America has long been referred to as the “melting pot”, a country brewing with different races, religions, and languages. As more immigrants migrate to the states, there is a rise in the different communication styles between people. Unfortunately, such discrepancy in languages has implications that reach beyond how people communicate with one another but has led to a huge impact on the power dynamics between the majority white race and the foreign minorities. In fact, Wikipedia states, “In countries where there is more than one main language, there are often political implications in decisions that are seen to promote one group of speakers over another, and this is often referred to as language politics,” (Language Politics, Wikipedia). In other words, when immigrants migrate to America, a land considered to be of the free, they are often surprised to see that their differences in tongue are not accepted as easily as one ...view middle of the document...
Consider the dynamics of the courtroom in Snow Falling on Cedars. Kabuo, an American veteran of Japanese decent is accused of murdering an American fisherman. We can see the courtroom is filled with racial prejudice as the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Hooks, proclaims to the all white jury, “Look into [Kabuo’s] eyes. Consider his face. Ask yourself, each one you, what is my duty as a citizen of this community, of this country, as an American?” (Hicks, Snow Falling on Cedars). Pay attention to Hooks diction. He asks the jury to derive Kabuo’s guilt from his “eyes” and his “face”, both physical features. Hook never asks the jury to listen or understand Kabuo below the surface, which any rational mind would consider to be a more telling criteria for judging Kabuo’s innocence.
Furthermore, Hook’s use of language is desperately trying to appeal to the patriotism that lies within the white jury. To refer to Kabuo’s execution as a duty, to refer to the death of a Japanese man as a responsibility to America, is the epitome of using language to promote the Americans as the superior race.
What is perhaps more intriguing is that amidst Hook’s blatant screams for racial divide, Kabuo’s emits a stoic, emotionless façade. If the jury finds Kabuo guilty, it is certain death, which is why I found it frustrating that Kabuo never reacted or spoke up for himself. However, I realize now that his silence is simply a defense mechanism from the discrimination Kabuo endures as Japanese American. Kabuo was nervous that if he spoke the whole truth about his interactions with Carl on the night of the death, that the jury’s racial biases would have clouded their judgment and twisted Kabuo’s words. If the Japanese find it useless to speak up and defend themselves, forcing the jury to listen to only one side of the story, how will America ever establish a fair or honest courtroom? Remind yourself that a courtroom is supposed to be the ideal place for serving justice and promoting honesty!
"Language Politics." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
Snow Falling on Cedars. Dir. Scott Hicks. Perf. Ethan Hawke and Youki Kudoh. Universal Studios, 1999. DVD.