Topics & Articles

Home

Culture

Ethnic Groups

History

Issues

Links

Viet Nam



Search

or Browse the Archives

or Gets Posts by Tags



Most Popular Books on Asian-Nation

Miscellaneous

All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

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.

Blog powered by WordPress


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.

September 29, 2008

Written by C.N.

Immigration to the U.S. Slowing Down

Most of the news these days is on the economy — the recent financial institution crisis and how it will affect the presidential elections and American society going forward. But as an example of interconnections between social issues, as CBS News reports, the number of immigrants coming into the U.S. (both legal and unauthorized), significantly declined in the past year, with the economy being a big reason:

The wave of immigrants entering the United States slowed dramatically last year as the economy faltered and the government stepped up enforcement of immigration laws. The nation added about a half million immigrants in 2007, down from more than 1.8 million the year before. . . .

The Census Bureau’s’ estimates for immigrants include those in the country legally and illegally because the agency does not ask about legal status. . . .

One other obstacle could be the 69 percent increase last summer in citizenship fees, about 281,000 immigrants applied to become U.S. citizens in the first half of 2008 – less than half the number of applicants in the same period last year. . . .

Much of the nation experienced a housing boom in the first half of the decade, providing jobs that attracted immigrants. The housing bubble burst last year, sending housing markets tumbling and contributing to a slumping economy that some economists believe is in recession.

It should not come as a surprise that with the economy slumping that there are fewer economic opportunities for immigrants (both legal and unauthorized), so that the numbers of immigrants entering the U.S. has declined significantly in the past year.

Of course, the political controversy over unauthorized immigration and high-profile efforts to round up and deport undocumented workers have also contributed to a less-hospitable climate in general. Critics of unauthorized immigration are undoubtedly rejoicing at these numbers, but as sociologists have tried to point out, these issue exist in a larger context of institutional and historical factors that require a longer-range focus if we want true and fair immigration reform.

To go along with the Census’s latest report, the Congressional Budget Office has put together a list of Congressional reports and publications relating to immigration, both legal and unauthorized.

Of particular interest is their report released in December 2007 on “The Impact of Unauthorized Immigrants on the Budgets of State and Local Governments.” For those who are too impatient to read the whole report, it basically confirms what previous research has suggested:

  • State and local governments incur costs for providing services to unauthorized immigrants and have limited options for avoiding or minimizing those costs.
  • The amount that state and local governments spend on services for unauthorized immigrants represents a small percentage of the total amount spent by those governments to provide such services to residents in their jurisdictions.
  • The tax revenues that unauthorized immigrants generate for state and local governments do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants.
  • Federal aid programs offer resources to state and local governments that provide services to unauthorized immigrants, but those funds do not fully cover the costs incurred by those governments.

So in other words, on a national level, unauthorized immigration constitutes a slight positive benefit for the American economy but on the state and local governments have to bear a disproportionate share of the financial costs, so at the state and local levels, unauthorized immigration constitutes a slight net loss on their budgets.

That is also a big reason why opposition to unauthorized immigration is so vehement — people situate themselves at the local setting, within their own city, town, or neighborhood — not at the national level. So they mainly see what is immediately around them, rather than taking a national-level perspective.

In that sense, it’s easy to see why people are opposed to the costs of unauthorized immigration that their city or state must bear, rather than recognizing the net benefit at the national level.

As sociologists have also pointed out, part of the solution needs to include the federal government sharing more of those net benefits with the state and local levels, to offset the disproportionate burden of costs that states and cities have to bear. Unfortunately, in today’s financial climate, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.

—————————

Update: As more evidence that unauthorized immigration to the U.S. is slowing down, last week, the Pew Research Group reported that for the first time in about a decade, between 2005 and 2008, the number of unauthorized immigrations was lower than the number of legal immigrants. Secondly, they also estimated that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has fallen from about 12.4 million last year to about 11.9 million this year.

September 25, 2008

Written by C.N.

New Poll on Asian American Presidential Preferences

On the national level, Asian Americans comprise “only” about five percent of the country’s population. However, as demographers point out, Asian Americans tend to be highly urbanized and concentrated in a handful of states, such as California where they constitute 10% of its population.

With this in mind, Asian Americans have the potential to be an important “swing vote” constituency. In other words, with the presidential campaign between Obama and McCain being so close, such constituent groups may be able to help “swing” the election in favor of one of the candidates — if the group can be organized to vote overwhelmingly for one candidate.

With that in mind, the 80-20 Initiative is one such group that is founded on this exact principle — to organize Asian Americans into a “bloc vote” that ideally, could deliver at least 80% of the Asian American vote (hence their name) to a candidate that they endorse. Unfortunately, the 80-20 Initiative has had its critics and earlier this year, faced a barrage of criticism for perceived bias against Obama, before they ultimately endorsed him for President.

At any rate, the 80-20 Initiative has just come out with the results of a poll they conducted on presidential preferences among Asian Americans. In an email sent to their mailing list (but yet to be published on their website), they note:

If the election were today, Asian Americans nationwide favor Obama over McCain by a 3.4 To 1 ratio or by 77% to 23%. The margin of error in this 80-20 poll is +/- 10%. . . . The questions used in polls 1) and 2) were sent to a random sample of Asian Ams. whose attitude towards 80-20 is unknown but who are almost all registered voters.

The 80-20 poll also notes that six percent of respondents said that they were not registered to vote, 42% were registered as Democrats, 14% registered as Republicans, and 38% registered as independents or undeclared. These numbers correspond with other data that show Asian Americans have shifted more towards Democrats over the years.

With the upcoming election between Obama and McCain likely to stay tight all the way down to the wire, potential bloc vote groups such as Asian Americans may be poised to have a sizable impact on its outcome — if we can continue to build a consensus and unity.

September 22, 2008

Written by C.N.

Congratulations to Anthony Kim & U.S. Ryder Cup Team

I’m not a huge golf fan, but I have to admit that I sat glued to my TV yesterday as I watched the final round of the biennial Ryder Cup tournament between the U.S. and Europe. As you probably know already, the U.S. team shocked the Europeans by recapturing the Ryder Cup, only the second time they’ve won it in the past 13 years.

One of the big reasons for their success was the play of 23 year old Korean American Anthony Kim. I have to admit that I had never heard of Anthony Kim before, let alone knew that he’s currently #6 on the PGA’s money list this season, but as as ESPN reports, Kim made a huge contribution to the U.S. team’s success:

Anthony Kim celebrates his win over Sergio Garcia at the Ryder Cup © John Sommers II/Reuters

“We had a lot of fun today,” Mickelson said after twice coming from 3 down with Kim, earning a half point in their morning foursomes match and a full point in their afternoon four-ball. “I love playing with this guy. He has a lot of talent, a lot of game. It was fun for me to be with that youthful exuberance today. It’s infectious.

We played with a lot of heart and emotion. We were down in both matches and came back to win one and tied the other. It was a hard, fun day.” “This day, by far, was the best he’s ever played in the Ryder Cup,” said Jim “Bones” Mackay, Mickelson’s longtime caddie.

So that’s what it takes? Some youthful exuberance? Mickelson truly is the grizzled veteran to Kim’s wide-eyed rookie. They are 15 years apart in age, and when Mickelson played in his first Ryder Cup in 1995 (and went 3-0, by the way), Kim was a mere 10 years old.

“He’s always been an idol of mine, someone I wanted to emulate,” Kim said. Who’d have thought it would take a 23-year-old to bring out the best in Mickelson?

In the final sets of individual matches on Sunday, it was truly impressive to see Kim completely dominate Sergio Garcia, one of the top PGA players in the world. (May I also add that Kim was riding around the course with a rather attractive blond woman sitting next to him, who frequently patted him on the back — his girlfriend?).

At any rate, I already knew that there are many Asian and Asian American women professional golfers, but aside from Tiger Woods who’s half Asian American, I did not know of any other high-profile Asian American male professional golfer. I am delighted to finally hear about Anthony Kim and as one of his new fans, I look forward to following his career for a long time.

September 18, 2008

Written by C.N.

The Presidential Campaign and White Privilege

The presidential campaign is in full swing, but as I’ve written about before, the question of race has been bubbling slightly beneath the public surface for about a year and a half now, ever since Barack Obama first announced his candidacy to be our next President.

For example, there have been blatant examples of the influence of race — several incidents in which racism has reared its ugly head in regards to his campaign, but also more subtle ones — a recent CBS News article notes that “Obama’s support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.”

But one particular aspect of this issue that hasn’t really gotten much attention is the topic of White Privilege. For those who aren’t familiar, White privilege is basically the idea that Whites have an invisible and taken-for-granted set of advantages and rights that no other racial/ethnic group has. It’s also a touchy subject because for someone who’s White, it’s very hard to recognize but easy to deny.

To try to illustrate this concept as it applies to the presidential campaign, writer and activist Tim Wise has written an absolutely brilliant post at the Red Room blog that must be read in its entirety to be fully appreciated. Nonetheless, here are some excerpts:

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their fuckin’ ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.” . . .

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you’re black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do–like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor–and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college–you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist. . . .

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government . . . and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re Black and friends with a Black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

Yes, Tim’s post is very liberal and very partisan. But in my humble opinion, also absolutely right on the money.

It finally exposes this uneasy social undercurrent that people of color have known about for a while, but that most Whites will not acknowledge even exists — why some acts, when committed by high-profile Whites, get excused and even praised, but when similar acts are committed by people of color, get criticized and ridiculed.

In other words, Tim Wise’s piece lays out the fundamental reality of the American racial landscape — much of the U.S., its people, and its social institutions, are still in deep denial about how insidious racism still is today and how it continues to be firmly but quietly embedded in how we as Americans live our lives on an everyday basis.

And in November, it will play a subtle but significant role in influencing who many of us will choose to be our next President.

September 15, 2008

Written by C.N.

Hispanic Heritage Month Begins Today

September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. Below is an historical summary and a few noteworthy statistics published by the Census Bureau for this occasion:

In September 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, which was observed during the week that included Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. The observance was expanded in 1988 to a month-long celebration (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15).

America celebrates the culture and traditions of those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

45.5 million
The estimated Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2007, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority, constituting 15 percent of the nation’s total population. In addition, there are approximately 3.9 million residents of Puerto Rico.

22.4 million
The nation’s Hispanic population during the 1990 Census — less than half the current total.

102.6 million
The projected Hispanic population of the United States on July 1, 2050. According to this projection, Hispanics will constitute 24 percent of the nation’s population by that date.

64%
The percentage of Hispanic-origin people in the United States who are of Mexican background. Another 9% are of Puerto Rican background, with 3.4% Cuban, 3.1% Salvadoran and 2.8% Dominican. The remainder are of some other Central American, South American or other Hispanic or Latino origin.

27.6 years
Median age of the Hispanic population in 2007. This compares with 36.6 years for the population as a whole.

48%
The percentage of the Hispanic-origin population that lives in California or Texas. California is home to 13.2 million Hispanics, and Texas is home to 8.6 million.

16
The number of states with at least a half-million Hispanic residents. They are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

1.6 million
The number of Hispanic-owned businesses in 2002.

$222 billion
Revenue generated by Hispanic-owned businesses in 2002, up 19 percent from 1997.

$37,781
The median income of Hispanic households in 2006, statistically unchanged from the previous year after adjusting for inflation.

20.6%
The poverty rate among Hispanics in 2006, down from 21.8 percent in 2005.

60%
The percentage of Hispanics 25 and older who had at least a high school education in 2007.

13%
The percentage of the Hispanic population 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2007.

11%
Percentage of all college students in October 2006 who were Hispanic. Among elementary and high school students combined, the corresponding proportion was 19 percent.

17%
The percentage of Hispanics 16 or older who work in management, professional and related occupations. Roughly the same percentage work in construction, extraction, maintenance and repair occupations. Approximately 24% of Hispanics 16 or older work in service occupations; 22% in sales and office occupations; and 18% in production, transportation and material moving occupations.

7.6 million
The number of Hispanic citizens who reported voting in the 2004 presidential election. The percentage of Hispanic citizens voting — about 47% — did not change statistically from four years earlier.

1.1 million
The number of Hispanic veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

September 9, 2008

Written by C.N.

What Exactly is a Hate Crime?

I came across this pretty disturbing news item from California: as reported by AsianWeek magazine, an Indian American was attacked without provocation by two South Lake Tahoe residents and suffered numerous injuries and was hospitalized. Despite witnesses confirming that the assailants yelled racial slurs at him, the prosecutor in the case has declined to file both felony and hate crime charges against the attackers:

In July 2007, Vishal Wadhwa, a 38-year-old Indian American vice president and banker with Citi Private Bank, was attacked by South Lake Tahoe residents Joseph and Georgia Silva on El Dorado Beach in Tahoe.

Racial epithets like “Indian sluts and whores,” “Indian garbage,” “terrorists” and “relatives of Osama bin Laden” were thrown at Wadhwa, who was accompanied by his fiancée and her cousin. Wadhwa asked the Silvas to stop calling them names, but the pair continued. As Wadhwa left to call the police, the Silvas followed him and attacked him in the parking lot.

Wadhwa suffered a broken orbital socket, which will cause dizzy spells for the rest of his life, not to mention the emotional, psychological and physical trauma. Many in the Asian American and legal communities who saw this case as the definition of a hate crime were outraged to learn on July 31 that felony and hate crime charges were dropped against the Silvas.

“If this [case] is not a hate crime, then what is a hate crime?” asked Harmeet K. Dhillon, the South Asian Bar Association’s Civil Rights Committee chair. “If you shout racial epithets and if you break someone’s face based on their ethnicity, it is a hate crime.”

The hate-crime charges have been dropped because racially offensive words by themselves do not constitute a hate crime unless accompanied by a threat of harm because of one’s ethnicity. Racial epithets were used in anger, but Wadhwa was not kicked because of his ethnicity, according to witnesses. The felony charges have been dropped because the attack by the Silvas did not produce “great bodily injury,” since Silva kicked Wadhwa using only her bare foot.

According to the FBI’s website, the legal definition of a hate crime is: “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.”

Based on that definition, I am absolutely astounded as to why anyone would not consider the attack on Mr. Wadhwa to be anything else than a hate crime. First, clearly the attack on Mr, Wadhwa was a criminal offense. Second, it is also pretty clear that the offender was motivated by bias against Indians and those who looked Muslim.

So if this is not a hate crime, exactly what is? Here’s the answer: what this is, is another unfortunate example of how the lives of Asian Americans are systematically marginalized and devalued by American criminal justice officials and institutions.

This tradition of unequal and unjust treatment of Asian Americans has a long history, going back to when Chinese immigrants first came to the U.S. and were subjected to discriminatory taxes, physical attacks, and even murder, but were not allowed to testify against their White attackers, who almost always went free.

This tradition also continued when 120,000 Japanese Americans were stripped of their constitutional rights and imprisoned for nothing more than their Japanese ancestry, an episode that was so egregiously unjust that the U.S. government later officially apologized to those imprisoned, calling the episode “a grave injustice” that resulted from “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

This tradition was perhaps best illustrated by the gruesome murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was bludgeoned to death by two unemployed White auto workers who mistook him for Japanese and blamed him for them losing their jobs, and who subsequently got away with murder by paying a $3,700 fine and have never spent a day in jail for their crime.

In the Wadhwa case, I hope Mr. Wadhwa and his family appeal to the FBI to bring federal hate crime charges against their attackers (and also file a civil suit against them for millions of dollars in damages), since the city of Lake Tahoe and the State of California apparently are incapable of delivering justice for him.

As I’ve written about before, incidents of physical violence like this unfortunately seem to be examples of how Americans are expressing their insecurity and backlash over globalization and America’s waning superiority in the 21st century.

September 5, 2008

Written by C.N.

The Beginning of a Post-America World

For some time now, I’ve written about how, on the international stage, countries such as China and India are emerging as economic, political, and cultural superpowers in the 21st century and domestically, how American society is becoming more and more diverse and globalized as a result. So what does the future hold for the U.S. as these trends become more institutionalized?

That’s the question that CBS News asks in a very interesting article entitled “Coming Soon: A Post-American World:
With The Rise Of China And Other Economies, The ‘Golden Age’ Of American Influence May Be Coming To An End.” Some excerpts:

“We can model the economy and show that by 2035, it will be as big, if not bigger than the United States’ economy will be at that time, and by the middle of the century it will be twice the size of the U.S. economy at that time,” [China expert Albert] Keidel said. . . .

In case you missed that – within the next 50 years China’s economy will double the size of the United States’ economy. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, said, “What’s happening right now is, the world is moving beyond America. The future is, in many ways, being shaped in distant places by foreign people.” . . .

“That’s a big shift from a world in which America was at the center economically, financially, culturally, militarily, politically, to a world in which there are more centers and many forces, from India to China to Brazil to South Africa that have to be taken into account,” Zakaria said. . . .

“This is not happening because America is failing or declining,” Zakaria said. “It’s happening because the rest are rising, and it’s happening because the natives have gotten good at capitalism.”

The article goes on to discuss what the U.S. can do to retain its economic and political superiority in the face of these momentous changes:

[Alan Wolff, former U.S. trade negotiator:] “We need to change our tax policies, change our immigration policy. We made the U.S. a magnet, an attractive place for the best and the brightest in the world, and we frustrate that by saying, ‘You get a Ph.D. here and that doesn’t matter. Right now, we’re throwing you out.’ That’s very self-destructive behavior.”

“We save too little, we consume too much, we borrow too much from the rest of the world, we use energy in a profligate and wasteful fashion,” said Zakaria.

So is the decline of the American economic empire inevitable? That’s a very complicated question and one that I will continue to explore in this blog, but for now, I would love to hear from you, my readers, on what you think the future holds for the U.S. in terms of keeping its status as the most powerful nation in the world.

Feel free to add your comments and let me know what you think.

September 3, 2008

Written by C.N.

Latest Immigration and Assimilation Research

As mentioned on the Contexts Crawler blog, National Public Radio (NPR) recently did a podcast that discussed the results of a comprehensive study by some of the best-known and most-respected sociologists in the field on the question of whether contemporary immigrants are immigrating into the American mainstream as easily as previous streams of immigrants:

The “second generation” project looked at five groups [in the NYC metro area] — Russians, Dominicans, South Americans, Chinese and West Indians — and compared them with U.S.-born whites, Puerto Ricans and African-Americans. Researchers found that most in the second generation were fluent in English and working in the mainstream economy.

When they looked at economic and educational achievement, they found that West Indians were doing better, in general, than African-Americans; Dominicans were doing better than Puerto Ricans; and the Chinese and the Russians were doing as well as or better than native-born whites. . . .

Legal immigration is more difficult today, and researchers note that this may well change the rate of assimilation. But for these five groups, “what we really find is a very rapid assimilation and becoming American,” says Mary Waters of Harvard University, another author of the study, titled Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age. . . .

Although Inheriting the City paints an optimistic portrait of this second generation, it has some warnings about the situation facing native-born minorities. The researchers also say the children of undocumented immigrants tend to do worse and have a tougher time assimilating. Because legal immigration is tougher to come by today, researchers say they wonder whether the path for the next “second generation” will be as smooth.

Although I have not read the Inheriting the City book, given my high regard for the expertise of the book’s authors, I have no doubt that it is a very informative and interesting look at this ongoing issue of assimilation among contemporary immigrants.

I look forward to checking it out soon.

September 1, 2008

Written by C.N.

Addressing Depression and Mental Illness Among Students

As we prepare to start another academic year, it’s important to remember that for many Asian American students at all levels, the flip side of being thought of as the “model minority” or “super-students” is the pressure of living up to those lofty expectations. If and when those unrealistic expectations are not met, many encounter various forms of depression, mental illness, thoughts of suicide, and — in the case of Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech gunman — psychopathic violence.

Slowly, school officials are waking up to this reality and unfortunately, have begun addressing this phenomenon head-on. As Diverse Issues in Education reports, many colleges with large numbers of Asian American students have implemented programs that proactively seeks out and helps Asian American students who may be at risk:

College can be a tough time for any student, regardless of ethnicity. But many Asians face particular stresses as they are caught between two cultures, according to Dr. Nolan Zane, director of the UC-Davis center. Asians are expected by mainstream society to do well. And if they’re from an immigrant family, the expectations are even higher. Students may feel pressured into “safe” career paths like medicine or law.

When problems such as social anxiety and depression arise, cultural barriers prevent many from seeking help. Talking about problems to outsiders is considered taboo and shameful. Getting help from family often isn’t an option either. Many Asians attach a strong stigma to mental health problems or simply deny their existence.

Zane recalls that the parents of a Chinese American student couldn’t understand why he recommended that their son get counseling. The parents thought their distraught son, whose grades were slipping, just needed to study harder. . . .

White students may wrestle with the same problems, but tend to get help or be helped sooner, says Dr. Wai-Kwong Wong, a counselor at Cornell’s Gannett Health Services. . . . Cornell officials were jolted into action after a university-sponsored report in 2004 detailed the sense of isolation and dissatisfaction among Asian American and international Asian students. . . .

At Cornell, the efforts that started four years ago are starting to yield results. From the time he was a freshman until he graduated in May, Timothy Chow witnessed a dramatic change in awareness about mental health issues among his fellow Asian classmates.

In response to the university report on Asian students, Chow and several friends organized a group to advocate for changes. At the initial meetings, fewer than 10 students expressed interest. Chow says that many students likely shied away because they didn’t want to be associated with mental health issues.

But this past school year, two events on stress relief sponsored by the Asian/Asian-American Forum attracted more than 100 people each. The fairs featured massage therapists, yoga sessions and presentations from a nutritionist and counselors.

The article goes on to mention that one potential drawback of such intensified efforts to address mental health issues among Asian American students is that it may lead to the perception that being an Asian American students means that you are automatically at risk for mental health issues.

That’s a fair and very insightful observation and one that I had not thought of. Nonetheless, I think that is still less of a danger than the other way around — ignoring Asian American students who may be suffering in silence and isolation.

The statistics from studies such as that from Cornell tell a very compelling picture — Asian American students face unique pressures and challenges that other students do not. Yes, there is a danger of using data like this to “essentialize” Asian American students in the same way of thinking that we’re all good at math.

But in today’s globalized and multicultural racial/ethnic landscape, I think most Americans are sophisticated enough to know that the Asian American community is more complex than that. Besides, I’d rather take that risk than one that sets the stage for another Seung-Hui Cho to emerge.