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US History: Fights for the Liberties

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Within the history of the United States of American, the presence of discrimination against other groups of people has been an inherent part of the country’s values. This nation preaches liberty, but fails to realize or chooses to ignore how they have striped this freedom from the hands of minority groups such as the Native Americans and the Chinese. These two assemblies of people were subjugated by the dominant white society in all aspects of life including culturally, socially, economically, and politically. The speech by Chief Joseph at Washington, D.C. and the letter, “American Missionary,” by Saum Song Bo, address the injustices that have been done against their people.

The speech in Washington, D.C. by Chief Joseph, the tribal leader of the Nez Perce, was an attempt to gain the Indians the same liberties as whites. In his address, he conveyed that regrettably, nothing was ever achieved through the conversations and he is exhausted by the many disregarded promises. He also commented on how these discussions will not bring his dead tribe members, the ones who died in the disastrous retreat to Canada after war broke out because of three young Indians killing four whites who were known for their abuse of Native Americans. He then proceeded to announce that he and the Nez Perce are willing to live in harmony but asks to be treated similarly, when he stated, ‘If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace… Treat all men alike.’ Chief Joseph also was willing to yield to white law when he proclaimed, ‘Let me be a free man… and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty,’ imploring the Indians to be provided the same freedom as the whites of the nation. He would continue to spend the rest of his life unsuccessfully protesting and petitioning for his people.

The letter, ‘American Missionary,’ penned by Saum Song Bo, a Chinese-American writer, was a response to the news regarding the construction of the Statue of Liberty. The idea of freedom that the statue is supposed to embody is, according to Saum Song Bo, true for all but the Chinese. Even though his statement, ‘this country is the land of liberty for men of all nations except the Chinese,’ is an overstatement, for there were other countries that America has discriminated against, it is still accurate to an extent. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended the immigration of Chinese into the U.S. for a duration of ten years and refused the ability for the Chinese to gain naturalized citizenship. Such blatant restriction on Chinese-Americans made Saum Song Bo ‘consider it an insult to [the] Chinese to call on [them] to contribute toward building in this land a pedestal for a Statue of Liberty.’ Saum Song Bo’s letter, ‘American Missionary,’ is the Chinese viewpoint on the hypocrisy of the term ‘liberty’ that this nation represents.

In both the speech and the letter by Chief Joseph and Saum Song Bo respectfully, are a minority’s perspectives on the American hegemony over the Native Americans and the Chinese. These issues discussed in the texts are still relevant today in how the Chinese Exclusion Act is similar to a fairly recent Executive Order 13769 that bans travel to the US from multiple predominantly Muslim countries. As a minority I am able to empathize with the perspectives that were shared in the speech and letter. If one is to solve a national or global issue, one must always try to understand each other viewpoint in order to better solve the issue.

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