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Matthew Huff Professor Riedel STACC English 100 25 November 2013 Essay 3- Topic 4 Some Battles Are Not to be Fought America was made home by the unification of immigrants from all unique backgrounds, yet discrimination was still practiced among many people. Though many people suffered from this societal issue, there was little effort to end racial discrimination in America up until the 20th century. In Southland by Nina Revoyr, numerous people from different ethnicities are affected by discrimination before, during, and even shortly after World War II. Many characters including Curtis Martindale and Frank Sakai experienced the hardships of discrimination, however they kept their burdens concealed and never sought to oppose this issue that has been reoccurring for decades. It is evident that there are countless acts of racism described in the book Southland. During World War II, Frank and Mary Sakai‟s family were forced into internment camps, and Frank volunteered for the all Japanese-American army regiment. The Watts riots were also a main event that occurred during the story, which took the life of Curtis Martindale and three other black boys. This event also caused Frank to sell his business and move his family to Gardena to live a safer life. Decades after these horrific events, Jackie Ishida discovers the connection with her family and the severe amount of racism they faced in the same

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neighborhood of Los Angeles. With all of this information in hand, it can be clear that every character‟s lives have changed in some way, even if they hadn‟t first-hand experienced it. Many readers might disagree with this claim because there are instances in the book that seem as if the characters are opposing discrimination. One obvious example is how James Lanier is so motivated to build a case against Nick Lawson. Some may interpret his motivation as an act to remove racism with Lawson being in prison, but James‟ primary reason is because he felt the guilt of not bringing these deaths to justice. Lanier explains to Jackie his motives while “[h]e knew his burden, his sense of urgency, were heavy in his voice; he felt accused by the image of Frank there in front of him, for not doing anything until now” (66). Jackie‟s motivation to help James is also explained as the guilt she had for not being involved in her grandfather‟s life. Another occurrence in the story is when Frank‟s family is preparing to relocate to then internment camps. The day before they leave, Victor and many others arrive at their house and offer the Sakai family necessities such as food and clothes. Many readers would view this act of generosity as a sign of rising above discrimination and helping the Japanese even though they were not trusted during World War II. Although this may be true, many of these visitors had a close relationship with Frank, suggesting that they simply wished to aid their close friends in times of distress. When Mr. Conway confronts Frank, he does not mention anything about how the relocation is unnecessary or how this racism toward the Japanese is unfair, as he merely says “we figured you could use some stuff out there in the desert” (109). With these models, it is safe to conclude that dealing with racism is not the primary intention of most characters‟ actions. There are many times in Frank Sakai‟s life where he and his family are encumbered by acts of discrimination. Kazuo, Frank‟s father, encountered white thugs upon his arrival to America that told him to return home. They threw dung at Kazuo, but the thugs ran away when

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he fought back. There was no note of him questioning why the Americans would do this instead of welcoming him to his new life. However, he fights back, as if he was prepared to face racism before he arrived. This suggests that he had no expectation that the acts of racism would stop entirely, only that he would be ready to encounter it. An additional example of Frank‟s experiences of racism is the time he went with his friends to the beach as a boy. They were excited to finally be there when they see “a dark brown board, attached to a pole that was sunken into the edge of the sand, and it had two arrows pained on it, one pointing right, the other left. Above the left were painted the words „Whites only.‟ Above the right were the words „Colored only‟” (97). After contemplating on which side they belonged on for a few moments, Frank eventually heads off to the colored side. He hadn‟t seen anything like this act of segregation, and he learned to accept it at a young age. The boys grew up into this type of living and accepted it rather than questioning it. Also, a white man walks by the boys, casually pointing them to the right direction, to the right. The description of the man‟s action implies that he was accustomed and disciplined to the directions on the sign, because it was a societal norm. Thus, Frank‟s generation had not considered a life without racism because they were born into it, and because it was the norm of society. Curtis Martindale had also experienced the severity of racism and discrimination in his life. A more notable event is the time in the alley Curtis spent with his cousins Cory and Jimmy. The white police officer Nick Lawson beats Curtis severely for no reasonable justification. As he notices the cop walking toward them, Curtis immediately searches for a place to escape although he did not commit any crimes. This shows that even though police officers are assumed to be the keepers of the peace, they also engaged in activities evoking racial discrimination. Likewise, Watts riots were caused by racial discrimination, and Curtis‟ death

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was caused by these riots. Frank had made his family pack and move to Gardena the moment he found out Curtis was murdered, instead of going to the police. He wanted to guide his family away from discrimination, and in the same moment did not want Curtis to be reported to the racist police officers of LA. From all of the different acts of racism described in Southland, it is evident that most characters had experienced it and it had changed their lives in some way. Some were grown into a type of environment where discrimination existed and had accepted it as a norm of society, such as Frank and Curtis, and some had discovered their connection with it, like Jackie. They never tried to stop this discrimination and instead endured it until it was over. Some characters might have made it apparent that they were attempting to oppose racism, but the primary intent for their actions was for other reasons. Looking at this issue from any perspective, discrimination had changed the lives of many people in LA, whether they had experienced it or not.

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Works Cited Revoyr, Nina. Southland. New York: Akashic Books, 2003. Print.