CHAPTER 12
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
• Diverse group that is one of the fastest growing
  segments of US population
• Includes Chinese Americans and Filipinos
• Includes the Hmong that do not correspond to any
  one nation
• See “race and ethnicity” in America framed as a
  Black-White issue
  – “Tri-racial”
     • Hispanics that are now added to Black-White racial issue
The “Model Minority” Image Explored
 • General image people in US hold of Asian
   Americans as a group
 • Despite prejudice and discrimination,
   – Economically, socially, and educationally
     without political or violent confrontations with
 • Variation of blaming the victim – “praising
   the victim”
             Education and the Economy
• Impressive school enrollment compared to the total
• 2004
  – 49.4% Asian Americans, 25 or older had Bachelor
    degrees compares with 30.6% of Whites
• Often viewed as successful overachievers, but
  –   Have unrecognized and overlooked needs
  –   Experience discomfort and harassment on campus
  –   Under-represented on college campuses
  –   Experience stress and alienation on campus
• Asian Americans as group have more formal
  schooling than Whites
• Occupationally Asian Americans occupy mid-level
  occupations and are under-represented in top
  management positions in corporate America
• Glass ceiling and glass wall impact on upward
• Do well in small family owned and operated
• Agriculture
• Middlemen Minorities
  – Occupy jobs within the middle of the occupational structure rather
    than the bottom where racial and ethnic minorities are typically
• Another misleading sign of success is high income
  as a group
  – Approach parity with Whites because of greater
    achievement than Whites in formal schooling
  – Whites earn more than their Asian counterparts of the
    same age
  – If education from overseas, they are devalued by US
• “Model Minority” stereotype is a disservice
  – Excludes Asians from social programs and conceals
    unemployment and other social ills
  – Local governments are eliminating Asian Americans
    from the definition of minority
                  The Door Half Open
• Anti-Asian American feeling built on long cultural tradition
• Yellow Peril
   – Refers to the generalized prejudice toward Asian people and their customs
• Asian Americans are often stereotyped and ignored or
  described in negative ways in the media
   –   Overgeneralizations
   –   Ethnic slurs
   –   Inflammatory reporting
   –   Japan bashing
   –   Media invisibility
   –   Model minority
• Subject to institutional discrimination
• Marginal status of Asian Pacific Islanders leaves
  them vulnerable to selective and collective
   – 1999 Wen Ho Lee
      • Resulted in Asian Americans now viewed as security risks
      • 32% of feel that Chinese Americans more loyal to China than
   – Asian Americans avoid top-secret science employment
     because of subjection to racial profiling at high security
• Young Asians in US struggle for identity because
  their heritage is devalued by those in positions of
              Political Activity
• Politically Asian Americans tend to be less active
  than other subordinate groups
• Function of
  – historical influences
  – cultural influences
  – demographic influences
• Immigrants come from nations where political
  participation was unheard from or looked upon
  with skepticism and sometimes fear
• Six factors why Asian Americans not more active in
  – Traits needed to become a candidate are alien to Chinese
  – Older people remember blatant discrimination and tell
    others to be quiet and not attract attention
  – Recent immigrants have no experience with democracy
    and have distrust of government
  – Concentration on getting ahead economically and
    education of their children
  – Careers of the brightest are in business and science, not
    law or public administration
  – Asian American groups are dispersed and cannot control
    election of even local candidates
 Diversity Among Asian Americans
• Census Bureau enumerates 47 groups
• Diverse historically, culturally, politically, and
• Asian Indians
   – Pattern of immigration
      • Between 1820 and 1965 approximately 17,000 came
      • Many came under the 1965 Immigration and
        Naturalization Act
   – Tended to be better educated, urban and English
– Religious diversity
   •   Hindu
   •   Sikhs
   •   Muslims
   •   Zoroastrians
– Religious traditions remain strong among new
– Concern about erosion of traditional family authority
   • Desi pronounced (“DAY-see”)
        – Colloquial name for people who trace their ancestry to South Asia,
          especially India
   • Arranged marriages
– Cultural conflicts between national traditions and
  American culture
• Filipino Americans
  – Third largest Asian American group in US
  – Considered Asian because of geography, but physically
    and culturally, reflect centuries of Spanish colonial rule
    and recent colonial occupation of US
  – Immigration divided into four distinct periods
     • First group in the 1920’s; male and employed in agriculture
     • Second group as contract workers in Hawaiian sugar cane
     • Third group after World War II included veterans and wives
       of US soldiers
     • Newest immigrants arrived under 1965 Immigration Act and
       included many professionals (physicians and nurses)
– American born Filipinos tend to be
  educationally and economically
  disadvantaged in comparison to new
– Lack significant ethnic organizations-function
   • Strong loyalty to family and church
   • Diversity among Filipinos make forming ties
   • Organizations are club like or fraternal and largely
   • Show signs of seeking involvement in broader
• Southeast Asian Americans
  – Came largely from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
  – Many arrived as political refugees after the Communist
    take over in their respective countries
  – Many experienced adjustment problems culturally, and
  – Crime among this ethnic group has two ugly aspects
     • Reprisals for the war
     • Emergence of gangs as the young seek support of close-knit
  – 1995 US initiated normal diplomatic relations with
     • More movement between the nations
• Case Study: A Hmong Community
  – Sizable population in Wausau, Wisconsin
  – Come from rural areas of Laos and Vietnam
     • Recruited to work for the CIA during the war
     • Life difficult after US pulled out, many immigrated because US
       policy open to their residency
  – Faced major issues of assimilation especially in language
    and education
  – Conflict over contemporary US policies
     • Recruited to gather information about communists during the
     • Continued disputes over whether US may lift trade barriers
       with communist-rum government of Laos
• Korean Americans
  – Community is result of three waves of immigration
     • First group of 7,000 immigrants came between 1903 and
       1910 and settled and worked as laborers in Hawaii
     • Second group of 14,000 came after the Korean War from
     • Third group and largest group came under the 1965
       Immigration Act
  – Face cultural and economic adjustment problems
     • Stress, loneliness, alcoholism, family strife, and mental
  – Ilchomose
     • “1.5 generation” – Korean immigrants that accompanied parents to US
       when young and now occupy middle marginal positions between Korean
       and US culture
– Church is the most visible and important organization
  outside of the family
   • Provides a sense of community
   • In the early 1990s, nationwide attention was given to the
     friction between Korean Americans and other subordinate
     groups, primarily African Americans, but also Hispanics
– 60% of US born Korean and half of the women born
  abroad are in the labor force
   • Significant because of established, well-defined family roles
     that allow women to be homemakers and mothers
– Kye (pronounced “kay”)
   • Special form of development capital used to subsidize businesses and is not
     protected by laws or insurance
– Conflict with other minority groups gained national
  attention during 1992 South LA riots
• Hawaii and its People
  – Effect of White arrival on the Hawaiians was disastrous
     • Civil war and disease reduced number to 30,000 by 1900 and is
       probably 10,000 now
  – 1900 Organic Act
     • Guaranteed racial equality but foreign rule was psychologically devastating
  – Japanese and Haoles (Wealthy Whites) dominate the
     • Japanese especially important in education – 58% of teachers
       and also dominate politics on the island
  – Hawaii has always been more racially harmonious than
     • Never had segregation, Jim Crow, slavery, or laws against
       interracial marriage
– Sovereignty Movement
   • Effort by indigenous people of Hawaii to secure a measure of self-
     government and restoration of their lands
   • Similar to the sovereignty efforts of Native Americans
– Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act
  or the Akaka Bill
   • Provide people of Hawaiian ancestry more say over resources
       – provide affordable housing, take steps to preserve culture, and create
         a means by which they could better express their grievances
– Hawaii is no way a racial paradise
   • Certain occupations and social classes are dominated by a
     single racial group
   • It is expected that people will not totally resist prejudice as
     the island’s isolation is reduced
   • Relative to the mainland, race relations characterized more by
     harmony than discord
• How is the model minority image a disservice to
  both Asian Americans and other subordinate
  racial and ethnic groups?
• In what respects has the mass media image of
  Asian Americans been both undifferentiated and
• How is the model minority image reinforced by
  images in the media?
• How has the tendency of many Korean
  Americans to help each other been an asset but
  also been viewed with suspicion by those
  outside the community?
• What critical events or legislative acts increased
  each Asian American group’s immigration into
  the United States?
• Keeping in mind that adolescence is based on
  culture and values, coming of age is difficult
  given the ambiguities of adolescence in the
  United States. How is it doubly difficult for the
  children of immigrants? How do you think the
  immigrants themselves, such as those from Asia,
  view this process?
• American Indians, Hispanics, Asian Americans,
  and Black are all convenient terms to refer to
  diverse groups of people. Do you see these
  broad umbrella terms as being more appropriate
  for one group than for the others? Explain your
• To what degree do race relations in Hawaii offer
  both promise and a chilling dose of reality to the
  future of race and ethnicity on the mainland?

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