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September 8, 2007
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A view of one of America’s “Model Minorities”

Jessie Johnson

Cultural Diversity
Research Paper
August 20, 2007

The United States ethnic group which I chose to study is Japanese-Americans, which is classified in the Asian American group. I researched the groups history here in the U.S. and their over all assimilation into the dominant American culture.

Many of the first generation Japanese immigrants, the Issei, came to America as sojourners and were young male laborers who came to America seeking Western technology and opportunity. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 more Japanese immigrants were lured into the country by way of the Hawaiian sugar plantations, in order to fill the labor demand left by the baring of Chinese immigrants. Because of these initial points of contact the two greatest areas of settlements for Japanese in the U.S. are California and Hawaii, with additionally notable settlements in Washington, New York, and Illinois. (  3) Most Japanese Americans in more recent times choose to live in urban, densely populated areas, but are usually less residentially segregated than other minority groups such as blacks or Hispanics. (Healey, 367)

However, racism and an anti-Asian mentality that had barred the Chinese from citizenship carried over to the Japanese. They were considered too foreign and it was said that they could not be assimilated into the American culture. An article on from the US History Encyclopedia talks about the passing of anti-Japanese laws that prohibit interracial marriage and exclusion from opportunities within the dominant society, as well as segregation and denial of citizenship. (“Early Settlement in Hawaii and California”, par. 2) The Anti-Japanese frenzy grew fierce, violent, and even murderous, as the competitions for the job market grew more competitive. Caucasian San Franciscans where outraged that their jobs were being taken by hard-working Japanese laborers; who were willing to work longer hours for less pay.

In 1906 the San Francisco Board of Education was pressured by Anti-Japanese bigots to vote for establishing a “separate-but-equal” school for all Asians, including Japanese. The segregation ended with the forging of the “Gentleman’s agreement” in 1907, which furthered limited the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S.  However the agreement did not prevent the ones who were already living in America from bringing over family. And with the active ban on interracial marriages, the young Japanese men would acquire wives thru correspondence and pictures from matchmakers in their homeland (Bankston  589).  Because of this convenient loophole the Japanese Americans were able to maintain a balanced sex-ratio of men and women and start families.

The Issei’s first language was Japanese; many of them knew little English and could only communicate on a very elementary level. This was just one thing that made them the target of a lot of discrimination and prejudice by the dominant society. To adjust to this they formed enclave societies, called Little Tokyos where they established business and supported one another by dealing within their own community. Thru this way, they were able to limit their contact with the dominant society and protect themselves from discrimination, however this only helped to reinforce the stereotypes of the Japanese being “clannish and unassimilable” (Healey, 357).
The second generations, called Nisei, were determined to gain the approval despite the opposition they received from the dominant society. They established the Japanese American Citizens League in 1930, as a way to achieve this goal by expressing an “ardent patriotism that was to be sorely tested” (Healey, 357)

December 7, 1941 brought about the attack on Pearl Harbor, which launched a fear of an orchestrated Japanese invasion. All the decades of racism and anti-Japanese avocation worked to instigate one of America’s most blatant violations of it’s citizens’s civil rights.  All the Japanese Americans, both aliens and citizens alike, where ordered to abandon their homes and they were forced into concentration camps, located further inland in the deserts. The camps were crowded, oppressive, and dirty but the Nisai urged the Japanese to corporate in order to prove their loyalty. In order to escape the camps some would even join the army.

The camps had several effects on the Japanese American’s lives. The Japanese who had originally come over from Japan were of a very male dominated culture, with women being mostly homemakers and being in subjection to the males in the family, with little time for learning. But in the camps women found that they had more free time to pursue their own education and to learn English. Also young women were able to meet young men on their own without the traditional introduction from the family, which weakened the tradition of arranged marriages.
Another effect that the camps had on the Japanese Americans was the switching of power from the first generation Issei to the second generation Nisei. In the camps, it was the Nisei who dealt with their jailors as their Japanese-speaking parents could not.

Japanese culture places high value on education and hard-work. Even thru the early days, where they were barred from jobs within the dominant society the Japanese immigrants stressed the needs for a high education and encouraged this in their children. After the war, the Nisei did not rebuild the enclave communities as they once were but they took all advantages to further their education and when the job market began to open up around the 1950s the “Nisei were educationally prepared to take advantage of the resultant opportunities (Healey, 363) Compared to other racial minority groups, Japanese Americans as a whole score very high on the nation’s standards for education and in some areas are above the average.

Because of this, by 1960 Japanese Americans’ occupational profile can be viewed as similar to that of white Americans. But in truth they are usually over represented among professionals, and many are paid fewer benefits, than are white professionals of equal standing and education. Also something to consider is that many who have high-profile jobs also live in high-profile areas where the cost of living is inflated, meaning that that amount of money doesn’t stretch all that far. It is also important to note that many of the immigrants that come in today are also very well educated and high-profiled, and this only helps to further the image of the “super-smart” minority.

But because that image of “success” is so sustained thru the occupational profiles of many Asia-Americans, including the Japanese, they are stereotyped as being a “model minority”.  The use of this label attempts to contrast and even chastise other minority groups, most specifically black, by claiming that they haven’t worked hard enough to achieve the apparent success of the Asian minorities, such as the Japanese.

But that doesn’t mean that the Japanese or other Asian groups don’t suffer from discrimination and prejudice.  This form of “positive” prejudice is simply different than the openly hostile kind that they received when they first came to the U.S., and is only an example to show how modern racism has taken over more traditional racism.

The Japanese American in modern times is now much more acculturated then some other Asian-American groups are. Part of this is due to the assimilation of American values into their own culture. Another part of it is the low rate of Japanese immigration that is coming into the country to re-introduce the culture back into the community. The tendency for the Japanese to marry into other races is also higher than it is in some other minority groups.

But while the rate of immigration from Japan has been low; we see, especially in recent times, the interest of assimilating some of Japan’s culture and customs into our own American culture, especially into the young “pop” culture.  Things such as Japanese music has, become popular here in America, especially among the younger generation. Accompanied by the popular clothing styles, and where names such as “gothic Lolita” and “visual kei” are becoming better known.  Another trend is for the Japanese comic books or “Manga” to be translated and it has become incorporated into our libraries and even our school systems as a way to get younger generations more interested in reading. And with the manga comes an interest in the Japanese philosophies and religions such as Buddhism and Shinto.

In American society the Japanese Americans have been changed and influenced thru their experiences and history in this country. But it is also true that American culture has also been changed and affected by the inclusion of the Japanese into our society.  And though it is still only a very tiny fraction of the total population, the Japanese will probably continue to have an effect on the culture and the linguistic traditions here in America.



1. Healey, Joseph F.  Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class: The Sociology of Group Conflict and Change – 4th ed.  California: Pine Forge Press, 1945.   
2. Bankston, Carl L, and Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo. Immigration in U.S. History. California: Salem Press, 2006.
3.   Japanese American.   18 August 2007  <…>
This was a research paper that I did for my Cultural Diverstiy class, on Japanese-Americans.
Part of this is based on facts that I learned and part of it is my own examinations on how I think that Japanese Americans have fit into America's overall culture.

I learned a lot thru the writing of this paper and I wish that I could have put more information into it it than I was able too.
If I could have written about everything I had wanted it would have been much, MUCH longer. lol

A Bibliography is included in the paper, but....

2 other great resources that I found, too late to use in the paper are:
The Japanese American Family Album - by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (Awesome book! I greatly enjoyed reading it and I learnd so much. X3 Highly reccommended! )

And the Densho Website: [link]
"Densho's mission is to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We offer these irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy and promote equal justice for all."

I also discovered that there is a Japanese American National Museum that I would like to visit someday.: [link]


Anyways, I don't know if anybody will find this as interesting as I did, but I felt compelled to share some of the interesting things I learned.
To go with this I also had to do an art project and when I finish I might post that as well. ^___^
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swenyar Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2007
This is good.
I would include the sister city programs Example Ann Arbor MI sister city is Hikone Japan. How these programs affect Americans points of view to Japanese society in the American culture.
I also would have included the struggle in 1980’s that Japanese car makers had competing in the Automotive American market. They were able to keep there foot hold due to the Gas crises in the 1970’s, because they built smaller cars with better gas mileage.
Japanese Automotive companies opened several manufacturing falsities here in the US hiring many American workers.
2006 the governor of MI went to Japan to convince Honda to open new automotive faculties in MI to help save the states economy.
(Foot note) MI was the headquarters for American Automotive.
Japanese work ethics influenced American business in the 1980’s with there office space designs. American office space lost its walls and had only small dividers. (Known now as cubes)
I would have also include the influence of Japanese modern Architecture
A Japanese Architect Minoru Yamasaki designed the twin towers the world trade center
Also Japan has purchased good amount of American real state for investment purposes.
Japanese may be small minority but there investments give them large presence here in the US.
You did a good job on this paper your discussion on immigration and Japanese American history helped tie together your thesis.
I would advise never use the word “I “ in a research paper.
I am working on my Masters in history I can’t help but advise. ^_^
Nice work
Arai-Hime Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
There is alot that I found that I would have liked to include in the paper, but my teacher didn't want the paper to be too long so I couldn't put in nearly the amount of stuff that I would have liked to talk about. -.-;

And I normally woudn't include myself into the paper, but the teacher was specific on the fact that she wanted our own thoughts and analysis of how the cultures mixed together. Since the class was Cultural Diversity she wanted us to make hypothosis and evaluations of the information moreso than just strict fact and history.
lol, I'm not really into history that much (I can never remember facts or dates, usually just overall info).

Thanks for the advice. ^.~
swenyar Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2007
I would have given you an A but after hearing the requirements I would give you an A+. Good job.
I know to many history facts it has been drilled in to my brain. ^_^
Arai-Hime Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
^__^ Thanks!
lol, I remember things best visually. Numbers and such don't really stick well in my mind. ^^;
swenyar Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2007
I suck at math. I am not good at keeping things like numbers in my head. I am very visual to. I use art to help me remember historical facts. Sounds silly but it work. ^_^
GyokueinoKoori Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2007
This was interesting. *thumbs up*
queen0of0spades Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2007
That was a good read and incredibly interesting. Thanks. = D
Arai-Hime Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
^__^ Your welcome, I'm glad you liked it! ~<3
Aunumwolf42 Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2007  Student General Artist
Arai-Hime Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Really? Hmm..Interesting. ^_^
Most of my info came from books and the internet.
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