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.
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.
First of all I want to say I’m happy to be on board. I’ve been following Asian and Asian American sociopolitical issues for some time now, and I only hope to create dialogue by outlining major points of discussion related both to intercultural issues between the U.S. and Asian countries, as well as specific issues among Asian America. Being an aspiring professional in the field of Intercultural Relations, I want to work towards bridging the aspects that divide us and encourage more respect and observation of all of our unique identities.
Recently I was able to attend a conference focused on diversity and inclusion at universities at MIT. Among many workshops, one was focused on the issue of the bamboo ceiling. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this concept, but for clarification, the term is borrowed from the phrase “Glass Ceiling” and refers to the barriers in the workplace or society that targets Asian people and prevents or impedes on career advancement and inclusion in the workplace. The phrase was coined by author Jane Hyun in the book Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians. Has anyone read it? It’s on my to-do list.
There are a few key points in this discussion to think about. First, what is the problem? When we think of our society and economy we often pride ourselves that the U.S. values hard work and individual tact over racial and other social categorizations. Ideally, we’d like to promote a “Meritocracy”, where one is judged by their merit. When this isn’t the case, it shines a light on how complex and difficult this process is, and why we need to spend time creating action plans to address this in the workplace, just as we’ve made great strides with combating sexual harassment in the workplace.
So what isn’t working and how is this specific to Asian and Asian Americans? There are a number of salient factors that constitute the problem of the bamboo ceiling. Some are well known, in the case of pure racial discrimination – the typical concept of the old boys club, while a few arose that I found interesting.
We talked a lot about how different values contribute. I think this is a controversial discussion with points on both sides, but generally speaking many of the values in the workplace common in America conflict with values taught in Asian countries and vice versa. You can say “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, but also managers should recognize the worth in integrating values they aren’t so familiar with and seeing the work as a complex and multi-faceted individual.
According to the workshop and from discussion, the major cultural difference in this case was in how the U.S. values traits such as proactiveness (sometimes downright aggressiveness) and being bold, injecting oneself into conversations and not merely contributing, but controlling the conversation when needed. We say “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. However the saying from the speaker, reflecting his Chinese background says “the loudest duck gets shot” and my favorite is “the tallest grass gets chopped”.
It is easy to feel intimidated when the rules of the game put the dominant class at a continuous advantage by virtue of being born into that class. Like so many social systems, the process feels gamed to perpetuate those already in positions of power by a cycle of reinforcement of dominant values and exclusion of others.
However, in the business world, conforming to norms is simply a matter of pragmatism and often success. Although a particular manager may be sympathetic to these concerns, these “rules” are not easily alterable. So what can we do? Who has the responsibility to adjust? The speaker suggested how multiple concepts of leadership can be integrated into the workplace, and how the employee can be counseled specific to the manner they are most comfortable with.
For example (stereotype:beware!) they felt that Asian and Asian American workers tend to prefer technical traits and may prefer positions of leadership that involve training and managing in the technical aspects of the job. This can be a positive step, but I worry about perpetuating the stereotypes and not addressing ones individuality. This would create a class where leadership positions are more attainable, but susceptible to being treated as inferior to the “main” leadership class. I think a good manager can spend time to assess the abilities of his workers and provide more individualized resources and training without creating a new set of labels. Meanwhile the worker should think about how to “own” their career by spending time outside of their comfort zone as much as possible.
In the end the success may be determined by the relationship between the worker and supervisor and how well the worker feels supported while the manager feels the worker is truly concerned for their developing professional skills. Assessing relationships in the workplace in this sense is a key concern in tackling this issue.
Another issue that I never thought about until this event is the concept of “protective hesitation”. This is a backlash of concerns over racism. The manager is actually too sensitized to issues of discrimination that they don’t give criticism when they should. They feel they are doing well to avoid potential misunderstandings that are perceived as discrimination, and as a result the affected employee doesn’t get the support they need through critical feedback. This is support that other workers of the same perceived identity as the manager do receive.
How do we deal with the manager’s apprehension? This relates to the first matter and can be dealt with similarly. Communication needs to be opened up. The employee should be prepared to receive the criticism as any professional would, while the manager needs to perceive their employee not in a color-blind manner, but with regard to the aspects of their identity that contribute to or hinder their progress, despite being categorized in lenses of dominant values vs. outliers.
Again, the relationship matters, and managers themselves should held accountable to bring out the best in their employees. If we really want to talk about equal access (different than equal result) we do need to adjust from a hierarchical process of “working your way up the ladder”, to a perspective that is concerned with maximizing the human resources in an institution. We need to allow for a supervisor/subordinate relationship that also is a mutually beneficial one.
Equal access is about perceiving appropriate roles rather than seeking equivalency that often results from striving for egalitarianism. I first learned of this concept in a Chinese history class in fact. Mutually (ideally, of course) beneficial roles have been a part of Chinese society for quite some time, and can be seen as an alternative to our obsession with equivalency in this country.
The last topic was brought up in discussion by a colleague and relates to identity. At the end of the day, a lot of advancement in the workplace results simply from the rapport one has in their workplace community. It is easy for people who perceive their identities as similar to build rapport and quite frustrating and intimidating for people born outside of the dominant identities at play in the workplace. My colleague explained how she must initially put on a workplace identity, and slowly introduce her real self over time.
Perhaps this can be said of all of us, but the distance one has to go is far greater for someone with an identity outside of the mainstream. Again, it’s all about relationships. Forming them, acknowledging them and nurturing them from both sides. While it is hard to accomplish as a member of a minority group, it is important to consider how it is that much more demanding to overcome when you face multiple identity barriers, as in the case for Asian American women in the workplace.
This topic can be continued at great length and I encourage you to bring up other key points. The takeaway from this is first to establish this dialogue. I do believe that a lot of what we perceive as ignorance is really lazy obliviousness. Getting these issues out there is the first step. Secondly, for the role of the human resource department, there needs to be a focus on a workplace that nurtures positive relationships, between everyone of course, but more importantly between supervisors and subordinates.
And lastly, both the supervisor and employee should be encouraged to spend time outside of their comfort zone. The whole issue with identity and discrimination is that it is just so much easier to think and work among people you see as “like you”. But this often doesn’t, and sometimes even opposes, progress and positive results.
What about you? Have you faced this concept of bamboo ceiling in your own life. If you don’t identify as someone affected by this, have you considered the issue of protective hesitation? Do you truly treat the subject as an individual or do you just replace one bad discriminatory behavior for another? Have you ever spoken up or wanted to speak up when you observed this from others in your workplace?
My sociological journey began in the third grade. On the day in question, I had worked up enough childhood courage to tell my crush, a U.S. born Korean American girl, that I liked her. In my romantic fantasies—fueled by watching “the Little Mermaid” exactly a thousand times on VHS—I was hoping for fireworks and singing crabs to sprout up outside of Mrs. Locke’s room.
During recess, I made the note. It was written in red magic marker, and said “Do you want to go out? [ ] Yes, [ ] No, [ ] Maybe”. Yes, as a 3rd grader I knew to include an “other category,”—I was destined for survey research, but that’s another blog. I walked up the stairs, backed by a half-dozen of excited but jeering boys, following me like scientists follow a test missile.
Palms sweating and heart racing, I handed my crush the note.
She took it. And read it. And gave it back to me without checking a box.
“Umm…” she said, looking to see if anyone else was watching (years of playing hide and seek had paid off for my male conspirators in the stairwell), “I don’t think I can go out with you. I don’t think my mom would like it if I went out with a Filipino.”
That day, more than any other day in memory, has made me want to understand Asian American sociology. So much was happening in that story, and life stories just like it, that I desperately need my sociological lens just to understand it.
From a critical black sociological lens, this was my first experience of double consciousness. W.E.B. DuBois explains double consciousness where my American romantic values (“you can love whoever you want, regardless of creed”) were in conflict with my lived reality (“my mom doesn’t like Filipinos, so we shouldn’t date.”)
From a colonial mentality sociological lens, her mind was thoroughly colonized and it affected how she saw me. According to Fannon, her mind was colonized by western ideas of love, she had been brainwashed into believing that ‘going out’ with a Filipino was undesirable from the start.
From a dramaturgical sociological lens, her front stage behavior had been informed by her back stage interactions with her mother. Her role, as a good daughter, was to not date Filipinos, and she played that role regardless of my courage, the penmanship on my note, or the fact that it was written in red—her favorite color. She had conformed to her role, and I was just another actor.
I am in love with sociology because it allows me to understand my racialized life, and the way in which it affects Asian and Pacific Islanders. To me, Asian Sociology is the use of sociological tools (theory, data, and analytics—both quantitative and qualitative) to understand the Asian experience. And, personally, I can’t see myself doing any other type of work.
PS: I would like to thank C.N. for giving me the opportunity to contribute to Asian-Nation. I would also like to recognize Calvin for his contribution to Asian-Nation. I look forward to this endeavor.
The following is a list of recent academic journal articles and doctoral dissertations from scholars in the social sciences and humanities that focus on race/ethnicity and/or immigration, with a particular emphasis on Asian Americans. The academic journal articles are generally available in the libraries of most colleges and universities and/or through online research databases. As always, works included in this list are for informational purposes only and do not imply an endorsement of their contents.
“Are there any continuities,” wonders scholar Min Hyoung Song, “between the earlier generation of writers which first raised the banner of an Asian American literature and a later generation of writers which inherited it?”
This is the question AALR’s Spring 2012 issue on “Generations” poses to 29 writers, poets, playwrights, spoken word performers, scholars, and publishers of various generations, regions, and ethnic and artistic communities. What emerges is a vital survey of generational continuities and divergences-not to mention some necessary reevaluation of how “generations,” “Asian American,” and “Asian American literature” might be understood. Respondents include Genny Lim, David Mura, Velina Hasu Houston, Giles Li, Gary Pak, Neelanjana Banerjee, Fred Wah, Anna Kazumi Stahl, Sunyoung Lee of Kaya Press, and Allan Kornblum of Coffee House Press, among others.
Other issue features include: Maxine Hong Kingston interviewed by Min Hyoung Song; Miguel Syjuco interviewed by Brian Ascalon Roley; Afaa Michael Weaver interviewed by Gerald Maa; a dialogue on “Asian American form” between Karen Tei Yamashita, Sesshu Foster, R. Zamora Linmark, Ray Hsu, Timothy Yu, Larissa Lai, Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, and Srikanth Reddy; new poetry by Dilruba Ahmed, Ed Bok Lee, R. Zamora Linmark, Wing Tek Lum, and Afaa Michael Weaver; an email to Monique Truong from The New York Times; new writing by Ed Park; translations of work by Hiromi Itō and Carlos Yushimito del Valle; reviews of Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel and Richard Yates, the new edition of Sui Sin Far’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance, Srikanth Reddy’s Voyager, and Monique Truong’s Bitter in the Mouth.
This special AAPI Nexus issue examines Asian American experiences in global cities through comparative studies of Los Angeles and New York. The demographic facts are astonishing — more than a quarter of the sixteen million Asian Americans reside in either of the two greater metropolises where they comprise more than a tenth of the total population in each region. Consequently, it is difficult to fully understand and appreciate Asian American experiences without studying these two global cities.
The comparative approach offers great analytical potential because it can generate insights into what phenomena transcend regions and patterns that are produced by factors and forces common to Asian Americans regardless of location and fundamental global-city processes. The comparative approach can also identify phenomena that are unique to each region, such as outcomes of specific local and regional structures and dynamics. . . .
Our hope is that this issue will be a stimulus to further theorizing and empirical analyses of Asian Americans in global cities including those beyond Los Angeles and New York. . . . Scholarly research, however, is not sufficient. Our goal was to compile a set of articles that contributes to engaged practices. . . . We believe that this principle should be integral to future comparative work.
List of articles:
Shih, Howard and Melany De La Cruz-Viesca. “A Tale of Two Global Cities: The State of Asian Americans in Los Angeles and New York.”
Nakaoka, Susan. “Cultivating a Cultural Home Space: The Case of Little Tokyo’s Budokan of Los Angeles Project.”
Sze, Lena. “This is Part of Our History: Preserving Garment Manufacturing and a Sense of Home in Manhattan’s Chinatown.”
Le, C.N. “New Dimensions of Self-Employment among Asian Americans in Los Angeles and New York.”
Rotramel, Ariella. “We Make the Spring Rolls, They Make Their Own Rules: Filipina Domestic Workers’ Fight for Labor Rights in New York City and Los Angeles.”
Chang, Benji and Juhyung Harold Lee. “Community-Based? Asian American Students, Parents, and Teachers in Shifting Chinatowns of New York and Los Angeles.”
Yep, Kathleen S. 2012. “Peddling Sport: Liberal Multiculturalism and the Racial Triangulation of Blackness, Chineseness and Native American-ness in Professional Basketball.” Ethnic and Racial Studies. 35(6):971–987.
Abstract: Abstract Deploying liberal multiculturalist discourse, the media depicts professional basketball as a post-racial space where all talented players, regardless of their race, can thrive if they work hard. An analysis of the construction of non-white players in the 1930s and in 2010 demonstrates sport as modulated by racially charged discourse. As part of a liberal multiculturalist frame, the coding of basketball players as hero, threat and novelty serve to privilege whiteness and replicate racialized and gendered images that can be traced to the 1930s. In doing so, the article highlights how liberal multiculturalism involves racial triangulation and the simultaneous processes of hyper-racialization and de-racialization.
Kiang, Lisa, Jamie Lee Peterson, and Taylor L Thompson. 2011. “Ethnic Peer Preferences Among Asian American Adolescents in Emerging Immigrant Communities.” Journal of Research on Adolescence. 21(4):754–761.
Abstract: Growing diversity and evidence that diverse friendships enhance psychosocial success highlight the importance of understanding adolescents’ ethnic peer preferences. Using social identity and social contact frameworks, the ethnic preferences of 169 Asian American adolescents (60% female) were examined in relation to ethnic identity, perceived discrimination, and language proficiency. Adolescents with same- and mixed-ethnic friends reported significantly greater ethnic centrality than those with mostly different-ethnic friends. Adolescents with same-ethnic friends reported significantly higher perceived discrimination and lower English proficiency than those with mixed- and different-ethnic friends. Open-ended responses were linked to quantitative data and provided further insight into specific influences on peer preferences (e.g., shared traditions, homophily). Results speak to the importance of cultural experiences in structuring the friendships and everyday lives of adolescents.
Narui, Mitsu. 2011. “Understanding Asian/American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Experiences from a Poststructural Perspective.” Journal of Homosexuality. 58(9):1211–1234.
Abstract: This study explores the college experiences of nine Asian/American gay, lesbian, and bisexual students and, specifically, the impact of concealing or revealing their sexual orientation on their emerging sense of self. By utilizing a Foucauldian, poststructural theoretical perspective, the researcher found that the students navigated multiple discourses, and their decisions about revealing their sexual orientation were based on relationships formed within those discourses. These decisions, in turn, helped many of the students grasp their emerging agency within the dominant discourse. To conclude, the researcher discusses the implications of these findings for higher education as a whole.
Diaz, Maria-elena D. 2012. “Asian Embeddedness and Political Participation: Social Integration and Asian-American Voting Behavior in the 2000 Presidential Election.” Sociological Perspectives. 55(1):141–166.
Abstract: Despite the abundance of electoral research, a recurring finding is that Asian-Americans in multivariate analyses are less likely to vote compared to all other Americans. Yet Asians have high levels of education and income, the strongest predictors of voting behavior. This article goes beyond individual-level characteristics and examines how the ways in which Asian-Americans are connected to communities moderate individual-level characteristics and influence their electoral participation. Using hierarchical generalized linear modeling, variability in Asian-American voting behavior is studied with 2000 Current Population Survey voting data and county data primarily from the 2000 U.S. Census. The main findings are that social integration, either by highly assimilating communities or through ethnic organizing, facilitates political incorporation and electoral participation. Where neither condition exists, Asian-Americans are less likely to vote.
Pih, Kay Kei‐ho, Akihiko Hirose, and KuoRay Mao. 2012. “The Invisible Unattended: Low‐wage Chinese Immigrant Workers, Health Care, and Social Capital in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley.” Sociological Inquiry. 82(2):236–256.
Abstract: This study investigates the factors affecting the availability of health insurance, the accessibility of health care, and the dissemination of the relevant information among low-wage Chinese immigrants in Southern California by relying on the concepts of social and cultural capital. Using community-based research and in-depth interviews, our study suggests that a severe shortage in health care coverage among low-wage Chinese immigrants is influenced by the lack of employment with employer-provided health insurance within the Chinese “ethnoburb” community. Although the valuable social capital generated by Chinese immigrant networks seems to be sufficient enough to provide them with certain practical resources, the lack of cultural capital renders the social network rather ineffective in providing critical health care information from mainstream American society.
Zonta, Michela M. 2012. “The Continuing Significance of Ethnic Resources: Korean-Owned Banks in Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 38(3):463–484.
Abstract: Mirroring the geographic expansion of the Korean population and Korean-owned businesses beyond long-established enclaves, Korean-owned banks can increasingly be found in areas where the presence of mainstream banks is more visible and competition is potentially stronger. Yet, despite competition, Korean banks continue to expand and thrive. By focusing on the recent development of Korean banking in Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC, this article explores the role of ethnic resources in the expansion of Korean banking outside their protected market. Findings suggest that ethnic resources and ties to ethnic enclaves are still important in supporting the ethnic economy in environments characterised by weaker ties and increasing competition by mainstream businesses.
Spencer, James H., Petrice R. Flowers, and Jungmin Seo. 2012. “Post-1980s Multicultural Immigrant Neighbourhoods: Koreatowns, Spatial Identities and Host Regions in the Pacific Rim.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 38(3):437–461.
Abstract: Recent trends in migration across the Pacific Rim have suggested that neighbourhoods have become important sources of community identity, requiring a re-evaluation of the relationship between urban places and immigrants. Specifically, we argue that the notion of ethnic enclaves may not fit well with some of the newer, post-1980s immigrant populations in Pacific Rim cities. Using data from the cases of Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beijing, we argue that Korean settlement in these cities represents a new kind of immigrant neighbourhood that links Korean migrants with other migrant communities, consumers in the broader region and local government interests to produce places that mitigate increasingly multicultural and multi-ethnic urban hierarchies in their localities. This role has become particularly important regarding real estate and economic development strategies.
Yoon, In-Jin. 2012. “Migration and the Korean Diaspora: A Comparative Description of Five Cases.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 38(3):413–435.
Abstract: The international migration and settlement of Koreans began in 1860 and there are now about 6.8 million overseas Koreans in 170 countries. Each wave of Korean migration was driven by different historical factors in the homeland and the host countries, and hence the motivations and characteristics of Korean immigrants in each period were different. The diverse conditions in and government policies of the host countries also affected the mode of entry and incorporation of Koreans. A contrast is drawn between the ?old? and the ?new? Korean migrations. The former consists of those who migrated to Russia, China, America and Japan from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. They were from the lower classes, pushed out by poverty, war and oppression in the homeland. Few returned to the homeland but preserved their collective identities and ethnic cultures in their host societies. The new migrants to America, Europe and Latin America since the 1960s, however, come from middle-class backgrounds, are pulled by better opportunities in the host countries, travel freely between the homeland and host countries, and maintain transnational families and communities. Despite these differences, overseas Koreans share common experiences and patterns of immigration, settlement and adaptation.
The following new books examine the intersections of Asian American racial/ethnic identity, power and institutional relationships with mainstream U.S. society, and how community dynamics affect their sense of belonging within this context. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
Numerous studies have documented the transnational experiences and local activities of Chinese immigrants in California and New York in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Less is known about the vibrant Chinese American community that developed at the same time in Chicago. In this sweeping account, Huping Ling offers the first comprehensive history of Chinese in Chicago, beginning with the arrival of the pioneering Moy brothers in the 1870s and continuing to the present.
Ling focuses on how race, transnational migration, and community have defined Chinese in Chicago. Drawing upon archival documents in English and Chinese, she charts how Chinese made a place for themselves among the multiethnic neighborhoods of Chicago, cultivating friendships with local authorities and consciously avoiding racial conflicts.
Ling takes readers through the decades, exploring evolving family structures and relationships, the development of community organizations, and the operation of transnational businesses. She pays particular attention to the influential role of Chinese in Chicago’s academic and intellectual communities and to the complex and conflicting relationships among today’s more dispersed Chinese Americans in Chicago.
Within hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center, misdirected assaults on Sikhs and other South Asians flared on streets across the nation, serving as harbingers of a more suspicious, less discerning, and increasingly fearful world view that would drastically change ideas of belonging and acceptance in America.
Weaving together distinct strands of recent South Asian immigration to the United States, Uncle Swami creates a richly textured analysis of the systems and sentiments behind shifting notions of cultural identity in a post 9/11 world. Vijay Prashad continues the conversation sparked by his celebrated work The Karma of Brown Folk and confronts the experience of migration across an expanse of generations and class divisions, from the birth of political activism among second generation immigrants to the meteoric rise of South Asian American politicians in Republican circles to the migrant workers who suffer in the name of American capitalism.
A powerful new indictment of American imperialism at the dawn of the twenty-first century, Uncle Swami restores a diasporic community to its full-fledged complexity, beyond model minorities and the specters of terrorism.
An iconic figure of the Asian American movement, Richard Aoki (1938–2009) was also, as the most prominent non-Black member of the Black Panther Party, a key architect of Afro-Asian solidarity in the 1960s and ’70s. His life story exposes the personal side of political activism as it illuminates the history of ethnic nationalism and radical internationalism in America.
A reflection of this interconnection, Samurai among Panthers weaves together two narratives: Aoki’s dramatic first-person chronicle and an interpretive history by a leading scholar of the Asian American movement, Diane C. Fujino. Aoki’s candid account of himself takes us from his early years in Japanese American internment camps to his political education on the streets of Oakland, to his emergence in the Black Panther Party.
As his story unfolds, we see how his parents’ separation inside the camps and his father’s illegal activities shaped the development of Aoki’s politics. Fujino situates his life within the context of twentieth-century history—World War II, the Cold War, and the protests of the 1960s. She demonstrates how activism is both an accidental and an intentional endeavor and how a militant activist practice can also promote participatory democracy and social service.
The result of these parallel voices and analysis in Samurai among Panthers is a complex—and sometimes contradictory—portrait of a singularly extraordinary activist and an expansion and deepening of our understanding of the history he lived.
At the turn of the twentieth century, a wave of Chinese men made their way to the northern Mexican border state of Sonora to work and live. The ties–and families–these Mexicans and Chinese created led to the formation of a new cultural identity: Chinese Mexican. During the tumult of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, however, anti-Chinese sentiment ultimately led to mass expulsion of these people.
Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho follows the community through the mid-twentieth century, across borders and oceans, to show how they fought for their place as Mexicans, both in Mexico and abroad. Tracing transnational geography, Schiavone Camacho explores how these men and women developed a strong sense of Mexican national identity while living abroad—in the United States, briefly, and then in southeast Asia where they created a hybrid community and taught their children about the Mexican homeland.
Schiavone Camacho also addresses how Mexican women challenged their legal status after being stripped of Mexican citizenship because they married Chinese men. After repatriation in the 1930s-1960s, Chinese Mexican men and women, who had left Mexico with strong regional identities, now claimed national cultural belonging and Mexican identity in ways they had not before.
When health officials in San Francisco discovered bubonic plague in their city’s Chinatown in 1900, they responded with intrusive, controlling, and arbitrary measures that touched off a sociocultural conflict still relevant today. Guenter B. Risse’s history of an epidemic is the first to incorporate the voices of those living in Chinatown at the time, including the desperately ill Wong Chut King, believed to be the first person infected.
Lasting until 1904, the plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown reignited racial prejudices, renewed efforts to remove the Chinese from their district, and created new tensions among local, state, and federal public health officials quarreling over the presence of the deadly disease. Risse’s rich, nuanced narrative of the event draws from a variety of sources, including Chinese-language reports and accounts. He addresses the ecology of Chinatown, the approaches taken by Chinese and Western medical practitioners, and the effects of quarantine plans on Chinatown and its residents.
Risse explains how plague threatened California’s agricultural economy and San Francisco’s leading commercial role with Asia, discusses why it brought on a wave of fear mongering that drove perceptions and intervention efforts, and describes how Chinese residents organized and successfully opposed government quarantines and evacuation plans in federal court. By probing public health interventions in the setting of one of the most visible ethnic communities in United States history, Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Francisco’s Chinatown offers insight into the clash of Eastern and Western cultures in a time of medical emergency.
In 1915, Jukichi and Ken Harada purchased a house on Lemon Street in Riverside, California. Close to their restaurant, church, and children’s school, the house should have been a safe and healthy family home. Before the purchase, white neighbors objected because of the Haradas’ Japanese ancestry, and the California Alien Land Law denied them real-estate ownership because they were not citizens. To bypass the law Mr. Harada bought the house in the names of his three youngest children, who were American-born citizens. Neighbors protested again, and the first Japanese American court test of the California Alien Land Law of 1913—The People of the State of California v. Jukichi Harada—was the result.
Bringing this little-known story to light, The House on Lemon Street details the Haradas’ decision to fight for the American dream. Chronicling their experiences from their immigration to the United States through their legal battle over their home, their incarceration during World War II, and their lives after the war, this book tells the story of the family’s participation in the struggle for human and civil rights, social justice, property and legal rights, and fair treatment of immigrants in the United States.
The Harada family’s quest for acceptance illuminates the deep underpinnings of anti-Asian animus, which set the stage for Executive Order 9066, and recognizes fundamental elements of our nation’s anti-immigrant history that continue to shape the American story. It will be worthwhile for anyone interested in the Japanese American experience in the twentieth century, immigration history, public history, and law.
Documentation of Filipino American history is largely limited to the Manong Generation that immigrated to the United States during the early 1900s. Their second-generation children — the Bridge Generation — are now in their sixties, seventies, and eighties; however, the literature is silent regarding their life in America.
Vanishing Filipino Americans explores the Bridge Generation’s growing up years; their maturation as participants in Filipino youth clubs; their development of a unique subculture; their civic participation; and their triumphs and struggles in America’s workforce. Jamero begins the process of documenting the experiences and contributions of these second-generation Filipino Americans, addressing a significant void in the history of Filipinos in America.
What does it mean for an Asian American to be part white or part black? Bruce Hoskins probes the experience of biracial Asian Americans, revealing the ways that our discourse about multiracial identities too often reinforces racial hierarchies.
Hoskins explores the everyday lives of people of Asian/white and Asian/black heritage to uncover the role of our society s white-black continuum in shaping racial identity. Mixing intimate personal stories with cutting-edge theoretical analysis, he directly confronts the notion that multiracial identity provides an easy solution for our society s racial stratification.
2009: Gary Locke and the Future of Asian American Identity As Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke prepares to become the U.S’s new Ambassador to China, I look at how he represents the forging of a new identity for Asian Americans as they contribute to strengthening American society in the 21st century.
As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience, and for readers who like to keep on top of the latest sociological research, I highlight new research and studies in academic journals about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. An article’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.
The following articles focus on different aspects of Asian Americans portrayed as the “model minority” and how such perceptions on the part of White society and social institutions affect how Asian Americans are treated in daily life.
Chao, Melody Manchi, Chi-yue Chiu, and Jamee S. Lee. 2010. “Asians as the Model Minority: Implications for US Government’s Policies.” Journal of Social Psychology 13:44-52.
Asian Americans are often perceived as a ‘model minority’– an ethnic minority that are high achieving, hardworking, self-reliant, law-abiding, as well as having few social and mental health problems. Although the impact of the model minority image on the US government’s redistributive policies is a widely contested topic in public discourses, there has been little research on the association between the model minority image, people’s worldviews, and attitudes towards the US government’s redistributive policies.
In an experiment that measured American participants’ worldviews and manipulated the salience of the model minority image, we have demonstrated that those who believed in a malleable social reality were relatively unsupportive of government policies that help the Asian American (vs African American) communities. Theoretical and practical implications of this finding are discussed.
Brettell, Caroline B. and Faith Nibbs. 2010. “Lived Hybridity: Second-Generation Identity Construction Through College Festival.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 16:678-699.
Recent research suggests that the children of recent immigrants, the so-called second generation, no longer choose to emphasize one identity over the other but that their identities are more fluid and multifaceted. College campuses are often the arenas in which a new hybrid identity develops.
This article addresses how South Asian American college students make sense of and control their various identities through the celebration of Diwali, an event sponsored each year by the Indian Students Association (ISA) on a college campus in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. South Asian students use performative space to help them make sense of their backgrounds in ways that both differentiate them from and allow for association with the majority student population.
They also use this space as a safe place for ‘coming out,’ that is, for communicating their hybrid identity to their parents. This hybrid identity is expressed through a discourse of ‘brownness’ that marks something distinctive and that reflects the process by which the children of immigrants choose among a range of identities to create integrated selves. The campus Diwali festival is the expression of those selves.
Johnson, Brian D. and Sara Betsinger. 2009. “Punishing the “Model Minority”: Asian-American Criminal Sentencing Outcomes in Federal District Courts.” Criminology 47:1045-1090.
Research on racial and ethnic disparities in criminal punishment is expansive but remains focused almost exclusively on the treatment of black and Hispanic offenders. The current study extends contemporary research on the racial patterning of punishments by incorporating Asian-American offenders. Using data from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) for FY1997-FY2000, we examine sentencing disparities in federal district courts for several outcomes.
The results of this study indicate that Asian Americans are punished more similarly to white offenders compared with black and Hispanic offenders. These findings raise questions for traditional racial conflict perspectives and lend support to more recent theoretical perspectives grounded in attribution processes of the courtroom workgroup. The article concludes with a discussion of future directions for research on understudied racial and ethnic minority groups.
Oh, David C. and Madeleine Katz. 2009. “Covering Asian America: A Content Analysis Examining Asian American Community Size and Its Relationship to Major Newspapers’ Coverage.” Howard Journal of Communications 20:222-241.
This study attempts to determine whether 4 decades after the Kerner Commission, newspapers report more accurately on an increasingly diverse population. Specifically, it studied whether the size of the Asian American population covered by a newspaper influences the coverage of Asian Americans in newspaper articles.
It appears that although newspapers situated within larger Asian American communities report more frequently, at more depth, and with more prominence on Asian Americans, the quality of that coverage is not influenced by the size of the Asian American community. In cities with larger Asian American populations, newspapers have responded with increased stories and length but not with increased quality of coverage.
This is likely because of newspaper fears of alienating European American readers, leading to a ‘White flight’ in circulation and because of news practices that lead to distorted reports of Asian Americans. These findings renew calls for the newspaper industry to more fairly represent the diverse range of its readership and not just its most favored demographic.
As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.
This is the first week of classes for many colleges and universities around the country, including here at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This semester I am teaching a new course: “The Sociology of Immigration” (in case you’re curious, you can download a PDF of the syllabus). It’s a topic that is central and directly relevant to many issues that I cover in this blog, and a course that I have always wanted to teach but haven’t had the opportunity to do so until now.
President Obama has also recently suggested that immigration reform is one of the next major policy issues that he and his administration want to address next (although he said this before the upset victory of Republican Scott Brown in MA). Presuming that he follows through on this promise, immigration is set to again move to the front burner of American discussion and controversy.
With these things in mind, I plan on writing a more detailed post about immigration reform soon but in the meantime, I would like to highlight some new books on different aspects of the immigration issue that I will be using as source material for my “Sociology of Immigration” course and that will hopefully provide some sociological data and analysis to help us tackle the question of immigration reform.
The first book, Reinventing the Melting Pot, is the textbook that I have assigned to my students in my “Sociology of Immigration” course.
In Reinventing the Melting Pot, twenty-one of the writers who have thought longest and hardest about immigration come together around a surprising consensus: yes, immigrant absorption still works-and given the number of newcomers arriving today, the nation’s future depends on it. But it need not be incompatible with ethnic identity-and we as a nation need to find new ways to talk about and encourage becoming American.
In the wake of 9/11 it couldn’t be more important to help these newcomers find a way to fit in. Running through these essays is a single common theme: Although ethnicity plays a more important role now than ever before, today’s newcomers can and will become Americans and enrich our national life-reinventing the melting pot and reminding us all what we have in common.
African Americans grappled with Jim Crow segregation until it was legally overturned in the 1960s. In subsequent decades, the country witnessed a new wave of immigration from Asia and Latin America—forever changing the face of American society. In The Diversity Paradox, Jennifer Lee and Frank Bean take these two poles of American collective identity—the legacy of slavery and immigration—and ask if today’s immigrants are destined to become racialized minorities akin to African Americans or if their incorporation into U.S. society will more closely resemble that of their European predecessors.
The Diversity Paradox uses population-based analyses and in-depth interviews to examine patterns of intermarriage and multiracial identification among Asians, Latinos, and African Americans. Lee and Bean . . . show that Asians and Latinos with mixed ancestry are not constrained by strict racial categories. Racial status often shifts according to situation. Individuals can choose to identify along ethnic lines or as white, and their decisions are rarely questioned by outsiders or institutions. These groups also intermarry at higher rates, which is viewed as part of the process of becoming “American” and a form of upward social mobility.
African Americans, in contrast, intermarry at significantly lower rates than Asians and Latinos. Further, multiracial blacks often choose not to identify as such and are typically perceived as being black only—underscoring the stigma attached to being African American and the entrenchment of the “one-drop” rule. Asians and Latinos are successfully disengaging their national origins from the concept of race—like European immigrants before them.
The Diversity Paradox is an extensive and eloquent examination of how contemporary immigration and the country’s new diversity are redefining the boundaries of race. The book also lays bare the powerful reality that as the old black/white color line fades a new one may well be emerging—with many African Americans still on the other side.
As the authors state in Chapter 1, “[T]he movement of people across national borders represents one of the most vivid dramas of social reality in the contemporary world.” This comparative text examines contemporary immigration across the globe, focusing on 20 major nations.
Noted scholars Peter Kivisto and Thomas Faist introduce students to important topics of inquiry at the heart of the field, including: (a) Movement: explores the theories of migration using a historical perspective of the modern world; (b) Settlement: provides clarity concerning the controversial matter of immigrant incorporation and refers to the varied ways immigrants come to be a part of a new society; and (c) Control: focuses on the politics of immigration and examines the role of states in shaping how people choose to migrate.
Immigrants and their children comprise nearly three-fifths of New York City’s population and even more of Miami and Los Angeles. But the United States is also a nation with entrenched racial divisions that are being complicated by the arrival of newcomers. While immigrant parents may often fear that their children will “disappear” into American mainstream society, leaving behind their ethnic ties, many experts fear that they won’t—evolving instead into a permanent unassimilated and underemployed underclass.
Inheriting the City confronts these fears with evidence, reporting the results of a major study examining the social, cultural, political, and economic lives of today’s second generation in metropolitan New York, and showing how they fare relative to their first-generation parents and native-stock counterparts. The authors studied the young adult offspring of West Indian, Chinese, Dominican, South American, and Russian Jewish immigrants and compared them to blacks, whites, and Puerto Ricans with native-born parents.
They find that today’s second generation is generally faring better than their parents, with Chinese and Russian Jewish young adults achieving the greatest education and economic advancement, beyond their first-generation parents and even beyond their native-white peers. Every second-generation group is doing at least marginally—and, in many cases, significantly—better than natives of the same racial group across several domains of life. Economically, each second-generation group earns as much or more than its native-born comparison group, especially African Americans and Puerto Ricans, who experience the most persistent disadvantage.
Inheriting the City shows the children of immigrants can often take advantage of policies and programs that were designed for native-born minorities in the wake of the civil rights era. Indeed, the ability to choose elements from both immigrant and native-born cultures has produced, the authors argue, a second-generation advantage that catalyzes both upward mobility and an evolution of mainstream American culture. . . . Adapting elements from their parents’ cultures as well as from their native-born peers, the children of immigrants are not only transforming the American city but also what it means to be American.
As we near the end of 2009, it’s fitting to review the major events, developments, and trends in U.S. racial/ethnic relations in 2009. Therefore, below is my look back at some of the positive highlights as well as the setbacks in terms of achieving racial/ethnic equality, with a particular focus on Asian Americans (my area of expertise). This list is not meant to be an exhaustive review of all racial/ethnic news in 2009, but rather the ones that I covered in this blog and ones that I believe have the most sociological significance.
King, Obama, Tet, and the Diversity of Change A new year brings new hope as we connect Martin Luther King, Barack Obama’s historic election, and Tet the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, around the theme of change, rebirth, and renewal.
Recession Can Lead to Better Race Relations The current recession has certainly led to a lot of hostility and conflict, but can also help bring Americans together and bridge racial divides as they support one another.
How Immigrants Contribute to American Society Within the partisan an emotional debates on the cultural and economic effects of immigration, several new studies point out that immigrants ultimately make several important contributions to American society.
Asian Americans Celebrate Several Congressional Achievements The “End of Year Report” from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus summarizes the major achievements by Asian Americans in the federal government, including renewing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the diversity of federal appointments by President Obama, and several significant legislative proposals.
Asian Americans and Workplace-Employment Discrimination New data describes employment and workplace discrimination against Asian Americans who work for the federal government and notes that while Asian Americans have the highest rates of experiencing discrimination, they are the least likely to formally report them and to file complaints.
As we turn the page on 2009 and the entire decade (one that many Americans would like to forget), let’s hope that 2010 and the new decade will lead to more prosperity, equality, and harmony for Americans from all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
A common theme in many of my recent posts has been the backlash among many White Americans against various demographic, cultural, political, economic, and globalized changes taking place in American society and the world in general. As their percentage of the U.S. population continues to shrink, as non-Whites become increasingly prominent in our society (represented at the very top by Barack Obama), and with the recession heightening their fears and insecurities, many White Americans have reacted angrily to their traditional “way of life” being threatened.
I don’t really enjoy writing about such incidents and would really like to let it go and instead, focus on more positive aspects of American society moving forward in the 21st century. But unfortunately, these kinds of racist backlash keep happening over and over again. The latest example involves Meb Keflezighi, an Eritrean American who recently won the New York City Marathon. This video clip from MSNBC focuses on his well-earned victory:
Unfortunately, as the New York Times reports, his victory has also led to charges that his victory should not really count as an “American” victory because he is not “really” American:
He was widely celebrated as the first American to win the New York race since 1982. Having immigrated to the United States at age 12, he is an American citizen and a product of American distance running programs at the youth, college and professional levels. But, some said, because he was born in Eritrea, he is not really an American runner. . . .
The online postings about Keflezighi were anonymous. One of the milder ones on Letsrun.com said: “Give us all a break. It’s just another African marathon winner.”
A comment on The New York Times’s site said: “Keflezighi is really another elite African runner by birth, upbringing, and training. Americans are kidding themselves if they say he represents a resurgence of American distance prowess! On the other hand, he is an excellent representative of how we import everything we need!”
In a commentary on CNBC.com, Darren Rovell wrote, “Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.”
To clarify, Keflezighi came to the U.S. at the age of 12, so he is part of what sociologists tend to call the “1.5” generation — immigrants who came to the U.S. at age 12 or younger and who were raised, socialized, and educated primarily within American society. As the NY Times article also notes, he is “a product of American distance running programs at the youth, college and professional levels.”
The question becomes, if Keflezighi is not a “real” American, then what exactly are the qualifications of being a “real” American?
Apparently, coming to the U.S. at a young age and being raised and educated in the U.S. doesn’t qualify one as a “real” American. Neither does being a naturalized citizen. And according to many, being born in the U.S. is not enough to qualify someone as a “real” American either, as many Asian Americans will attest to, having their loyalties questioned, challenged, and attacked.
We need to call it for what it is — White racism, plain and simple.
The sad fact is, for many Americans, unless you are White, you will never be a “real” American. That includes non-White or -European immigrants and U.S.-born racial minorities. This institutional mentality has a long tradition throughout American history. Perhaps the best example that comes to mind is the Cherokee Nation.
In the early 1800s, with Whites encroaching on their traditional lands in the south, the Cherokees were basically told that if they wanted to physically survive, they had to discard their “savage” ways and become Americanized. The Cherokees proceeded to do just that and completely changed their way of life — they learned English as well as romanized their traditional language, began wearing “American” clothing, set up a bicameral governing structure based on Congress’s model, and changed their economy from one based on hunting to one focused on farming and trading.
But in the end, their efforts were in vain because they basically learned that despite their actions, since they were not White, they could never be American. The Cherokee were subsequently evicted from their lands and in the infamous “Trail of Tears” episode of American history, forcibly marched from northwestern Georgia and southeastern Tennessee one thousand miles westward. Along the way, about 25% of the estimated 15,000 who started died from starvation, disease, exhaustion, or were murdered before finally reaching the Oklahoma territory and their newly-established “reservations.”
Even though non-Whites may display all the “normal” characteristics and behaviors of a “typical” American — being fluent in English, getting a good education and a good job, owning a nice house in the suburbs, paying taxes, voting in elections, attending Christian churches, going to ballgames and having backyard barbecues — unless you are White, your identity as a “real” American will inevitably be challenged in one way or another.
Often, naturalized Americans have done more to establish their “American-ness” than those who are American by accident of birth. Which isn’t to say that naturalized Americans are more American than domestically-born Americans; being American isn’t a question of degrees. Instead, it’s simple math: one is or one isn’t American.
As I’ve said before, change does not come easily and without resistance of one kind or another and unfortunately, this anti-immigrant and anti-minority backlash will exist for the foreseeable future.