For many Americans, we can trace the origins of our family tree to an immigrant story. One of hardship, sacrifice, and — for the lucky few — bittersweet triumph over circumstances. If our nation is shaped by diversity, how have we ended up in such a problematic time marked by extreme divisiveness and inequality? We may never know where the origin of our racism and systematic disadvantage…
Jk it’s slavery. Jk again (kind of) — the relationship between race and disadvantage is extremely complex because the tentacles of systematic disadvantage extend far beyond individual cases.
It takes a long time to feel at home in another country. It takes mispronunciations, catching up on a lot of pop culture to understand the references, adapting to a different kind of humor, eating unfamiliar food and walking other roads. It takes a family in both countries, whether tied by blood or by adventures and bad days at work and difficult prelims and the question of what to do next. It takes a long time, and it happens gradually; you only realize it when it’s already happened, its making slips away in days and seasons. To me, it’s happened.
I grew up in a minority-majority enclave in the Bay Area. My elementary school was made up of 800 students whose demographics were made up of roughly fifty-percent East Asian and fifty-percent South Asian. There, at school, you could probably count the number of white kids on one hand. Almost everyone had immigrant parents and spoke at least two languages. There, you would see not just Christians but Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Atheists, just to name a few, playing together during recess.
Imagine a society in which almost 1 in 4 African-Americans are in poverty; for white people, the number is less than 1 in 10 (Proctor et al., 12). Imagine that society in which not only black children are more likely to be born into poverty, but half of them will also remain there as adults. Only a third of poor white people will stay in the lowest income quintile (Reeves, 1). No, this isn’t the 1850’s. This is American poverty in 2016.
Immediately following the death of Keith Lamont Scott, protesters had come to the incontrovertible conclusion that the police officer who shot the 43-year-old African American man in Charlotte, North Carolina had clear racist motivations. Violent protests and riots erupted in Charlotte, forcing the North Carolina governor to declare a state of emergency. A similar string of events happened in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American man. Following the incident, the media was convinced that race played a key role in the death of Brown. Sensing that the government was granting Wilson impunity, protesters and rioters took to the streets and turned an otherwise ordinary U.S. city into a virtual war zone.
I recently visited a department store near Kyoto station, hunting for a power converter so I could charge my laptop. The store was split into 7 floors, each selling different products. Most were immediately recognizable: “Men’s Fashion,” “Women’s Fashion,” “Books,” and so on. One floor, however, was mysteriously labeled “subculture.” Of course, I had to check it out. As expected, the floor was full to the brim with anime, manga, trading cards and arcade games.
The 2015 biopic Trumbo depicts the struggle that many screenwriters faced during the Red Scare. Dalton Trumbo (played by Bryan Cranston), along with nine other screenwriters, was tried and charged for contempt of Congress under the accusation of writing films promoting anti-American ideals. As a consequence, he and many other writers faced blacklisting, forbidding them from writing and getting paid, wasting an enormous amount of talent. After his jail time, he decided to use the loopholes in his court orders to his advantage. Trumbo wrote films under the identity of Robert Rich (another screenwriter who was away on military leave) and even won an Academy Award for Best Original Story for The Brave One.
If not for the strong desire to assimilate into American culture, the film world would have struggled to launch itself. Immigrants came to America and found it easier to adopt these values instead of embracing their own culture. However, the content of film was just as important. With this, there was an ability to make, edit and distribute movies. There was a drive in the technological world, thanks to Thomas Edison and Eadweard Muybridge.