The term Asian Americans refer to Americans of the Asian origin. These include the Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Indians, Japanese, and Koreans within United States of America. The Consensus Bureau defines Asians as persons having their ancestries in the original immigrants of the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, and the Southeast Asia. The term Asian American was devised in the 1960s to refer to the inter-racial pan-Asian American self-defining political grouping.
As regards ethnicity and racial aspects the most conspicuous changes emerged with the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 which abolished the ‘national origins quotas’. The quotas were aimed at limiting immigration of persons of the Asian race (Ngai 377). However, different systems emerged to enhance immigration of people from the Asian regions leading to a corresponding increase in people with the Asian ancestry in the United States.
Recent Asian American immigrants have had diverse experiences regarding economic, educational and other amenities. Such experiences are better than those experienced by their counterparts in the 20th century (Lui 358). They are also susceptible to different settlement and employment patterns. Shah acknowledges the deported aspect of racial and gender stating thus, "We all share the same rung on the racial hierarchy and on the gender hierarchy” (Shah 13). Rosenberg demonstrates the changing lifestyles on the basis on race but also considers class and gender biases. Other than education and strong work ethic, privileges and benefits not often enjoyed by the minorities such as Asians and Hispanics are a vital recipe for achieving the American dream (705).
Concerning illegal immigration the Asian Americans particularly Indians and Filipinos account for the highest number of undocumented immigrants. However, Asian Americans have been considerably successful in the education sector and are believed to have attained the median household income and the utmost median personal income overall, more than any other racial demographic. Due to this perceived success by the Asian Americans as a whole, the debate on immigration often overlooks the Asian immigrants and puts more emphasis on the immigrants from the Latin America yet Asian immigrants remain the second highest number of undocumented immigrants after the Latinos and Hispanics.
The historical perspective of the race based violence affirms that Asian immigrants have been targeted for violence on the basis of their race. Among the most infamous violence include the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Rock Spring Massacre. Racism against Asian Americans continues to be experienced even against those who are highly educated and vastly skilled such as during the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Consequently, following the September 11 attacks Asian immigrants have been victims of race centered violence in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Brooklyn.
The young Hispanic and Asian Americans are also more likely to be subjected to violence than their peers. Current Hispanics and Asians in America are not the only ones to experience racism and discrimination from their peers as similar situations were experienced by the earlier immigrant generations. Studies on issues of race, nationality, and the American legal system by race theorists reveal that during the pre-emancipation period, the whiteness of a person was the determining factor of whether a person was free or a slave.
Presumption of illegality in the immigration status regarding the Latinos and Asians has influenced the experiences of the foregoing races with the latter being branded as “illegal aliens”. Further, the existence of high number of illegal immigrants within certain groups of people has led to the branding of the Latinos and Asians as “illegitimate, criminal and unassimilable” (Ngai p. 2). This form of stereotype is internalized by the American society and cause adverse consequences as against the Asians and Hispanics within the social order hence affect the daily interaction of the two races with the rest of the races. The media which have been an effective tool for bolstering racial based stereotypes often depict East-Asian immigrants as reflecting dominant American based perceptions rather than precise representation of honest customs, behaviors and cultures.
Most of the Americans who are non-Asians fail to differentiate between various ethnicities that make up the Asian Americans. As such the stereotypes directed at the Asian or Hispanic heredities are faced with comparable stereotypes. This explains studies which show that depression and stress levels, mental illnesses, and suicidal tendencies as are high among the Hispanic and Asian Americans compared to other races. This is an indication that the pressure to live up to the expectations of minority status among Hispanics and Asians is rife.
Discrimination and racial prejudice towards the Hispanics and the Asian Americans often make these races feel most unwelcome. This is evidenced by hate crimes inspired by prevailing ethnic stereotypes against the Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Race and illegal status concepts are closely associated with Asians and Hispanics by virtue of having been marginalized for long from being complete American citizens. These groups are often perceived as being illegally in the United States by the legal system and negative perceptions of the non-Asians and non-Hispanics. It matters not whether a Hispanic or an Asian is legally living in the United States by virtue of having gained citizenship by birth or by marriage, they are always perceived as illegal immigrants.
Meizhu, Lui. “The Economic Reality of Being Asian American,” 2007, pp. 362-369. In Race,
Ngai, Mae. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton:
Princeton University Press. 2004. Print.
Paula S. Rothenberg, Ed., American Culture, Identity, and Public Life. New York: Worth
Publishers, 2013. Print.
Shah, Sonia. Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire. South End Press, 1999.