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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.

June 6, 2006

Written by C.N.

Asian Americans Entering the Cultural Mainstream

Two separate articles describe the slowly emerging prominence of Asians and Asian Americans in mainstream American society — one in the field of professional sports and one relating to consumer advertising:

The presence of these [Asian & Asian American] players [in professional sports] is helping, slowly, to break the stereotypes, but obstacles remain. . . . One of the common stereotypes is that Asians are smart, but not athletic. Asians are often considered to be too small and too slow to compete at the highest level of sports.”

He pointed to the example of quarterback Timmy Chang of the University of Hawaii, who wasn’t chosen in last month’s NFL Draft despite setting an NCAA record for career passing yardage. SI.com reported recently that, according to Chang’s agent, Don Yee, who is also an Asian-American, a scout said at the NFL combine that Chang is too short to play quarterback in the NFL.

Chang is 6-foot-1, which makes him as tall as or taller than several current NFL quarterbacks. When these comparisons were noted, the scout reportedly answered, “But he plays short.” . . . .

Gitlin says companies can choose to ignore Asian-Americans and other ethnic groups, but he doesn’t understand why they would. “Asians lead the nation on median household income,” he says. “Asian-American households have a median household income that is almost $10,000 ahead of Caucasian households, not just ahead of other multi-cultural groups, but ahead of Caucasian households.”

While some industries, like financial services, have zeroed in on Asian-American households, many others are finally getting in the game. . . . . “It’s not just a question of translation,” says Gitlin. “We need to reflect the lifestyles, the immigrant experiences, and the social and family values and cultures of these populations.”

One aspect of Asian Americans that both of these articles highlight is that numbers eventually bring attention. That is, it was almost inevitable that Asians (with one quarter of the world’s population) and Asian Americans (the second fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. and the most urbanized) would eventually be noticed due to their population sizes.

However, attention is not always positive. Further, positive attention doesn’t automatically lead to success, as the example of Timmy Chang shows us. Nonetheless, these trends are steps in the right direction. There are still many miles to travel before full representation is achieved, especially in big-time pro sports such as football, baseball, and basketball, but the groundwork is being laid.

As Asian Americans increasingly enter the Americans mainstream in terms of professional sports and consumer advertising, we have the opportunity to show everyone that it is not a contradiction to be both Asian and American at the same time.


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

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Asian Americans Entering the Cultural Mainstream" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/06/asian-americans-entering-the-cultural-mainstream/> ().

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