The two articles assigned to for this week’s reading has to do with the stance that Asian immigrants and Americans are a race of people that fall in between the two bipolar classifications of race, Black and White, and how their status has initially been viewed, altered and eventually challenged the viewpoints of racial hierarchy, especially in reference to the labor force. There are also recurring themes such as Erika Lee’s ideas about the globalism of Asian immigrants, as well as references to Jun’s Black Orientalism and how Asians were compared to blacks, though these articles cover the white viewpoints on this particular issue.
In the Jung Moon Ho article, we have a piece written from a sort-of biographical, historic perspective about the spread of Asian Americans throughout the world, the global expansion of these people into the Caribbean and the US. The author states his article was originally meant to be a study of plantation workers in Louisiana, but expanding into the Asian American coolie historic transmutation and origins into the Americas. He talks about the different elements in the local, national, and transnational scope that created and continuously redefined the coolie culture in the Americas as well as how they embodied the hopes, fears and contradictions of emancipation (Jung 5). Jung goes to great lengths to demonstrate how the immigrating Asians, the “coolies”, were wanted for their promise of cheap labor in the South for work that was undesirable by European immigrants, while being fiercely chastised by the North because of their apathetic nature towards their own enslavement and the South who would use them as such. It was interesting to read, however, that in the attempts to present the “Chinaman” as a free willed, immigrating laborer, there were brief mentions of equality that would be afforded the Asian immigrant because he is “intelligent and who is not able to get along at first with us because he is a stranger;” but as soon as he acquaints himself with American customs and language, laws and courses of business, “he will ask for equal privileges and shall get them” (Jung 115). Even as we’ve seen through history and the many mentions in class of unequal treatment, the use of such promising lies by Southern Asian Labor proprietors in order to achieve their means is subtly reflective of the country’s belief in a free nation.
Claire Jean Kim’s article is theoretical research piece that discusses the methods by which Asian Americans have been delegated into an “in-between” class of people, especially in reference to the Black and White historical dynamic. There are familiar definitions in the article, such as how race as a culture is conceived and is intrinsically fluid, changing, unstable and dynamic (Kim 107) or Omi and Winant’s ideas concerning social constructs, but also new ideas about the racial triangulation that Asians and Asian Americans have had to endure. Like Jung’s article, we have a portion of this text presented in reference to the cheap labor that Asians provided, and how their status in terms of this dilemma that was facing the US further encompassed their position in this racial triangulation between the White/Black polarity. They were deemed intelligent and hard working, but calmer and more complacent than their black counterparts and inexpensive; their status as temporary, alien and unattainable in terms of citizenship along with all the yellow peril imagery left the Asian immigrant as a perfect pawn for the labor needy US society, particularly in the South. Further on in the article, we have various historic examples of media presentation and legal affirmation of Asian American racism in various situation, encompassing the theme of empowerment for racial minorities. Overall, these two articles sum up the historical use of Asian immigrants for cheap labor, but also as focus on them an alien race that is incapable of assimilation in a bipolar viewpoint in history’s longstanding racial battle of Black and White.