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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

August 1, 2005

Written by C.N.

Wal-Mart and Asian Americans

AsianWeek Magazine has a very interesting article/commentary on the effect that Wal-Mart has on Asian American communities. Specifically, the article notes that several Asian American community leaders worry that Wal-Mart’s dominance of retailing can have negative consequences for Asian Americans by forcing many Asian-owned small businesses to close because, like many other small businesses in Wal-Mart towns, they simply can’t compete with Wal-Mart’s buying power and low prices:

No other racial group depends on small businesses more than Asian America. We have 913,000 small businesses in our community. Without those opportunities, Asian Americans would have a harder time adapting and helping their children advance to more prestigious careers. Many APAs see Wal-Mart as narrowing the road we must take toward achieving the American dream. . . .

But corporations like Wal-Mart cannot be successful without listening to customers with cash to spend. And Wal-Mart has recently started to court foreign-language speaking APAs. In April, the retailer started its first advertising campaign exclusively in Asian languages. The print and broadcast ads are running in Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Taglish. . .

The advertising campaign has received mixed reviews and is targeted only to Asian immigrants rather than addressing the Asian American community as a whole.

The article goes on to say that although many Asian American organizations refuse to accept corporate donations from Wal-Mart, not all have, including the organization I once worked for, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. The article also notes that Wal-Mart employs about 30,000 Asian Americans and has a very prominent Asian American senior executive. The one relevant fact that the article doesn’t note is that Wal-Mart increasingly relies on manufacturers in Asia for much of its products.

Once again, was an Asian American, I feel caught in the middle. On the one hand, I abhor and cringe at Wal-mart’s staunch anti-unionist position and its exploitation of workers. On the other hand, it is certainly true that Wal-Mart, undoubtedly due to its economic dominance, does donate notable amounts of money to various causes, charities, and in this case, Asian American organizations.

Is there a middle ground regarding what we as Asian Americans think about Wal-Mart? As the article notes at the end, long-term action will speak volumes about Wal-mart’s commitment to the Asian American community. We’ll just have to wait and see, but in the meantime, I still try to keep my shopping at Wal-mart to an absolute minimum, even if it means having to pay a little bit more somewhere else.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Wal-Mart and Asian Americans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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