By: Jenny Chang
As Americans, we often tend to believe that no one else in the world is struggling like we are or experiencing similar struggles. In fact, we group ourselves into races and believe that no other race is encountering similar difficulties. For example, Chinese immigrants believe that only the Chinese understand their hardships coming to America. They do not believe any other race can understand the tremendous pain and difficulties they have gone through to immigrate to America. But if they look past the surface, they would realize that many other immigrants face similar difficulties as well. Perhaps it is not the same as being imprisoned in Angel Island for months, but the struggle to immigrate to America is the same. In Karen Yamashita‟s I-Hotel, she writes about Mo Akagi, a made up name for Richard Aoki. Mo Akagi joined the Black Panther Party. Although he is not African-American or is of African-American descent, he joined the Black Panther Party despite his Japanese American identity. After Akagi‟s joining of the Black Panther Party, he slowly manifests into a symbol of unity and helps discover why unity is important.
Despite Mo Akagi‘s ethnicity, he joined the Black Panther Party because he was hired to teach the Black Panthers how to use the weapons (guns). He also became the field marshal for the Black Panther Party. As strange as it may seem for Mo Akagi, a Japanese American, to join the Black Panther Party, it is not as strange as it may seem. Because they both have a common goal: empowerment. Although the Black Panther Party is for Black empowerment, it does not mean that Mo Akagi could not join. In fact his joining was welcomed because they are both seeking empowerment. The better way for them to empower and have their voices heard, is through the unity of Asian Americans and African Americans or unity with any other race. The unity of Asian Americans and African Americans is important because when they band together. They are a stronger, unbreakable force. Also, they can help each other. Because when they come together their voices are louder for they have become a larger union. As Akagi said in his speech, ―Everyone of you out there, is so important for our struggle‖ (211). Akagi states that everyone is important because when people come together, their voices are louder and stronger, in hopes that they will be heard. Also, coming together makes it harder for the oppressors to oppress the minorities.
Through evidence of history, it has been documented that oppressors separate groups to go against each other, because the smaller groups are easier to manage. In order to fully to succeed and not be controlled, people should unite. Mo Akagi is a symbol of unity because he, as a Japanese American, has joined a party that is meant for Black empowerment. He has worked with them to empower not only African Americans, but Asian Americans as well. Akagi has stated ―„See, what people need to understand is that we come together today to show Third World solidarity and unity for political prisoners within United States‖ (212). Akagi has opened our eyes because he has helped us realize how much in common Asian Americans have with African Americans. Although our exterior may be different, our struggles for equality are similar. Akagi has helped us realize that we should look beyond the surface. Through Akagi‟s activism and Asian American empowerment and unity with the Black Panther Party, he has become a symbol for unity.
These past couple of days, coincidentally, I have been thinking about unity and racism amongst Asian Americans. I have been thinking about racism amongst Asian Americans because I have noticed how racist my parents are towards other Asian Americans. It really annoys me that they are so racist towards other Asian Americans because, in my opinion, we as Asian Americans have struggled to be accepted in America. Not only acceptance, but our parents have struggled to immigrate here, and so have other Asian Americans. Perhaps we do not have the same culture or are from the same region, but the roots of the struggles are still the same. Asians who have immigrated here all struggled to come to America. It annoys me that my parents cannot see pass the surface. I hope over time that they will see how similar they are to other minorities and rather than bashing on them, they offer a helping hand and unite with them.
In conclusion, Mo Akagi, a made up character name to represent Richard Aoki, for Karen Yamashita‟s I-Hotel, is a symbol of unity. Mo Akagi, a Japanese American joined the Black Panthers Party, an African American empowerment group, and displays unity amongst different races. Akagi‘s joining symbolizes unity because he unionized Asian Americans and African Americans. Hearing of such unity gives me hope that my parents will one day help other Asian Americans.
Yamashita, Karen Tei. I Hotel. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press. 2010