Although American society has become more progressive over the years, Asian American discrimination remains prevalent in America. People from many backgrounds experience racism everyday and have grown accustomed to it because stereotypes and prejudices often come in subtle forms. Since the begining of United States history, Asian Americans have been excluded from America. Today, Asian Americans still feel unaccepted and experience many negative sterotypes. In order to incorporate Asian Americans, much action is needed.
For more information read my personal interest essay: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bd2Tgz6d0I4sqkRsEBTdmFXqkKYyygJ66zTcyGBwaUU/edit#bookmark=id.lq4gaacgkl1z
What You Need To Know
The earliest incidence of systemic discrimination against Asians in the United States of America was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 in which the United States government decided to stop all immigration from China. It prohibited all new immigration of Chinese workers and denied citizenship to all Chinese already settled in America (Asia Society). This act was the first law created by the United States to prevent immigration solely on the basis of race (Asia Society). Following the Chinese Exclusion Act, a ban on Japanese immigration was finalized in the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924 . In addition to being deinied citizenship, the remaining Asian Americans experienced angry mob assaults as well as arson. This persecution was also reflected in anti-Japanese legislation, specifically the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1911, local segregation, and other discriminatory laws (Wang and Kleiner).
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Japan became an enemy of the United States. The United States government responded by arresting over two thousand people of Japanese ancestry, including my great grandfather. My grandfather was then taken from his home at the age of eight when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, enabling the United States Government to remove “110,000 Japanese – 71,000 of them American citizens – from the West Coast and to place them in internment camps in the interior” (Oishi).
The internment camps were a traumatic experience for the Japanese Americans. The United States government eventually acknowledged the illegality and immorality of the internment of the Japanese and Japanese Americans. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law. This act apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The government also paid reparations to the internees. They authorized a payment of 20,000 dollars, which is equivalent to 43,000 dollars today, to each camp survivor (JACL). However, despite the government’s efforts, the psychological trauma endured by the internees is not easily erased. It has been a long time for my grandfather, and he continues to think and write about it today.
For more about the orgins of Asian American discrimination click on this link to my research essay: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bd2Tgz6d0I4sqkRsEBTdmFXqkKYyygJ66zTcyGBwaUU/edit#bookmark=id.di45zvgttbtg
Despite achieving model-minority status, Asian Americans still experience persistent discrimination today. In fact, Asian Americans continue to be subjected to negative character attributions, similar to the ones they were associated with in the past. A group representing Asian American students, accused Harvard of using race-based personality attributes as a deciding factor in the admissions process (Hartocollis). They argued that this process results in an under-representation in terms of merit. As evidence, they presented an analysis of more than 160,000 Asian and Asian-American students applying to Harvard, who they claimed were consistently rated lower on personality traits such as “positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness, and being “widely respected” (Hartocollis). The analysis found that Asian American students scored higher than any other racial group on test scores, grades, and extracurriculars, but that the lower personal ratings decreased their chances of being admitted (Hartocollis). In contrast, other colleges have banned race based admission decisions. For example, the University of California, does not consider race in its admissions process and as a result, has approximately twice the share of Asians and Asian Americans as Ivy League universities. In fact, Asian Americans make up more than 40 percent of the student body at the University of California at Berkeley, the flagship campus in the UC system, but only 15 percent of the college-aged population in California (The Leadership Conference Education Fund).
In the past few months, xenophobic attacks towards Asian Americans have increased due to the pandemic that began in Asia. Currently, a novel Coronavirus, which was first detected in China, is spreading globally. The virus has infected over two million people, resulting in thousands of deaths. It has led to school and business closures, threatening the livelihood of people in every country. Although it is clear that the disease, COVID-19, is caused by a virus, many people blame Asian Americans for the spread of the pandemic, apparently because the outbreak began in China. President Trump has exacerbated the situation by referring to the novel Coronavirus as the China virus. Not only have Asian Americans been blamed, but they have been physically attacked. Just last month, “in New York City a woman wearing a mask was kicked and punched in a Manhattan subway station, and a man in Queens was followed to a bus stop, shouted at and then hit over the head in front of his 10-year-old son” (Oppel and Tavernise).
The violence understandably frightens and threatens Asian Americans. In fact, gun and sporting goods stores have recorded a sharp increase in firearm and ammunition sales, including an increase in first-time Asian American gun buyers who fear being attacked (De Souza). These xenophobic attacks “have served as a reminder that, especially under Mr. Trump, Asian-Americans may never fully be able to shake the feeling that they are perpetual foreigners” (Stevens).
Click on this link for more information about the current issue of Asian American discrimination: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bd2Tgz6d0I4sqkRsEBTdmFXqkKYyygJ66zTcyGBwaUU/edit#bookmark=id.tremne1p9di0
What is Being Done?
Unfortunately, the two examples of discrimination that I have mentioned have not been resolved. However, there are many organizations and people striving to reverse these problems. The Asian American Government Executives Network is a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1993. It is a network of the highest-ranking Pacific Islander and Asian American appointed executives, foreign service officers, legislative and judiciary members, and military officers in government (AAGEN). A similar organization is the Center for Asian Pacific American Women, a national nonprofit that works to enhance leadership skills of Asian and Pacific Islander women. Both of these organizations have missions to address the challenges that face Asian Americans and to create a nurturing community for them, by organizing meetings and conferences in order to empower others and encourage them to take more initiative (CAPAW).
In my opinion, one of the most effective organizations is the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. This organization is a legal rights organization serving Asian Americans. It was founded by lawyers, student activists, and law students wanting to achieve social and economic justice for Asian Americans. This organization takes cases that have major impacts on the Asian American community to court; its members conduct multilingual clinics to give legal advice to low-income Asian Americans and new immigrants; they educate Asian Americans about their legal rights, and they train students in public interest law and encourage them to use their skills to help their community (AALDEF).
What You Can Do
Macro Action Steps
I think that the best way to combat the issue of Asian American discrimination is to further integrate Asian Americans into society, by getting them more involved in government. Currently, Asian Americans are underrepresented in government. There are very few Asian Americans in high ranking positions of government. As I mentioned earlier, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Asian American Government Executives Network, and the Center for Asian Pacific American Women are working to do exactly this. Organizations such as these can help elevate promising representatives of the Asian American community, provide them with training, and organize grass root support.
Micro Action Steps
All of us who wish to work on this issue can help publicize these organizations by sharing information with our friends and family. Mentors can steer their mentees to these resources. In addition to spreading awareness, organizations like the few I discussed are in need of volunteers. For example, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund is in search of people interested in litigation, legal advocacy, client services, and outreach. Finally, we can encourage donations or help raise funds to support these non-profit groups. Identifying and encouraging promising Asian Americans to seek public office, providing them with training and resources, and helping to organize grass root support can increase Asian American representation, which can advance the integration of Asian Americans into mainstream society.
As I explored the issue of discrimination against Asian Americans in both the past and present, I observed a theme of exclusion and negative stereotypes. Asian Americans in the past felt like foreigners no matter how much they contributed to American society and many Asian Americans today still don’t feel accepted. In order to fully include Asian Americans into society, it is important that they have more representation and voice. Identifying and encouraging promising Asian Americans to seek public office, providing them with training and resources, and helping to organize grass root support can increase Asian American representation, which can advance the integration of Asian Americans into mainstream society. Asian Americans have a lot to offer our society and if we do not make an effort to include them we could be depriving ourselves of tremendous benefits.
Click on this link to see how you can take immediate action: https://www.aaldef.org/take-action/
Click on this link to read more about my solutions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bd2Tgz6d0I4sqkRsEBTdmFXqkKYyygJ66zTcyGBwaUU/edit#bookmark=id.fap6vetr77gn
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