To many Americans “Asians” are either those employed in restaurants, offering sushi or Chow Mein or smoked eel, or they are like the movies’ Charlie Chan, clever and always with a philosophical message. To others, “Asians” are seldom separated into Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Malay because to us “they all look alike”. To still other Americans the Asians are the businessmen who have helped destroy the American auto industry and the textile business by importing cheaper products (albeit good ones)_ made by workers who earn a fraction of what unionized Americans earn.
The truth, of course, is none of the above. As a matter of fact, unlike the Europeans and Latin Americans, Asians did not come of their own free will to escape religious or economic problems. ” American economic, military, and missionary activities profoundly affected the pattern of Asian and Pacific islanders’ emigration to the United States….Used on the West Coast as labor competition to drive down wages in railroad construction, mining, and agriculture, Chinese and then Japanese immigrant workers were portrayed by European Americans as a “yellow peril.” Asian workers were recruited in three successive waves-Chinese (1850-1882), Japanese (1890-1924), and Filipino (1900-1935)-as cheap laborers and then excluded or discriminated against as they came to be perceived as a threat” (Daniels 2).
Where did this notion of “The Yellow Peril” originate?
“The roots of the “yellow peril” stem from the time of Genghis Khan and Mongolian invasions of Europe. According to (sociologists), ‘the yellow peril combines racist terror of alien cultures, sexual anxieties, and the belief that the West will be overpowered and enveloped by the irresistible, dark, occult forces of the East.’ Since Westerners have limited access to knowledge about Asia and its inhabitants, Westerners have created this fantasy that projects Euro-American desires and dread on the alien other” (Marchetti 2).
While there were many problems with the Chinese laborers brought over for building railroads in the West, and then the following immigration wave of Japanese, it was World War II which provided perhaps the grimmest version of the fear of Americans of the “yellow race”. Over 100,000 Japanese living along the West Coast were forcibly removed from their homes- including second and third generation Japanese-Americans, whop were then sent to concentration camps farther inland, in fact as far as the American Midwest.
The mindset of many Americans changed after World War II, including the law-makers in Washington. New legislation permitted immigration, and they came- but not necessarily from now-Communist China or even Japan. “native-born Asian Americans combined with extensive new Asian immigration to create one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population. A clause of the Immigration Act of 1965 encouraging the emigration of professionals proved pivotal, not only increasing Asian immigration, but changing the profile significantly from the earlier bachelor laborers. By the 1970s, many migrants from the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, and India were emigrating to America to fill jobs in the burgeoning economy” (Oxford 4).
Still there is often a distrust by the white majority, the rising Hispanics and the African-American minorities. Some of the reasoning is dubious and certainly somewhat antagonistic. There was a smattering of problems several years ago with the riser of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. Not only were travelers accosted for donations at airports, but the Church funded and owned hundreds of fruit and vegetable stores in metropolitan areas, in effect forcing out the one-time Italian fruit and vegetable dominance. Entire families were brought over, and, whether by force or subtle intimidation, these stores were often operated 24/7. The Church also got a lot of publicity of arranged marriages of hundreds of couples in a single public ceremony.
Of course, the arrival of the Vietnamese was difficult for some Americans who felt stung by both America’s participation and then withdrawal from Viet Nam. The Vietnamese were a constant reminder of American setbacks.
What has set (and continues to set) many Asians apart from the mainstream of America is the desire to be ghettoized. While originally New York’s and San Francisco’s Chinatowns were tourist attractions, Los Angeles, for example not only has a Chinatown, a Little Tokyo and Little Saigon. But also Koreatown- all neighborhoods in habited by those Nationals, many of whom speak little if any English, and therefore the stores there cater to the native tastes and customs of the neighborhood.
One danger, which is accelerating in some areas, is the growth of youth gangs, especially in Little Saigon and Chinatown, where the objective is to threaten store owners and businessmen to force them to pay weekly protection money. There have also bee gang fights between Viet gangs, and between Vietnamese and other Asian gangs.
Another problem which continues to haunt Asians in America is the so-called “spy problem”. “In the early 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy era, “allegations arose” (as the Cox report so vaguely and aptly puts it) that Qian Xuesen, a Chinese-born American rocket scientist, was a spy for the People’s Republic of China. Qian had fled the Japanese invasion of China in 1935, emigrated to the United States, and earned a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. He was recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts on jet propulsion, commissioned as a colonel in the US Air Force, and honored for the pioneering work he had done for his adopted country, including development of the Titan intercontinental ballistic missile” (Nelson 1).
More recently a Los Alamos scientist, Wen Ho Lee, was accused, even charged and jailed as being a spy for mainland China. The case was never proved, and he was exonerated, even though he and his family suffered embarrassment and vilification that none of them will ever truly forget.
There is no doubt that there are Chinese “investigators” in the U.S., determined to gain access to some weapons secrets.
” Beijing begins to try to leapfrog its weapons development with a view to developing a credible threat against the U.S., the American people will demand a response that could end up being very costly to both countries-and the United States starts with enormous advantages. In the intelligence business, they call this ‘blowback'” (Baal 5).
Despite some lasting attitudes, Asian-Americans get a “good” rating from most other Americans. “No other minority population is viewed more favorably than the nearly 8 million Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who make up the fastest growing ethnic population in the United States…American’s belief that Asian American experience few difficulties has made it easy to overlook anything negative within the Asian American community. “There are problems within the Asian American population, just like any other,” said Kit Ng, assistant professor in the department of behavioral science at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. “There are gangs, drug abuse and there are kids who don’t do so well in school….None of these is being addressed because of the model minority myth” (Morrisssey 2005).
Despite economic presence and population growth among Asian-Americans, stereotypical views still persist. “. Stereotypes of Asian Americans as hard workers, technical nerds, uncomplaining, docile, and quiet have lead to the perception of Asian Americans as a good labor source. It also leads to the expectation that Asian Americans lack the ability to successfully manage. In a society that prizes individuality, where leaders are exemplified by the traditionally WASP prototype, stereotypes of Asian Americans are highly disconcordant with these ideals” (Chen 2).
Asian American children, in various studies, are NOT on the average smarter than white kids. Asian Americans are NOT computer or other forms that would classify them as nerds. They, however, are loath to assimilate. They often remain ghettoized, and this alone makes them the object of suspicion and mistrust by whites and even other minorities, not to mention toe arguments among various Asian ethnic minorities.
Baal, Douglas H.: “Insecurity Complex – Chinese espionage from US laboratories” National Review, May, 1999
Chen, Tina: (2004) Excerpted from “A Longitudinal Test and a Qualitative Field Study of the Glass Ceiling Effect for Asian Americans” modelminority.com/modules.php?name=News&new_topic=3
Daniel, Roger (1988):, AsianAmerica: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850, (excerpted from Oxford Companion to American History
Marchetti, Gina: Romance and the “Yellow Peril” University of California Press, 1993.
Morrisey, Mary (editor: “The Invisible Minority: Counseling Asian Americans” American Coounseling Association (1999)
Nelson, Lars-Erik: Washington: The Yellow Peril (Report of the Select Committee on US National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China) www.nybooks.com/articles/421
No author listed (2005) “Asian Americans” excerpted from
Oxford Companion to American History