Being an American

The American Dream is considered to be the ideal of life, including success and prosperity for every resident of the United States. Initially, the United States in the eyes of Europeans was the amazing country where democracy prevailed instead of the monarchy and where there was no division into classes. There was also the freedom of conscience and religious tolerance. Thus, the Americans had freedom that was unprecedented for the rest of the world. It was believed that every American could reach prosperity through hard work. It sounded as a reasonable compromise for a quite decent life. However, this ideal was destroyed by social inequality. In the 19th century, slavery was abolished.

On the paper, African-Americans as well as other nationalities had the same rights as the whites did. The alarming reality consisted in the fact that in many parts of the United States, colored people were recognized as second-class citizens. Numerous immigrants and African Americans sought a path for a better life for their families. Ossian Sweet and Kiyo Sato would agree that being an American does not mean receiving American citizenship, while the ideal of American Dream can be destroyed by the sociopolitical system. Ossian Sweet witnessed a dangerous reality of being a black American. He wanted to find the way out of the culture that tolerated such crimes as lynching in its history. Sweet believed that education could become a way of equalizing the problem. Thus, he went to Howard University Medical School and Wilberforce University. Ossian worked hard in order to implement his dream of reaching equality. Ossian Sweet faced the pity reality that race relations in the United States stood frozen. Being a student, he became the witness of race riots. Riots occurred in particular due to the fact that soldiers demobilized after the victory in World War II returned to their hometowns and found that their seats were occupied by blacks.

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These riots entered the history as ‘The Red Summer’ due to spilled blacks’ blood. Sweet decided to try finding his happiness in Detroit. Having money, he faced difficulties in finding a nice house. Realtors simply refused to work with him. Finally, Sweet found a realtor who was interested in making money more than in the idea of race segregation. Sweet’s dream was to become a member of the American society, but it was broken by the racist prejudice. The areas that were settled mostly by blacks were called Black Bottom. Sweet did not want to buy a house in this area. He strived to live equally with whites in a prestigious area. In September 1925, a black physician Ossian Sweet bought a house in a prestigious area of Detroit that was considered to be a home only for the white. The summer of 1925 when Sweet bought the house in this district was considered as violent due to subsequent events. He settled there with his wife and daughter. Sweet liked this house not for its interior, but for its message (Boyle 22). He believed that he had deserved it. Even reaching prosperity and success did not help Sweet to become a real American with all range of rights. Boyle depicts Sweet as “a professional man, better educated, wealthier, more accomplished than most of the whites he encountered” (20). He had come to Detroit with nothing, but managed to earn respect of the colleagues at the best colored hospital. Despite all these achievements, Ossian realized all dangers of living in a white district of Detroit. He knew that his status would not protect him (Boyle 22).

In fact, soon after his purchase of the house in the prestigious area, an angry crowd came to the house and shouted racist slogans. Sweet invited two brothers and seven friends to organize a defense. Soon, people, who gathered at the house, began to throw stones at the windows. At any time, the crowd could start the assault. Some of the besieged fired several shots from a window. One person was killed and another one was wounded, after which the attackers lost the desire to go on the attack. All adults, who were in the house, appeared before the court. The defense was taken by a brilliant lawyer Clarence Darrow who showed that defense was in accordance with the classical principles of Anglo-Saxon law ‘my house is my fortress’. All defendants in the case of Sweet were justified. The case of Sweet was a unique case in the history of the U.S. courts’ decisions. The blacks always faced discrimination that was created by the U.S. legislature. The right to self-defense appeared before the legislature in the first code of laws. All the peoples of the world had a custom that allowed killing or acting in self-defense. However, the authorities did not like these customs because people, who got accustomed to defending themselves, did not need governmental protection. Therefore, although the right to self-defense has never been canceled, the government has always tried to limit it as much as possible.

Throughout the history of America, the U.S. courts have several times demonstratively justified defending Indians and treated black citizens with an obviously great prejudice. After the Civil War, many state legislators did everything possible to ensure that former slaves could not get a weapon. One of the most effective measures was a ban on the sale of cheap guns and pistols as blacks could not afford expensive weapons. Dealing with cases of self-defense, the courts took the side of the whites just because they were white. In the Sweet’s case, the self-defense was crucial as the racists were not able to hang Dr. Ossian Sweet only because someone from his home made a very good shot.

The trial became a national sensation that made Americans turn their attention to the fundamental issue in the society. Kiyo Sato would agree with Sweet about difficulties that were experienced by anyone else than white Americans in the United States. Kiyo Sato was the eldest child in the family of Japanese immigrants who grew up in California. Sato’s family worked hard on its land, growing raspberries, strawberries, and other produce. The father made efforts to build and maintain their house. Sato’s family could become an embodiment of the American dream, but there was one problem. They were the Japanese. Despite the fact that Sato was born in America and, therefore, was the citizen of America, her heritage marked her as an outsider. Despite this oppressive discrimination, Sato’s family was loyal to the country, which was chosen by them to live and raise the children.

Despite the hope of Sato to find her American dream, she faced the sharp reality of being Japanese in the country in which she was a foreigner. The authorities issued the law, according to which all people with Japanese roots should be removed from their homes and detained in internment camps: “like a huge, ominous wave, the dreaded day creeps up the state, ridding it out anyone with more than one-sixteenth Japanese blood” (Sato). Everything began from a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. The attack was a shock to the American people. The government feared a possible invasion of Japan on the West coast of the United States and that Americans of the Japanese origin could support such an invasion, as well as acts of sabotage on the part of representatives of the Japanese community. To protect the United States, the decision on internment was adopted. Like many Japanese-American boys, her brother chose to join the military to show his patriotism.

Nevertheless, even this action was not valued. Despite Kiyo’s brother serving America, the rest of the family was put into custody (Sato). Sato and her family were detained in accordance with the order for the crime that consisted in having Japanese ancestors (Sato). The camps were characterized by poor living conditions as they were overcrowded. The life in the camps was not easy because housing barracks were built in haste. There were also problems with education of children. Taking into account the desperate struggle of Sato’s family for a possibility to build their life, their relocation was considered as frustrating. The story of Sato’s family is an example of discrimination, prejudice, and oppression. This era did not give the Japanese a possibility to own land and apply for the American citizenship. By the way, throughout the war, there was no strong evidence that would confirm the fears of a possible support of Japan in the war against the United States on the part of Japanese Americans. In subsequent years, the U.S. government officially recognized the illegitimacy of these actions. Despite all the sufferings experienced in the camps, the Sato’s family remained optimistic about their future and devoted to the country that had betrayed them. 

This showed a high morality of the Japanese American family, as well as the sense of patriotism that could be alien to many white Americans. Both Sweet and Sato were the victims of the problem of discrimination that has a very long history. It is about historical racial discrimination, i.e. about the consequences of inequality that has existed in the United States for centuries. There is particular stability in the fact that racial discrimination is perceived by many Americans as a phenomenon that is present in their life, but it is difficult to find examples of this discrimination in real life. Thus, Sweet’s and Sato’s life stories can be used as a perfect example to provide evidence of racial and national discrimination in the United States. They suffered from racism ideology that was aimed at individuals or social groups of the population suffering from the policy of persecution, humiliation, shame task, violence, escalation of hostility, resentment, as well as prejudice on the grounds of skin color, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.

There was a belief that there were some groups of people with particular (usually physical) characteristic features that made them superior or inferior relative to others. The stories of Sweet and Sato were not unique for the United States of the 1920-1930s. They are bright examples of intolerance and discrimination of national minorities. Despite believing in reaching the American Dream through education and hard work, Sweet and Sato were not able to overcome the American tradition of white superiority. If Sato and Sweet met each other, they would inevitably agree that being an American does not mean receiving the American citizenship. In the 1920s, being an American meant being white. Other nationalities were simply considered as the second class.

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