Asian American Village
By Regina Garson
Welcome to the Asian American Village at MINORITIES' JOB BANK. Featuring the largest database of equal opportunity employers on the Internet, we will soon offer even more. The Asian American Village is being built to address the needs and concerns of Asian Americans. We are recruiting and seeking input from top notch AA writers and leaders. Village resources will include; employment information and career advice, news commentary, historical perspective, daily living, calendar events, statistics, research and a network of Professional Organizations.
The Asian American Village is a place to confront issues. Concerns, often overlooked in other mainstream media outlets, are of foremost importance to our Village. It is a place to celebrate community, culture and the many contributions AA's have made to the fabric of life in America.
History of Asian Americans:
Asian Americans are a diverse people, representing the heritage of many lands. There are Chinese, Filipinos, Hmong, Japanese, Koreans, Pacific Islanders, Southeast Asians, South Asians, Thai, Vietnamese, and even more. As with any people, there are problems between ethnic groups. However, as a people Asian Americans have a strong sense of responsibility and actively reach out to each other. Whether in aid to recent immigrants, or as experienced workers help the young get established, AA's have a legacy of strength in family, community and rendering aid to their own.
The circumstances that brought each to these shores are varied. Some came as boat people and land refugees to escape war and its aftermath. Some came as exiles. Some came as slaves, while others to escape slavery. Many came as workers, hoping to return home with money for their family. Some came as indentured servants and worked their way to a better life. Abandoned as orphans, many came as adoptees. Others arrived as professionals, prosperous leaders of the modern world.
Although, there is documentation of Asians being here as early as the 1600's, Asian Americans cannot seem to shake their image as outsiders. Filipinos were the first Asians to land in the US. Arriving as forced labor on Spanish galleons, they beat the first English settlers by fifty years. Landing first in California, they later jumped ship in Louisiana bayous to build their first permanent settlement. These early settlers introduced the process of sun drying shrimp to the US.
Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos immigrated to Hawaii in the 19th century as agricultural workers. At that time workers were segregated by race. In 1909 the Japanese organized their first strike. Later they crossed racial lines and joined with the Filipinos in an unprecedented effort to organize and campaign for the rights of workers. Although initially unsuccessful, these strikes eventually led to better working conditions and wages. The strikes were an early success in cooperative effort crossing ethnic lines. Other groups followed, leading to the formation of multi-racial unions.
Chinese arrived in 1818 when students came to study at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut. In the 1840's and 50's many Chinese came to escape drought, famine and war, hoping to work and send money home. Masses came during the 1849 gold rush. Later they were actively recruited as laborers and railroad builders. They were given the most dangerous jobs, and the lowest wages. Although they were crucial in building the railroads, they endured prejudice, taunts and hangings. Undaunted, they kept working, taking agricultural or whatever jobs others did not want.
The first Korean community was a group who settled in San Francisco in 1885. They came as exiles after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Korean government. Since that time, Vietnamese, Hmong and Cambodians have come as refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam Conflict.
In recent decades large numbers of the best educated South East Asians have come to pursue professional careers. Most are two income families, many working to send money and make investments back home. On the one hand they are sending money back to their native lands, on the other, South East Asia faces the financial and human loss of their best intellectual assets.
Discrimination against Asian Americans has been repeated and enforced by legal sanctions throughout American history. Mounting bias against Chinese immigrants led to demonstrations, harassment, violence, killings and the Exclusion Act of 1882. The 1913 Alien Land Law prevented Asians from owning land. In early times, only men and boys immigrated. Strict laws limited how many women came and many men lived out their lives as bachelors. A legal holiday was at one time designated for anti-Chinese demonstrations. For safety the Chinese banded into communities known as Chinatowns. Some had walls and gates that locked at night for protection.
Asian Americans fought and proved themselves in World War I. During World War II, Japanese American citizens, many of whom served their country in battle, were interned in concentration camps. Their homes, possessions and businesses were seized and sold. At the same time the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up almost entirely of Japanese Americans, was the most highly decorated unit ever in US military history.
According to Statistics:
Asian Americans have a legacy of hard work and a drive for the best possible education. Despite the dire circumstances of many first generation immigrants, median income is $6,000 above the national average. Asian Americans number well among the most successful and prosperous in the United States.
According to U.S. Census figures there are now over 10,000,000 Asian Americans in the United States. They are young, with a median age of 29.8 compared to an overall 33.9. They are better educated than most Americans. 41.7% of Asian Americans over the age of 25 have a college degree, compared to a national average of 23.6%. A larger percentage than most are unmarried, 37.8% compared to 27.5%. When they marry, families are stable. The divorce rate is 3.9% compared to a national average of 8.9%.
Issues Facing Asian Americans:
Haled by many as a model minority, Asian Americans still have many problems to confront. While some are among the most prosperous in the land, others barely make a living in sweat shop conditions. Long hours at below minimum wage are a reality for many.
Hate crimes and anti-Asian violence, is at an all time high. Unequal or no protection by law enforcement is very real in some areas. Exasperated AA youth have formed gangs that fight back, induce fear and lead to even more prejudice. The same people who are seen as model citizens in some areas, are seen as a deadly threat in others. A few troublemakers are giving the youth a bad name. At the same time, standards for admission to many schools are being set higher for Asians than other Americans. Hard working young people are turned away from good schools in favor of students who have lesser grades, but are of a different race.
Media attention brings constant focus to the negative actions of a few. That same media ignores concerns, and accomplishments of global importance to Asians in the US and abroad. Asians were the target of intense investigations in the '97 fund raising scandals. Asian Americans are constantly judged at a different standard and by the actions of those least representative of the average hard working AA.
While the news media is ruthless in its bias, the entertainment media is worse. Asian men are stereotyped as nerds, cooks, laundry workers, and Martial arts villains. Asian women are portrayed as helpless and geisha sexy but seldom as fashion models or cover girls. Male or female; they are shown as quiet and seldom represented as heroic figures, cunning lawyers, savvy business people, brilliant professionals, in emotional dramas, or as anything resembling strong and self assured.
As the economic situation becomes more bleak in Asia, what seems a far away problem, is close to home for many Asian Americans. AA's see overseas family and friends face bankruptcy and economic disaster. Some young Asians who hoped to complete their studies in the US, have returned home without their diplomas.
Come Back Often:
In the coming months we will present writing, viewpoints and commentary from leaders in the Asian American community. We invite your comments and participation. Feel free to utilize our resources as an aid in your journey toward prosperity and fulfillment.
Come back often.
We welcome you to the Village.