No-No Boy

Discharge Pin Symbol Icon

Ichiro encounters a young Japanese-American waiter in a restaurant in Portland who is wearing a discharge pin on his shirt. This pin most explicitly means that the young man was honorably discharged from the United States military, and, during the war, it would have signaled that, although he was not fighting in the army, he had tried to. The pin serves as proof that this man is a veteran, and that he served his country, but the pin disturbs Ichiro. Although he understands the young man’s desire to prove that he has earned his place in America, he also knows the pin is only necessary because the young man looks Japanese, and he knows he will not be respected or treated as an American unless he has additional evidence of his dedication to his home. Ichiro is upset that the young man feels the need to assert himself this way. He believes every person should be treated with kindness and respect, and that if a person believes America is their home, others should accept this and treat them as citizens. Additionally, Ichiro is upset that Japanese Americans are having their Americanness questioned. After being discriminated against and sent to internment camps, although the majority of people had done nothing wrong, many young men were still loyal enough to America to enter its army. Despite this—being told they were not American, and then risking their lives for America—many men of Japanese descent still have their loyalty called into question. Ichiro recognizes that this sense that Japanese people are un-American is not based in fact or logic, instead, it is based in white supremacy and racism, and the belief that true Americans look a certain way, and immigrated only from certain countries.

Discharge Pin Quotes in No-No Boy

The No-No Boy quotes below all refer to the symbol of Discharge Pin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Washington Press edition of No-No Boy published in 1976.
Chapter 7 Quotes

Where is the place that they talk of and paint nice pictures of and describe in all the homey magazines? Where is that place with the clean, white cottages surrounding the new, red-brick church with the clean, white steeple, where the families all have two children, one boy and one girl, and a shiny new car in the garage and a dog and a cat and life is like living in the land of the happily-ever-after? Surely it must be around here someplace, someplace in America. Or is it just that it’s not for me? Maybe I dealt myself out, but what about that young kid on Burnside who was in the army and found it wasn’t enough so that he has to keep proving to everyone who comes in for a cup of coffee that he was fighting for his country like the button on his shirt says he did because the army didn’t do anything about his face to make him look more American? … Even Mr. Carrick. Why isn’t he in? Why is he on the outside squandering his goodness on outcasts like me? Maybe the answer is that there is no in. Maybe the whole damned country is pushing and shoving and screaming to get into someplace that doesn’t exist, because they don’t know that the outside could be the inside if only they would stop all this pushing and shoving and screaming, and they haven’t got enough sense to realize that.

Related Characters: Ichiro Yamada (speaker), Mr. Carrick
Related Symbols: Discharge Pin
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discharge Pin Symbol Timeline in No-No Boy

The timeline below shows where the symbol Discharge Pin appears in No-No Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
...remembers hearing about Burnside Café, and seeks it out. Inside, a Japanese teenager wearing a discharge pin seats him and takes his order. Ichiro can tell the boy recognizes him as... (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
...happy to get away from the Japanese teenager who felt the need to wear a discharge pin to prove his worth as an American. (full context)
Japanese vs. American Identity Theme Icon
Healing in the Aftermath of War Theme Icon
Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Theme Icon
...him. Or, if he forfeited it, will it be available to the teenager with the discharge pin? What about African Americans back in Seattle? Even though they have told him to... (full context)