August 1, 2005
Written by C.N.
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.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Wal-Mart and Asian Americans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/08/wal-mart-and-asian-americans/> ().
Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=114