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Same America, Different Experiences

The emergence of America as a world power with an exuberant economy made it quite appealing to many nationalities, which streamed in, hoping to cash on the superior socio-economic status of the continent. Due to legislative structures governing admission of immigrants into the United States, many would unforeseen conditions including socio-economic hardships. The two groups of poems invoke a history of hardships experienced by the Chinese immigrants and African Americans into the United States. While told from two different perspectives, the poems have similar undertones in the experiences of the two groups. Further, even though the sentiments are individually centered, they mirror general experiences of both groups.

In both poems, the Chinese immigrants find themselves behind the cold forbidding walls of American prisons. What is even more striking is that these immigrants left hometowns where, in their own words, they would be heroes. Those who are lucky not to be behind bars are engaged in slavery. The imagery of ‘fox’ used in the Hero Poem suffices the justification.These experiences by the Chinese immigrants closely mirror those of African Americans, only at a different level. Even though, African Americans are not enclosed into prisons, they have been condemned into economic prisons. Despite the availability of white collar jobs, all African Americans speak about in the poems are labour intensive jobs. Essentially, the two groups face different aspects of discrimination in a far away land cut off by seas and mountains.

From the poems, it is apparent that the Chinese immigrants had little hope and pride in their country and government. Their decision to move out of home country into the United States was due to the failure of the government to provide a decent life for the citizenry. When hardships are met abroad, a feeling of melancholy pervades, prompting a desire to return. African Americans in the poems, however, do not talk about potential return, perhaps due to the historical sidetracking emergence of African Americans. They have decided to embrace their current situation rejoicing in it, singing through their troubles each morning.

The Chinese immigrants’ desire to change their status was more a function of revenge mission. Being highly skilled and educated, it disappoints almost to the point of self blame when treated in a manner completely unanticipated. This experience contrasts with that of African Americans whose mission is to make the best out of life with little resources at their disposal. These two divergent experiences can be attributed to the different levels of expertise as exhibited by the two groups of immigrants. African Americans easily settled for odd jobs, while the Chinese immigrant expatriates could not land the jobs they set out to find; besides being put into prison. Their social relations were equally influencing the experiences of the two groups. African Americans had families; voices of mothers are heard singing in the morning, young wives and children are mentioned. The Chinese immigrant is alone, in prison. The loneliness coupled with hardship clearly made the lives of immigrants insurmountably painful compared to their counterparts.

In conclusion, it is important to point out that while both groups found themselves in the hardships in a foreign land, their experiences were uniquely shaped by their differential backgrounds, motivations, aspirations and the response of the American authorities. The Chinese exclusion act greatly influenced the circumstances of the immigrants. This can be contrasted by the definitive conditions of African Americans in the American soil. So while both groups experienced similar conditions of exclusion, the manner in which such exclusions were expressed led to the different results for each of the parties.

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