery. The war was fought between the Southerners and Northerners. The south supported slavery while the north was against it. Africans could benefit if the northerners won the war. As a result, the north went ahead to win the war hence abolishing slavery. Religion played a key role because some believed that the rich had the right to use slaves.
Protestants held that slavery was inhuman and was against God’s will. Northern Christians appreciated the fact that all people are equal in society. In this regard, there was no need of using some members of society without paying them. Slavery had been banned in the Northwest Territory in 1787. By 1804, slavery had been abolished in all states that were north of Mason-Dixon Line. Consequently, the congress moved in swiftly to ban international slavery in 1807. By then, slavery could only be exercised in rural cotton plantations in the south. The north industrialized because it had abandoned slavery. This means that investors were willing to invest in areas that did not support forced labor.
After the war, each person was treated with honor because each laborer received a wage that was commensurate to his/her work. Furthermore, America became a free society where each person could participate in elections. Any person was free to vie for any political office as long as he or she qualified. Discrimination based on race or ethnicity was no longer an issue to those seeking leadership in society.
The state could not attempt to erect barriers that would temper with individual fulfillment. The state could only act as a utility that oversaw individual realization. It is upon this strength that Americans decided to trust leadership with an African. Everybody voted in Obama. He was not discriminated in anyway because the constitution provides stricter measures against racial discrimination. No country boosts of cultural diversity than the US.
Negative American Character
As Okihiro could suggest, American society is more structured in terms of culture. The white culture is believed to be powerful. Therefore, other races are urged to assimilate. This is a problem because voters are convinced to vote on tribal and racial lines. This means that an individual must command a huge racial following for him/her to emerge winner in any election. This happens mostly in state politics where races or tribes elect representatives.
It is not surprising that majority of senators and governors are whites. This has a profound effect because elected leaders influence the system to appoint their cronies and relatives to key government positions. Other races are left struggling because they do not have the means of accessing government. Whites capture all major positions meaning that policies made will always favor them. Recently, the state of Arizona passed an immigration policy that sought to lock out other races from financial privileges. The white race would benefit because it has representatives in government.
The federal government has been adamant because most affected members are not whites. Since whites are not affected, no representative of federal government will attempt to complain. Students have been affected because they are forced to stay without their parents. Their parents moved to other states without biased the immigration law. This shows that American character cannot be explained in terms of a single conflict. In the recent Arizona conflict, Mexicans are affected most because the state borders Mexico. Mexicans are said to be encroaching to American land although the truth is that they pose a security threat to some whites. Mexicans give whites a stiff competition, which have prompted the enactment immigration law in Arizona.
Formation of class and subjugation of some members of society is another weakness of American character. There is a conflict between the owners of means of production and the poor. The poor produce goods that they do not consume. They produce goods for the market. The bourgeoisie have formulated some policies that do not allow the worker to think about his/her future. Workers are forced to work hard in order to acquire basic needs.
The bourgeoisie acquires the state and other important societal objects such as the media to influence the worker. The state does not come up with stern measures that can solve labor problems. Workers are alienated from their societal roles because of workload. Capitalistic society is a man eats man society because the rich uses the poor to enrich themselves. Workers are exploited to an extent that they are only left with time for exercising animal related activities such as eating, sleeping and procreating.
Finally, there is a conflict between the youth and the aristocrats. Power is concentrated in the hands of the rich while the youth are left suffering. It is not surprising that people who have reached retirement age are still trusted with leadership in society while the young people are neglected. Politicians have been accused of using youths to enrich themselves politically. The old bourgeoisie is keen with the way he/she spends resources. The new bourgeoisie is liberal, something that does not go down well with the rich. This big conflict has threatened to divide America into two.
Engels, Fredrick. Condition of the Working Class in England. London: Penguin Classics, 1987.
Okihiro, Gary. Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture. Washington, Dc: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York: Back Bay Books, 2003.