Asian Americans History Hawaii Hawaii, part 1

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Asian Americans



Hawaii, part 1

  1. A kingdom of Polynesian people, recognized as a nation by the US.

  2. 1830s-1890: Anglo-American planters take over much of the land, import many Asian workers

  3. Population becomes predominantly Asian

  4. Chinese, Japanese, Pilipino

  5. Ethnic, linguistic differences.

  6. Whites an elite minority.

  7. Pidgen” spoken. Class conflict predominates.

Hawaii, part 2

  1. Anglo-Americans overthrow the Kingdom of Hawaii (Queen Lydia Liliuokalani) in 1893 with US naval support, establish a “republic” in 1894

  2. Viewed as illegal at the time (then-president Cleveland denounced it).

  3. In 1898, US annexes.

  4. Annexation is a violation of international law, remains unresolved into 20th century

Hawaii Part 3

  1. Statehood 1959 to resolve legal status

  2. Majority of Hawaiian population voted for statehood

  3. Non-white character of the state an issue for many congressmen

  4. Hawaii to mainland migration: prior to 1965, many Asian Americans had roots in Hawaii

Hawaii 2000 Census

Hawaiian Racial Climate

  1. Asian majority, varying ethnicities (vary by island); the dominant group

  2. native Hawaiians (some discrimination)

  3. whites (Haoles) a minority, although relatively well off.

  4. Portuguese not Haole, legacy of origins

  5. Pidgen

  6. Overt racial/ethnic name-calling coupled with more racial equality than in most of the US

Native Hawaiians

  1. Those of native Hawaiian/Polynesian descents (pure + mixed) about 20% today

  2. Native Hawaiians claim discrimination. Do not want to be classified as “Asian,” as the “Asians” are dominant

  3. Significant native Hawaiian legal claims on public land

  4. Hawaiian independence movement is active, was invigorated by 100th anniversary of the takeover

Asians in Mainland US

Discrimination and Exclusion

Chinese Migration in 19th Century

  1. Begins 1848s, with Gold Rush.

  2. Fleeing economic disaster and poverty, political turmoil.

  3. Predominantly male, predominantly uneducated peasants

  4. Small as part of US total, but very high percentages of several western states.

  5. Built the western part of the trans-continential railroad; not permitted to drive the last spike in 1869

Chinese Exclusion

  1. Explicit racism, hostile attacks, race riots, forced removal

  2. Cartoons of era equate Asians and blacks. “Yellow peril.”

  3. 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act: absolute prohibition of immigration from China

  4. Chinese here are largely isolated males, forced into the cities by hostility and violence

  5. Chinese laundries & tourism as survival strategies

Japanese Migration

  1. Begins 1868, Meiji Restoration (economic development & disruption), more after Chinese excluded in 1882

  2. Younger sons (& their wives) urged to migrate as part of development strategy; generally well-educated & skilled as farmers.

  3. Often quite successful in US as farmers, business owners. Vegetable farmers.

Japanese Exclusion

  1. 1907 Gentlemen's Agreement. No more immigration from Japan. (Japan agrees to restrict.)

  2. Korea a Japanese colony – Koreans often classified as Japanese by US, although politically resisting Japanese occupation

  3. Face violence, hostility, explicit segregation laws.

Discrimination, Segregation

  1. Explicit racial segregation laws applied to Chinese, Japanese.

  2. Asian-descent people born in US are citizens.

  3. Asian immigrants cannot ever become citizens because only “whites” can be naturalized citizens

Anti-Asian Laws in California

  1. 1906 segregates Asians from whites in schools. Modeled on “Jim Crow” laws.

  2. 1913 denies right to own land to "persons ineligible for citizenship." (Aimed at Japanese farmers)

  3. 1920, 1923 amendments also prevent leasing or farming others' land.

  4. 1924 absolute prohibition of immigration of "persons ineligible for citizenship."

  5. Many forced into cities. Some hold land in children's names.

Spanish-American War 1898

  1. Puerto Rico, Philippines, Guam, Wake, become US possessions.

  2. Independence wars raging against Spain become wars against US, take time to subdue, especially in Philippines

  3. Guam, Wake (1899), Samoa – still US possessions whose “Pacific Islander” residents are US citizens. Small numbers, insignificant in most statistics, but present on mainland.

  4. (Hawaii annexed in the same year)

Pilipino Migration & Exclusion

  1. 400 years of Spanish colonialism: Filipinos a blend of European and Asian, racially & culturally

  2. After 1898, Philippines a US possession

  3. Much migration to Hawaii, some migration to mainland. Smaller numbers than Chinese or Japanese.

  4. On mainland, often lived and intermarried with Mexicans.

  5. 1934 Philippine “independence” curtails Philippine immigration

Asian Americans in the Early 20th Century

Civil Rights Challenges

  1. 1920s, 1930s: Japanese American generation, speak English, identify as Americans, seek full civil rights, prove loyalty to US.

  2. Many Asians, especially those from India & Arabs (who are Caucasian) file lawsuits claiming to be “white” so they can become citizens

  3. Supreme Court rules in 1923 that “white” does not mean “Caucasian” but “people from Europe”

Integrationist & Separatist Forms

World War II/ Internment

  1. 1940-1950. Japan bombs Pearl Harbor.

  2. War effort distinguishes evil Japanese from good Chinese.

  3. Internment of Japanese on West Coast, 2/3 citizens.

  4. Idea originated in Hawaii, but never done there: not a minority

  5. Concentration camps”: similar beginnings (rounded up, train rides to ??, popular hostility). Different endings – not murder.

Internment of Japanese: Experiences

  1. Explicit white statements: reclaim Japanese land, “this is for whites, not browns,” define as race war.

  2. Asked to sign loyalty oaths. Most sign, a few not. (Sent to Japan after the war),

  3. A few volunteer for army, most not. Then reclassified I-A. Draft resistance breaks out; some are imprisoned. Say they would be willing to fight if they were treated as citizens.

  4. US also interns Japanese-descent citizens of Latin American nations

After WWII: 1940s & 1950s

  1. Interned Japanese-Americans return home

  2. Chinese & other Asians except Japanese finally permitted to become naturalized citizens during WWII. (Japanese so permitted after 1952.)

  3. Alien land laws ruled unconstitutional after war

  4. 1949 Chinese revolution makes Chinese the “bad Asians,” communists

1960s & early 1970s

  1. Vietnam War & other racial/ethnic movements raise racial consciousness of US-born people of Asian descent

  2. Some “yellow power” rhetoric, activism on campuses

  3. Students strikes demand “ethnic studies” programs in California 1968-9

  4. The “model minority” rhetoric starts

Immigration Law

  1. Major change 1965

  2. Old law: national origins, immigration permits in proportion of origins of US in 1820

  3. New law: favors highly educated + relatives of current residents. Authors thought would accomplish old purposes in less overtly racist ways

  4. (First quota on Latin American immigration)

  5. Initially a trickle, but by late 1970s, major Asian immigration.

Late 1970s

  1. Growing Asian immigration

  2. Asian Americans, especially 3rd+ generation, seek to distinguish themselves from immigrants, resent assumption they are “foreigners”

  3. Japanese American Citizen League works for reparations for WWII internment of citizens (finally wins in the late 1980s)

  4. Bureaucratic forces increasing favor “racial” organizations create pressures to distinguish Asians as a distinct group, not just “other”


  1. Vincent Chin murder 1982. Development of Pan-Asian identity, movements.

  2. Race-based funding for community programs leads to formation of “Asian” organizations to compete for funding

  3. Meetings to create the racial definition of Asians for the census so Asians can be counted

  4. Asian immigration continues, immigrants now outnumber US-born people of Asian descent

  5. Critiques of the “model minority”

  6. Reparations bill passed 1988, appropriations 1989

Myth of the Model Minority:
Males average personal income as a % of white males’
late 1980s

  1. Japanese largely US born & have higher education than whites. Equal income implies discrimination against them.

1990s – 2000s

  1. Conflicts in Asian American political & academic circles around Chinese/Japanese-American dominance vs. needs of “new” immigrants

  2. Only 3% of people in the “Asian American” category use it to describe themselves

  3. 3rd+ Asian Americans have to decide how to relate to the large number of Asian immigrants, affected by whites’ assumptions they are immigrants

  4. The 2000 Census breaks apart the “Asian and Pacific Islander” category in the face of all these pressures

2000 Census “Race” Question

Origins of Asian-Descent People


  1. Nearly all US born

  2. 3rd, 4th, even 5th + generations

  3. From 52% of all Asian Americans in 1960 to 12% in 1990 and 8-10% in 2000 (depending on whether you count mixed)

  4. High rates of urbanization, education

  5. Little tie to Japan, may identify as Japanese-Americans or as Asian Americans

  6. Face racial discrimination

Chinese-Americans - 1

  1. In 1960, 2/3 of Chinese were US born, by 1985 2/3 immigrant. Largest Asian group now (24%)

  2. Many US-born are 3rd, 4th, 5th generation – like Japanese-Americans

  3. Immigrants come from Taiwan, Hong Kong, mainland China. Also Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam. Some ethnic/political differences, especially Taiwan vs. mainland.

Chinese-Americans - 2

  1. Professionals quite well off; Monterrey Park CA is wealthy Chinese-dominant city.

  2. Others are low-wage workers in China towns. Trapped by lack of English. Hard to learn when have to work long hours to survive.

  3. Chinese gangs among youth facing language barrier with few prospects.

Pilipino (Filipino) Americans -1

  1. Pilipinos largely invisible. Racial diversity: “look” Mexican or Chinese. Spanish influences. Few “ethnic enclaves.”

  2. Second largest Asian group, about 20% of total

  3. Predominantly immigrants, high proportion are women

  4. Many health care professionals, educated in English. Especially nurses. Many are well off.

Pilipino (Filipino) Americans -2

  1. Many men have to downgrade occupation in US.

  2. Some obtained immigration rights by joining US military

  3. Philippines a very poor country, many migrants poor. Pilipino women are maids in much of the world

  4. Due to currency differences, many college-educated women work in US as maids, can earn more as maids in US than as professionals in the Philippines

  5. Growing phenomenon of bi-local families

Korean Americans - 1

  1. Huge increase in recent migration. Large concentrations in NY, LA.

  2. Initial migrants can sponsor relatives. Two initial streams have different characteristics:

  3. War brides from Korean War (1950-53). More working class.

  4. Immigration quota migrants. Wealthier, more educated.

  5. 70% have college degrees, often medical professionals. Come as settlers, bring families. Bring $$. Some are prosperous professionals.

Koreans Americans - 2

  1. High rates of self-employment in US: $$ + accent/language issues

  2. Many filling urban retail niche being vacated by white Jews, Italians, Greeks fleeing to the suburbs. greengrocers. Family labor, hard work. "The first generation must be sacrificed." Own lives bleak, educate the children.

  3. Others are prosperous professionals.

Korean Americans - 3

  1. Korean churches a major site of ethnic community; significant fraction are Christian

  2. Many North Koreans migrate through South Korea

  3. April 1992 riot, Korean-black conflicts.

  4. March 4, 1991 Headline: “Korean store-owner Soon Ja Du gets probation after shooting 15-year old Latasha Harlins for a $1.79 bottle of orange juice”

  5. (March 3, 1991 Rodney King Beaten. )

  6. Arson of Korean businesses, police did not defend.

South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis) - 1

  1. Fastest growing Asian group 1990-2000, third largest now

  2. Religion: Hindus (caste divisions), Muslim, Sikh, Christian

  3. Language: Many different.

  4. Upper classes educated in English. (Legacy of British colonialism.)

  5. Lower classes may not be English proficient.

  6. Do not identify as “Asian” racially, many identify as “white”

South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis) - 2

  1. Highest income ethnic subgroup.

  2. Many are English-educated professionals with advanced degrees, technical skills

  3. Also large numbers of cab drivers, motel owners.

Southeast Asians

  1. Generally refugees

  2. Generally poorer than voluntary immigrants

  3. Immigrant generation generally much worse off than Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Indians

  4. Post-traumatic stress syndrome & depression common

  5. US-born children doing much better

Southeast Asia


  1. Refugees. First wave evacuated 1975 when Communists won Vietnam war. Educated US-collaborators, English speakers.

  2. Boat people. 1980s. Most hope to return, reclaim homeland.

  3. Youth often arrived unaccompanied, hard time surviving, living in motels and hanging out in cafes. Many join gangs.

  4. Vietnamese businesses, often people who had businesses in Vietnam and brought capital.

  5. Some are ethnic Chinese; may identify as Chinese or Vietnamese

  6. 1990s voluntary immigrants, starting businesses


  1. 70,000 ethnic Lao in 1990

  2. 10,000 Mien in 1990

  3. 60,000 Hmong in 1990

  4. Conflicts among these groups in Laos and here.

  5. Immigrants are refugees, generally ill-educated, generally concerned about Laotian politics, traumatic stress syndrome, depression

Hmong Americans -1

  1. Ethnic minority in Laos (most are in China)

  2. Worked for CIA/US military in support of US war effort. Flew planes, ground support.

  3. Emergency evacuation at the war’s end. Many left behind.

  4. Hmong written language a recent development, many older people are not literate in their own language.

  5. Refugees had few urban skills

  6. Although initially scattered, congregated in California central valley & in Minnesota & Wisconsin

Hmong Americans -2

  1. Cultural clashes with the larger society, e.g. over marriage of young teens, large families, medical & social customs

  2. Strong clan system is used in the US for collective economic development.

  3. Younger Hmong are learning in school, going to college

  4. Strong Hmong identity but conflicts with parents over culture

  5. Debates among Hmong young people about marriage age, schooling, etc.


  1. Escaped the Khmer Rouge.

  2. 100,000 from refugee camps.

  3. post traumatic stress disorder.

  4. some educated, many country folk.

  5. escaping horrors. think of home.

Others (small in US but students at UW)


  1. Dutch colony before independence.

  2. Predominantly Muslim; racially Malay or Pacific Islander with mainland Asian/Chinese admixture.

  3. Chinese minority is relatively wealthy, has been subject to ethnic violence.

  4. Repressive government for a long time, inequality.


  1. 2/3 Malay Muslims, 1/3 Chinese. Chinese are generally wealthier, more educated

  2. Had ethnic violence in the past, has worked to achieve ethnic peace; compensatory programs for ethnic Malays

  3. Part of the British community of nations, so historically less tied to the US.

  4. More Malaysians coming to US to study in recent years (mostly ethnic Chinese)


  1. Singapore, a very small former British colony, predominantly Chinese, sees itself as cosmopolitan.

  2. Hong Kong, now part of China, was British colony until 1997. Urban, cosmopolitan.

  3. Taiwan. Island to which nationalist Chinese fled after Communist revolution. Officially, part of China; both governments claim to be “true” Chinese government. Taiwanese somewhat ethnically different from mainland Chinese who took over. There are independence sentiments.

Arab, Middle-Eastern, Muslim Americans


  1. Arabs speak Arabic (which has dialects)

  2. Arabs live in Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

  3. Some Arabs are Israeli citizens.

Arab Americans

  1. About 3 million Arab-Americans

  2. Seen as various “races” in US – some white/European, some African, some south Asian.

  3. Most Arab-Americans are US born, ancestors migrated before 1920, mostly Christians from Lebanon and Syria

  4. The majority of Arab Americans are Catholic or Orthodox Christian

  5. More recent wave are Muslims

Non-Arab Middle East Peoples

  1. Iranians are Persian, speak Farsi, are mostly Muslim

  2. Turkish speak Turkish, are Muslim, but not Arabs

  3. Minority groups within other nations include Assyrians, Berbers, Chaldeans, Kurds, Coptics

  4. Chaldeans are Catholics from Iraq, significant communities in US.

  5. Coptics are Egyptian Christians: speak Arabic but see selves as culturally distinct

Middle East


  1. About 12 percent of Muslims worldwide are Arabs.

  2. There are more Muslims in Indonesia than in all Arab countries combined.

  3. Large populations of Muslims live in India, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, other parts of East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

  4. Islam originated among Arabs, and the Quran was originally written in Arabic, so there are Arabic cultural influences in Islam.

Muslim Americans 2000
American Muslim Council Figures

Ethnicity of Muslim Americans

Muslim Populations

Legend to religions map

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