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South Asians have a complex historical relationship with African Americans. Over time, Desis (South Asians) and Blacks have had multiple crossovers in philosophical, racial, and ethnic identity… As a result of the Civil Rights Movement, the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 allowed for increased immigration from non-Western nations. The INS act incentivized scientists, professors, physicians, and other professionals to immigrate to the US during the Cold War. Subsequently, it was amended in 1986 so that the families of these immigrants could live as permanent legal residents. The high socioeconomic status of these early waves of immigrants, combined with their ambitions to integrate and prosper into the “the land of opportunity” created the perfect storm for Desis to generate animosity toward Blacks. Although colorism was always endogenously prevalent in South Asia, it was more important to assimilate with prejudices that whites had regarding African Americans in order to create a commonality from which to form an intergroup identity.
…An examination of the 1990 Census found that 90% of Indian-headed households identified as Indian when in 1970 nearly 75% identified as white. The first wave of South Asian immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s were largely educated professionals, and because of their educational background and the facts that immigrants usually avoid association with Blacks, so some identified as white. The latest wave of South Asian immigrants however, has been working-class and more likely to interact with African Americans and other people of color in urban centers.
In an article for The Atlantic, Bonnie Tsui argues that the American Chinatown is disappearing:
In the past five years, the number of Chinese immigrants to the U.S. has been on the decline, from a peak of 87,307 in 2006 to 70,863 in 2010. Because Chinatowns are where working-class immigrants have traditionally gathered for support, the rise of China—and the slowing of immigrant flows—all but ensures the end of Chinatowns.
To that, I say: not so fast. It all depends on how you define “Chinatown.” Tsui’s Chinatown is a dense, heavily working-class center city ethnic enclave, where Chinese residents and businesses catering to them share a small and sharply delineated space in the urban fabric. I take “Chinatown” to mean any ethnic enclave where Chinese residents and businesses catering to them share any amount of space in any type of settlement. Thus, I would argue that Chinatown is not in decline. No matter what immigration flows from “China” (another point I’ll pick later) look like, there are still millions of people in Chinese descent in the US and a significant portion of them (mainly first and second generation Chinese Americans) may like to live, work, and play in areas of dense Chinese settlement.
The ethnoburb (suburban ethnic enclave) is the new Chinatown. Chinatown in the sense of an ethnic enclave community is not disappearing; it has simply moved out into the suburbs. Tsui concedes to this development:
The exodus from Chinatown is happening partly because the working class is getting priced out of this traditional community and heading to the “ethnoburbs”; development continues to push residents out of the neighborhood and into other, secondary enclaves like Flushing, Queens, in New York.
Considering its extremely dense urban nature, I think Flushing hardly qualifies as an ethnoburb, but she has a point. If you visit the San Gabriel Valley ethnoburbs outside of Los Angeles, you could hardly say that Chinatown is in decline. Au contraire, this new suburban Chinatown is enormous and growing ever larger. The same trend toward suburbanization appears to be happening in Canada, and possibly in Australia as well. (I remember stepping off the bus in Markham, Ontario, near Toronto, thinking it looked just like an alternate universe San Gabriel Valley where palm trees don’t grow.)
Another point of contention I have with Tsui’s article is that she focuses exclusively on immigration from Mainland China. Chinese people come from all over the world, and though Mainlanders might be going back home in larger numbers because of economic growth there, Chinese people from other places are still emigrating to the West to rejoin family and/or to seek better opportunities. For example, the urban Chinatown in Los Angeles seems to attract a lot of Chinese from Vietnam and Cambodia. Another group of Chinese migrants I’d be interested in looking into are secondary migrants from Latin America. Many Chinese use Latin America as a stepping stone to developed countries; for example, when I was doing field work in the Chinatown in Buenos Aires, I found that many Chinese immigrated to Argentina to get Argentine passports that they could use to move more easily to the US.
So if Chinese Americans are increasingly moving to suburban enclaves, what will the urban Chinatowns look like? Perhaps they will start modeling themselves after Koreatown in Los Angeles. Much like the Chinese, immigration from South Korea has declined because of Korea’s rapid economic development, and Koreans in the US are moving out into the suburbs. Koreatown remains, however, as a hub for businesses and community organizations that serve the Korean community. Another, related possibility is that urban Chinatowns will start looking like the Chinatown in Buenos Aires or Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, neighborhoods full of shops and restaurants that cater to the cosmopolitan tastes of middle-class/affluent visitors who are not Chinese or Japanese.
When I was in elementary school, I had a very diverse class setting but Asians were still the minority. While I consider my elementary school experience as a happy and great one, there were moments of bullying that I will never forget. My first instance I remember was when non-Asian students would ask me how to pronounce my last name: Tsui. I would phonetically say it slowly: “TSOY, like the t and the s are blended together.” But that response was merely followed by remarks including:
Soy? Like soy sauce?!
Suey… suey suey suey!
I mainly disregarded them, and did not really let that instance get me down.
Now it is important to note that as a kid, it is common for one child to pick on another based simply on a difference in almost anything - looks, actions, facial expressions, or in this case, name. However, just because it is common for this to be the case, does not make it right. Any sort of teasing that is done can ultimately considered to be bullying, especially if one party is hurt physically and/or emotionally.
In a recent study, Asian Americans were found to be the most bullied students in U.S. schools. Some reasons given for this result include the language barriers that exist for Asian Americans, and also a spike in racial abuse against Muslim children due to the 9/11 attacks. Here are some numbers:
- 54% of Asian American teenagers said they were bullied in the classroom, compared to 38.4% for African Americans, 34.3% for Hispanics and 31.3% of whites
- Cyber-bullying is even worse with 62% of Asian Americans reporting online harassment once or twice a month, compared with 18.1% of whites
President Obama has placed a priority on fighting bullying. In March 2011, he joined Facebook for an online anti-bullying conference, where he warned that social media was increasing the bullying problem.
While there is much talk as to how to change the figures above, kids, teachers, parents, and communities need to proactively realize all of the following:
- What bullying is
- When bullying occurs
- What to do when the bullying happens
When I was made fun of due to my last name, I had no idea that the remarks were considered bullying and never talked to anyone else about the issue. Especially for Asian American children with language barriers, there needs to be information given in schools about what bullying really means and how to go about the situation if and when it occurs. Without the information given to everyone in the community, children of all races will continue to be bullied. A concrete plan of action needs to be in place. The question now is: what will that plan be, and how can it be implemented to ensure that Asian Americans do not have such a high percentage of being bullied? The plan needs to be worked on now, before the next kid has a bad day and schools do not know what to do.
Part of the reason why bullying occurs with the Asian diaspora is because of exotification and mystification of Asians as a strange, foreign species that don’t really belong in America. So when we are always perceived as the other insofar as America is comprised as non-yellow folks, that otherness is exploited to an extreme — especially if you reside as an other within a predominately non-Asian community.
I grew up in a predominately white community, and was always the most bullied girl throughout elementary and middle school. I was always the last one chosen for teams, always the strange girl with a fobby haircut and no sense of fashion style who spent more time alone than with “friends” because it was not cool to be friends with me, always alone. And when I was not alone, I was either being bullied in the school yard or picked on. It is really horrifying when you realize that the worst racism that occurs in a person’s life isn’t always when you are an adult, but when you are a six, seven year old child who is too foreign to be considered a fellow human.
Reading the commentary was like looking through a movie of my childhood. It’s funny though, I didn’t even realize I was being bullied until I was older. I took all the names/jokes/labels/insults not only because I felt I deserved it, but because I felt that it was my role to fill.
I notice that you generally blog about a wide range of issues. So I was just wondering, as a fellow Asian on Tumblr, do you also feel that there is a huge divide within POC between Asians & non-Asian? Or have you generally had a different experience when blogging about Asian issues?
No, there def is, which is why I might take a different stance on some issues racially and offend other pocs. I dont think its exclusive to Tumblr, just a reflection of race relations in general.
You hear a lot of things. As the model minority, we don’t have it that bad, or whatever. There is so much more erasure too asides from *well ok people are racist against muslims*. It is so much more than that. The perpetual foreigner bullshit especially. That stuff just becomes background noise in our day to day life, whereas its easy to see discrimination against latin@s and blacks and native folks. There is also the socialized passivity, which makes it harder to rally Asian people politically.
I dont blog enough about Asian issues actually, I’ve been meaning to. Especially Asians and immigration, besides the usually-essentializing conversations on how bad Muslims and Arabs have it.
It would be great to see you write more on Asian issues, especially considering your particular experience within it. And regarding Asians and immigration, which is an entirely fraught issue that certainly is not discussed enough.
Just because I am a woman and queer, does not make it okay for me to objectify another woman. Just like the fact that I’m Chinese does not make it okay for me to call my fellow Chinese people or Chinese-Americans ‘Chink’. Hearing the terms ‘nigger’, ‘gook’, ‘Charlie’, ‘spic’, ‘kite’, ‘beaner’, ‘faggot’, and ‘dyke’ makes my heart break because America is suppose to be a beautiful creation of a salad bowl of different cultures, people, and communities. People are starting to forget why we came to this country in the first place, and that is for freedom and diversity. We need to stop this nonsense. The other day at work I heard my co worker call her 9year old brother “nigga please!” I snapped and told her it is not ok to use that term, especially in front of a 9year old boy who is still molding his personality. How is it okay for them to look to us as role models when we act like fools, who cant seem to use proper terms. I really wish dr. Martin Luther King was still alive to see what disgrace most Americans that he had fought so for had come to, I’m not talking about African-American, I am also talking about Asian-Americans, and Latin-Americans. I mean really? Creating gangs to fight against each other in our own communities because “he’s not korean” or she’s “Vietnamese” or “I’m Cuban” and “that puerto rican”. We are still facing racism, and prejudice everyday….today I was called chink by a African-American, he thought it was funny to say “chi Ching Wong kong” to me and felt the need to express his ignorance to me by adding a “stupid dyke, try my 10 inch dick!” I was really angry, and said to him “I can get more girls than u by showing them respect, and I am a woman too good for you to ever get with…it’s assholes like you that brings so much hate in our country, congrats, your winning.” and he continues to tell me he didn’t understand me….I think if my other friends were with me, this guy probably would’ve ended up with his face on the pavement. I walked away and with so much anger all I could do was tear up. I was sadden by the fact that my fellow minority-American would treat me this way. I don’t get scared walking in a black neighborhood, I believe in the kindness of people, I don’t get annoyed if a Hispanic woman asks me to speak slowly because her english isn’t good enough. I speak slowly and simplify my words for them as much as I can for them to understand, cuz god forbid, my mom could be running in the same situation at a store, and the associate was kind enough to do the same. It takes a lot to be kind to each other, but nothing is going to change unless we make the first step. I love my friends, regardless of the color of their skin. I wish everyone sees this with me eye to eye, bc we got to put the ‘human’ back in ‘humanity’ bc I think america is beginning to forget. What it was like back in 1950’s when any minority would just be lynched for the color of our skin and being in the wrong side of town because they got lost.
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