Asian American Issues

Asian Americans are Americans who are Asian descent. This term was first used in the 1960s by activists who sought an alternative to "Oriental," which is considered to be a derogatory term. "Asian Americans" refers to the shared experience of Asians in America, including the obstacles Asians face in regards to racism.

The Model Minority Stereotype refers to the idea that a particular minority group is more successful or higher-achieving than the population average (whether in terms of educational achievement, college admissions, white collar professions, or other areas) and should serve as a "model" for other group.. This stereotype has been frequently associated with Asian Americans.

The Bamboo Ceiling is a modification of the "glass ceiling," originally an economics term that refers to situations where a qualified individual is prevented from advancing in the wokplace due to some type of discrimination. The "bamboo ceiling" more specifically refers to barriers against the promotion of Asian Americans to executive or manager positions.

Panethnicity is a term that refers to the grouping together of many different ethnic groups in one all-encompassing heading. This is especially relevant to Asian cultures, which are often grouped together though they are very distinct.

Important Events in Asian American History  

The first significant Chinese immigration to America began with the California Gold Rush of 1848-1855, and continued with subsequent large labor projects, such as the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad. During the early stages of the gold rush, when surface gold was plentiful, the Chinese were tolerated, if not well received. As gold became harder to find and competition increased, animosity toward the Chinese and other foreigners increased. After being forcibly driven from the mines, most Chinese settled in enclaves in cities, mainly San Francisco, and took up low end wage labor such as restaurant work and laundry just to earn enough to live. With the post Civil War economy in decline by the 1870s, anti-Chinese animosity became politicized by labor leader Denis Kearney and his Workingman's Party as well as by California Governor John Bigler, both of whom blamed Chinese "coolies" for depressed wage levels. Another significant anti-Chinese group organized in California during this same era was the Supreme Order of Caucasians with some 60 chapters statewide.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was a United States federal law signed by Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882. Those revisions allowed the U.S. to suspend Chinese immigration, a ban that was intended to last 10 years.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was one of the most significant restrictions on free immigration in U.S. history. The Act excluded Chinese "skilled and unskilled laborers employed in mining" from entering the country for ten years under penalty of imprisonment and deportation. Many Chinese were relentlessly beaten just because of their race. The few Chinese non-laborers who wished to immigrate had to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were qualified to immigrate, which tended to be difficult to prove. The Act also affected Asians who had already settled in the United States. Any Chinese who left the United States had to obtain certifications for reentry, and the Act made Chinese immigrants permanent aliens by excluding them from U.S. citizenship. After the Act's passage, Chinese men in the U.S. had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of starting families in their new homes.

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Angel Island Immigration Station was an immigrant processing facility on Angel Island, in the San Francisco Bay.

Asian immigration can be dated back to "1788 with a crew of Chinese shipbuilders, carpenters, metal workers, and sailors." The government responded to the influx of immigration by instating a series of exclusion acts. Citizenship issues arose and Angel Island, "the Ellis Island of the West," officially opened as an immigration station in 1910 lasting through the Great Depression until 1940. Angel Island Immigration Station served as the processing center for most of the 56,113 Chinese immigrants who are recorded as immigrating or returning from vacation in China.

The predominantly Chinese immigrants who were detained at Angel Island were not welcomed in the United States. As recounted by one detained in 1940: "When we arrived, they locked us up like criminals in compartments like the cages at the zoo." Held in these "cages" for weeks, often months, individuals were subjected to rounds of interrogations to assess the legitimacy of their immigration applications. These interrogations were long, tiring, and stressful. Immigrants were made to recall minute details about their home and claimed relations—how many steps led up to your front door? Who lived in the third house in the second row of houses in your village? The interpreters for the proceedings may have not have spoken the particular dialect of the immigrant competently; most Chinese immigrants were from southern China at that time, many spoke Cantonese. It was difficult to pass the interrogations, and cases were appealed many times over before one could leave the island and enter the United States. Oftentimes, successful immigrants produced elaborate instruction manuals that coached fellow detainees in passing interrogations; if anyone was caught with these manuals, they would most likely be deported.

Many of the detainees turned to poetry as expression—they spilled their emotions onto the very walls that contained them. Some of the poems are bitter and angry, others placid and contemplative; all, however, read with a heavy sadness.

"America has power, but not justice.
In prison, we were victimized as if we were guilty.
Given no opportunity to explain, it was really brutal.
I bow my head in reflection but there is nothing I can do."

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United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, 261 U.S. 204 (1923), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court decided that Bhagat Singh Thind, who was a Indian Sikh, could not be a naturalized citizen of the United States, because he was not a "white person" in the sense intended in the relevant 1790 statute governing naturalization. Although Thind argued that as an Indian he belonged to the Aryan and therefore the Caucasian race, the Court found that "the Aryan theory, as a racial basis, seems to be discredited by most, if not all, modern writers on the subject of ethnology."

At this point, the United States has now excluded from admission into this country all natives of Asia within designated limits of latitude and longitude, including the whole of India." Bhagat Singh Thind claimed the right to citizenship as a white person, following the original naturalization statute of 1790. The Court concluded that the statute applied to Bhagat Singh Thind and thus supported the revoking of his citizenship, per the request of the Naturalization Examiner (who had originally objected to his being granted citizenship).

Not only were new applicants from India denied the privilege of naturalization, the new Asian classification suggested that retroactive revocation of naturalized status was appropriate, a point that some courts upheld when prosecutors argued that Indians who had applied for naturalized status using the Caucasian categorization improperly had been granted naturalized citizen status. Some of the consequences of revoked naturalized status are illustrated in housing phenomena. Specifically, Attorney General Ulysses S. Webb was very active in revoking Indian land purchases; in a bid to strengthen the Asiatic Exclusion League, he promised to prevent Indians from buying or leasing land. Many Indians left the United States, leaving only half their original American population, 2,405, by 1940.

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Japanese-American internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of about 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States to camps called "War Relocation Camps," in the wake of Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The internment of Japanese Americans was applied unequally throughout the United States. All who lived on the West Coast of the United States were interned, while in Hawaii, where the 150,000-plus Japanese Americans composed over one-third of the population, an estimated 1,200 to 1,800 were interned. Of those interned, 62% were American citizens.

In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion orders, while noting that the provisions that singled out people of Japanese ancestry were a separate issue outside the scope of the proceedings. The United States Census Bureau assisted the internment efforts by providing confidential neighborhood information on Japanese Americans. The Bureau's role was denied for decades, but was finally proven in 2007.

In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation said that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". The U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned and their heirs.

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On the night of June 19, 1982, a fight ensued at the Fancy Pants strip club on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park where Chin was having his bachelor party. The group was thrown out and after a heated exchange of words subsequently parted ways. Ebens instigated the incident by declaring, "It's because of you little motherfuckers that we're out of work!" referring to U.S. auto manufacturing jobs being lost to Japan, despite the fact that Chin was not Japanese. Ebens and Nitz searched the neighborhood for 20 to 30 minutes and even paid another man 20 dollars to help look for Chin, before finding him at a McDonald's restaurant. Chin tried to escape, but was held by Nitz while Ebens repeatedly bludgeoned Chin with a baseball bat. Chin was struck at least four times with the bat, including blows to the head. When rushed to Henry Ford Hospital, he was unconscious and died after four days in a coma, on June 23, 1982.

Ebens and Nitz were convicted in a county court for manslaughter by Wayne County Circuit Judge Charles Kaufman, after a plea bargain brought the charges down from second-degree murder. They served no jail time, were given three years probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $780 in court costs.

The verdict angered the Asian American community in the Detroit area and around the country. Journalist Helen Zia and lawyer Liza Cheuk May Chan led the fight for federal charges, which resulted in the men being accused of two counts of violating Chin's civil rights, under Section 245 of Title 18 of the United States Code. For these charges, it was not enough that Ebens had injured Chin, but that "a substantial motivating factor for the defendant's actions was Mr. Chin's race, color, or national origin, and because Mr. Chin had been enjoying a place of entertainment which serves the public."

The attack was considered by many a hate crime, but pre-dated hate crime laws in the United States. Chin's case has been cited by some Asian Americans to support the idea that they are seen as not fully citizens or "perpetual foreigners" compared to "real" Americans. Chin's mother, Lily Chin, stated: "What kind of law is this? What kind of justice? This happened because my son is Chinese. If two Chinese killed a white person, they must go to jail, maybe for their whole lives... Something is wrong with this country."

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The 1992 Los Angeles riots were a series of race riots that occurred over six days in the Los Angeles metropolitan area in California in April 1992.

The riots started on April 29, 1992, after a jury trial resulted in the acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King following a high-speed police pursuit. Thousands of people throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area rioted over the six days following the announcement of the verdict. Widespread looting, assault, arson and murder occurred during the riots, and estimates of property damages topped one billion dollars. The rioting ended after soldiers from the California Army National Guard, along with U.S. Marines from Camp Pendleton were called in to stop the rioting. In total, 53 people were killed during the riots and over two thousand people were injured.

Korea-Americans in Los Angeles refer to the event as "Sa-E-Gu", meaning "four-two-nine" in the Korean language, in reference to the April 29, 1992, which was the day the riots started.

David Joo, a manager of a gun store, said, "I want to make it clear that we didn't open fire first. At that time, four police cars were there. Somebody started to shoot at us. The LAPD ran away in half a second. I never saw such a fast escape. I was pretty disappointed." Carl Rhyu, a participant in the Korean immigrants' armed response to the rioting, said, "If it was your own business and your own property, would you be willing to trust it to someone else? We are glad the National Guard is here. They're good backup. But when our shops were burning we called the police every five minutes; no response. Jay Rhee, a shopowner, said, "We have lost our faith in the police. Where were you when we needed you?"

One year after the riots fewer than one in four damaged or destroyed businesses reopened. Eleven months after the riots, almost 40% of Korean-Americans said they were thinking of leaving Los Angeles. Before a verdict was issued in the new 1993 Rodney King federal civil rights trial against the four officers, Korean shop owners prepared for the worst as fear ran throughout the city, gun sales went up, virtually all of them by those of Korean descent, some merchants at flea markets removed their merchandise from their shelves, storefronts were fortified with extra Plexiglas and bars. Throughout the region, merchants readied to defend themselves as if on the eve of a war. Some Koreans formed armed self defence groups following the 1992 riots. Speaking just prior to the 1993 verdict, Mr. Yong Kim stated, "We made a mistake last year. This time we won't. I don't know why Koreans are always a special target for African-Americans, but if they are going to attack our community then we are going to pay them back."

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Dr. Wen Ho Lee is a Taiwan-born American scientist who worked for the University of California at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He created simulations of nuclear explosions for the purposes of scientific inquiry, as well as for improving the safety and reliability of the US nuclear arsenal.

Lee was publicly named by United States Department of Energy officials, as a suspect in the theft of classified nuclear-related documents from Los Alamos. A federal grand jury indicted him of stealing secrets about U.S. nuclear arsenal for the People's Republic of China (PRC) in December 1999.

On December 10, 1999, Lee was arrested, indicted on 59 counts, and jailed in solitary confinement without bail for 278 days until September 13, 2000, when he accepted a plea bargain from the federal government. Lee was released on time served after the government's case against him could not be proven. He was ultimately charged with only one count of mishandling sensitive documents that did not require pre-trial solitary confinement, while the other 58 counts were dropped.

President Bill Clinton issued a public apology to Lee over his treatment by the federal government during the investigation. Lee filed a lawsuit to gain the names of public officials who had leaked his name to journalists before charges had been filed against him. The federal judge who heard the case during an earlier appeal said that "top decision makers in the executive branch" "have embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen."

The Department of Justice constructed its case around the only real evidence of malfeasance, the downloading of the restricted information. They ultimately concocted an unusual strategy of trying to prove that, in addition to illegally handling information, Lee was trying to injure the United States by denying it the exclusivity of the nuclear information. In June 2006, Lee received $1.6 million from the federal government and five media organizations as part of a settlement of a civil suit he had filed against them for leaking his name to the press before any formal charges had been filed against him. Federal judge James A. Parker eventually apologized to Lee for denying him bail and putting him in solitary confinement, and excoriated the government for misconduct and misrepresentations to the court.

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History of Asian Americans at Stanford  

Date Event Date Event
1917 The Japanese Clubhouse begins to house Stanford students. After Japanese removal in 1942, few Japanese students returned to live there. Clubhouse demolished in 1968. 1919 Chinese community establishes a Chinese Clubhouse after a Chinese student is thrown out of Encina Hall by white students in 1917.
1969 Asian American students petition for Asian American Studies. 1971 Asian American Students' Alliance (AASA) forms and is later renamed Asian American Students' Association.
1977 Asian American Activities Center is located at the Old Fire Truck House and staffed by volunteer student interns. 1986 Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid conducts a study of Asian American admissions. Asian American undergraduate admissions begin a significant climb which continues throughout the 1980s.
1987 The Rainbow Agenda (including AASA, MEChA, SAIO, BSU) proposes a set of demands including the institutionalization of the Asian American Activities Center and the hiring of a full-time Director/Dean. 1988 Julian Low becomes the first Director of the A3C. The University Committee on Minority Issues convenes. Finding includes the need for a more fully developed Asian American Studies program. AAS courses are still taught by undergraduate and graduate students.
1989 Students take over the President's Office to demand Asian American Studies at Stanford, chanting... "JUST ONE ASIAN AMERICAN HISTORY PROFESSOR." 1991 Asian American Studies scholars offer a core curriculum consisting of five Asian American Studies courses as a result of collaborative efforts of Professors Chang, Palumbo-Liu, Sylvia Yanagisako (CASA) and Bill Hing (Law).
1993 Rally and press conference in support Asian American studies is held. In response to potential budget cuts to the ethnic community centers, students hold a speak out in White Plaza, titled "Bridging the Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality." 1994 Concerned Students for Asian American Studies members disrupt a Faculty Senate meeting, demanding consideration for an Asian American Studies Program. It is the first time that a Faculty Senate meeting is prematurely adjourned.

MEChA goes on a four-day hunger strike in order to raise a variety of Chicano community issues, including Ethnic Studies and a boycott of non-unionized grape providers. Concerned Students for Asian American Studies hold solidarity fast in support. Committees are formed to look into the possibility of Asian American Studies and Chicana/o Studies.
1995 Asian American Studies Curriculum Committee is formed and charged with developing a curriculum for an Asian American Studies major and minor. 1996 Okada celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The Faculty Senate unanimously authorizes the initiation of the Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Program.

April 1996, derogatory racial epithets are found in the A3C in two separate incidents.
1997 After more than 25 years of student struggle and protest, beginning January 1, 1997, students are now able to major in Asian American studies. History Prof. Gordon Chang is appointed the first director for the program. 2000-2001 During Winter Quarter Finals, hate graffiti is found on classroom walls in three separate incidents.

Police and Stanford administrators cover up graffiti and did not disclose the threatening contents until the Stanford Daily and San Francisco Chronicle broke the story.
2003 Six students go on a hunger strike for a labor code of Conduct, including Bryan Kim (AASA Chair -01-02) and Linda Tran (AASA Chair 05-06). A coalition of students begins working on the increase of Southeast Asian and Filipino students. This results in the increase of Filipino and Vietnamese students.