According to the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau approximately 18.2 million of the U.S. population consists of Asian Americans (United States Census Bureau). Asian Americans are the second fastest-growing minority group, growing by 3% each year since 2010 (United States Census Bureau). Even though most races are more widely accepted in society, (we know this because of our knowledge on history and the laws passed on slavery for example) and are likely found to be your neighbor down the street, across the circle, your accountant, or your physician like all different races from Whites, Asian Americans have had hardship here in the U.S. Currently Asian Americans are well respected just like your next succeeding CEO, but as we all know our society has grown much more in acceptance in other races.
The term “Asian Americans” was introduced by activists in the 1960s who sought for an alternative term to “Oriental”. Formal usage of the term was used in by academics in the early 1970s. Today, the term Asian Americans is accepted and used for more formal purposes, such as government and academic research, but most of the United States refer to Asian Americans as “Asians” for short (Kang). The most significant change that also affected those of Asian descent was the “Hart-Celler Act” of 1965. This act eliminated the highly restrictive 1920’s act that placed a quota on immigration, instead immigrants' skills and family relationships (connections) with citizens or U.S. residents was now taken into consideration thus causing a significant immigration from every nation in Asia (Chin).
Before the 1960’s, before the Hart-Celler Act, the first few Asian Americans who settled in the U.S were the Filipinos, who settled in Saint Malo, Louisiana in 1763 (ANCESTORS IN THE AMERICAS). Chinese sailors first arrived in Hawaii in 1778, and those that settled often married Hawaiian women. More Chinese immigrants in addition to Korean and Japanese migrated to Hawaii in the 19th century as laborers to work on sugar plantations (Kalei). As time went by Filipinos also came to work as laborers for whatever work was available in gold mining, railroad labor and farmers. Job opportunities were limited because work available was limited between the growing numbers of immigrants in the U.S. and white workers looking for work. In the mid-19th century, numerous Chinese and Japanese people began immigrating to the U.S. hoping for job opportunities because the economy in their home land was poor and some other immigrants were slaves (Castillo). Many of the immigrants worked as laborers on the transcontinental railroad for much cheaper wages. Some Asian immigrants settled in Washington, the Asian immigrants helped to create the transportation links, industries, and wealth that made the Pacific Northwest by providing hard and long hours of labor at a much cheaper wage cost (A History Bursting With Telling). The numbers of Asian immigrants were growing although the numbers were small compared to immigrants of other regions in the late 19th century; the increase caused Americans to fear that the mass immigration of Asians threatened “white” wages and standards of living and that Asians would eventually take over and destroy western civilization and their values (A History Bursting With Telling). This fear was referred to as the “Yellow Peril” also known as the “Yellow Terror”. The fear led the United States to pass laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act (an act that allowed the U.S. to suspend and ban Chinese immigration) and the Asian Exclusion Act (Chin).
Before 1965 Asian Americans were perceived as members of the two most common Asian ethnic groups, Chinese and Japanese. At the end of the Korean War, Vietnam War and the "Secret Wars" in Southeast Asia a new group of Asian American immigrated to the United States. People from Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia arrived to the U.S. Some of the new immigrants were war brides, who were later joined by their families. Others, such as the Southeast Asians, were either highly skilled or educated. Asians began to identify themselves as Americans once settled in the U.S. thus causing extreme discrimination (Espiritu). Many Asian Americans suffered due to the oppression and discrimination from the “whites” (Espiritu). Asians began to lose their low-wage employment and became excluded from the labor market (Espiritu). This forced the Asians to become shopkeepers, merchants, and small businessmen believing that the only way to have ends meet was through self-entrepreneurship (Espiritu). Asian Americans were barred from voting, many became the target of violent crimes (torched residences and businesses), and the Chinese were being stoned by whites in the streets (Espiritu). For the most part, these violent outbursts usually ended up in brutal killings that went unpunished. Most of these activities were legally sanctioned, for example, in 1854; the California Supreme Court ruled that Chinese could not testify against whites (Espiritu). All Asians were at risk of such violence because there was no class difference at the time and outsiders (Whites) perceived them as a single group (Espiritu). Whites could not distinguish among the Asian sub-groups therefore they targeted all Asians. Anti-Asian activities in the United States can be traced far back to the mid-19th century. From the late 19th – 20th century, more than 600 pieces of anti-Asian legislation were enacted (Espiritu). Limiting or excluding people of Asian ancestry from intermarriage, citizenship, land ownership, employment, and many other forms of participation of American Life. (Espiritu 135) The gravest government mistreatment of Asians was when about 120,000 Japanese Americans residents and citizens were forced to relocate and internment to relocation camps after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 (beginning of World War II) (Espiritu).
Not all bad came from the oppression and discrimination of the late 19th century, because Asian Americans were excluded from labor markets, they started their own businesses. Businesses such as convenience and grocery stores, professional offices for medical and law practices, laundries, beauty-related, restaurants, hi-tech companies and all other kinds of enterprises thus resulting a very successful and influential American society (Census Report: Broad Racial Disparities Persist). Asian Americans grew more and more as their contributions to American society and economy grew. Major contributions such as fashion (Vera Wang), technology (Amar Bose, Bose Corporation), web, (Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! Inc), beauty products (Andrea Jung, chairman of Avon Products) and the list goes on (Nasser). In addition to contributions in the economy Asians has greatly impacted educational institutions. Recent studies by the Pew Research Center show that out of 3,511 Asians “more than 60% of recent Asian immigrants have at least a college degree (Nasser). Many work in high-paying fields such as science, engineering, medicine and finance” (The Rise of Asian Americans). The growth continues with Indians having the highest share of college-educated and the highest median household income at $88,000 among the Asian-American sub-groups (The Rise of Asian Americans). Asians as a whole have a median household income at $66,000 compared to the U.S. median of $49,800 (The Rise of Asian Americans). Even though some Asian sub-groups is still struggling (Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese) tallying a higher poverty rate than Americans (The Rise of Asian Americans). For the most part Asian Americans is living up to their positive stereotypes, “They are more educated, wealthier and value work, marriage and family more than Americans as a whole” (Nasser).
Today’s Asian Americans say they do not feel the “sting” of racial discrimination or the burden of cultural differences that was so much a part of the experience of their pre-ancestors who came to the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th century (The Rise of Asian Americans). According to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans appear to be less inclined to view discrimination against their group as a major problem in comparison with the nation’s two largest minority groups Hispanics and African Americans (The Rise of Asian Americans). 13% of Asian Americans say it is a problem, about half, 48% say it’s a minor problem, and a third, 35% say it is not a problem (The Rise of Asian Americans). Generally about 6 out of 10 say that being Asian American makes no difference when it comes to applying for employment or gaining admission to college. A slightly higher percentage says that members of their group (Asian Americans) are helped rather than hurt based on their race (The Rise of Asian Americans).
The Asian American society has many attributes to the economy, political, social and educational groups. The group is highly accepted in society now; regardless of gender (gender does not play a factor in society’s acceptance of Asian Americans). The group (Asian Americans) has grown and changed a lot from the 19th & early 20th century.
"A History Bursting With Telling: Asian Americans in Washington State." Reading. Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.
"ANCESTORS IN THE AMERICAS." PBS. PBS, 2001. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.
Castillo, Adelaida. "Filipino Migrants In San Diego 1900-1946." San Diego History Center. N.p., 1976. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.
"Census Report: Broad Racial Disparities Persist." Newgroup. Msnbc.com. NBC, 14 Nov. 2006. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.
Chin, Gabriel J. "The Civil Rights Revolution Comes to Immigration Law: A New Look at the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965." North Carolina Law Review. N.p., 1996. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.
Chin, Gabriel J., Segregation's Last Stronghold: Race Discrimination and the Constitutional Law of Immigration (1998). UCLA Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 1, 1998
Espiritu, Yen Le. "6." Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1992. 121-38. Print.
Kalei, Kalikiano. "The Chinese Experience in Hawaii." University of Hawaii Press, 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.
Kang, K. Connie. "Yuji Ichioka, 66; Led Way in Studying Lives of Asian Americans." Los Angeles Times. N.p., 07 Sept. 2002. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.
Nasser, Haya El, ed. "Study: Asian Americans Value Hard Work, Family." USA TODAY (19 June 2012): n. pag. USATODAY.COM. 19 June 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.
"Most Children Younger Than Age 1 Are Minorities, Census Bureau Reports." United States Census Bureau. N.p., 17 May 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.
"The Rise of Asian Americans." Pew Social Demographic Trends RSS. Pew Research Center, 19 June 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.