MINNEAPOLIS (July 16, 2012) — The Association for Asian American Studies has watched the responses from supporters and critiques of the report released by the Pew Center report titled, “The Rise of Asian Americans” and is now stating its position on the Pew Center Report.
The report released last month has been criticized by several Asian and Pacific Islander American groups for generalization and aggregation of data.
The news of Asian Americans as the fastest growing immigration population is not new to scholars who follow the census and work in the areas of immigration, migration, and policy. We recognize the investment of time and resources to conduct a comprehensive report that speaks to the current state of Asian Americans today and applaud the Pew Center for making this attempt.
There are some important issues that the report raised, but most important is the fact that Asian Americans, despite being the fastest growing immigrant group, has in large part gone unnoticed. However, the report fails to capture the diversity of Asian Americans, which represent over 30 distinctive Asian subgroups.
In the past, the discourse on Asian Americans has often not been in-depth and not represented the diverse experiences of Asian Americans. Generalizations, based on aggregate data, have been used to make assumptions about all Asian Americans. This generalization has led to stereotypes including perpetual foreigners or honorary whites, aka model minority. And these stereotypes have been used to exclude or ignore various issues and problems that many subgroups of Asian American still face.
Sadly, the recent Pew Center report perpetuated this sentiment in its framing of the model minority, tiger mom, foreigner, and the implication of an Asian Invasion. The way in which the data was contextualized made this report a red flag concern for many Asian American advocates around the nation.
Scholars accurately questioned the exclusion of different subgroups of Asian American communities, as well as, raised concerns about the potential interethnic conflict that may arise and hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Why make a fuss? Why make waves? Why not just take a compliment? To be lauded as educated, successful, and happy should make any community happy? These are a few of the questions that have been asked since the Pew Report. Why is a monolithic view about Asian immigrants and ignoring a large segment of our Asian American community a compliment? We are concerned that the findings from this report will be used to ignore various subgroups of Asian Americans and worse yet be used by policy makers to cut-back on resources and programs to vulnerable populations that exist within the Asian American community.
What is even more alarming is the message that the report permeates to those who feel that Asian Americans have an unfair advantage, that they are taking over, and that perhaps they are going to take over our society. The framing from the media is likely to flame the fires of anti-Asian sentiments in an economically challenged United States. We need to learn from the 30-year anniversary of Vincent Chin’s murder to ensure that reports such as this need to portray a comprehensive picture. We also see a rebirth of the anti-affirmative action brought on by the 80-20 initiative or the Fisher vs. UT Austin.
What has been impactful about the Pew report is that the study has galvanized Asian American scholars and community organizations to be engaged in the discussion. Those who feel that the report accurately represent Asian Americans to those who feel marginalized by the report have an opportunity to dialogue about the importance of understanding the diverse and nuanced complexity of Asian American communities.
What is clear is that the report does not reflect the lives of Asian Americans today, but has opened the gates where we can discuss what more needs to be done.
Bringing to light the positive accomplishments of Asian Americans is a part of the immigrant narrative but it is not the only one. The reality is, there is a significant body of our community who are not happy, educated, or high-income earners. In fact, these invisible Asian Americans are among our poor and with limited opportunities for education.
The AAAS plans to work with a consortium of Asian American scholars who are committed to presenting the full scope of the Asian American experience. As researchers, this is the right thing to do. It is our responsibility to present a complete research portfolio of the Asian American community that utilizes community-based participatory research and explores the use of both quantitative and qualitative research methods and includes various subgroups of Asian Americans from all socio-economic, historical, cultural, and political backgrounds.
As Paul Ong, Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Asian American Studies at UCLA and a member of Association of Asian American Studies has noted, “It is important, therefore, for Pew and other organizations to include researchers and analysts with greater knowledge of Asian American experiences. As you know, we are in the process of establishing an independent policy voice that more adequately represents Asian Americans. The Consortium is an initial effort to promote solid applied research. In this larger effort, we look forward to support and collaboration with Pew, along with other mainstream institutions.”
Despite the limitations of the Pew Report, it has brought us together to make waves and to have a voice. Collectively, we as scholars of diverse disciplines studying the Asian American experience can provide an accurate portrayal of the strengths and weaknesses of our community; and together we can work toward impacting our communities, school, policies, and media.
AAAS looks forward to continuing the dialogue by unveiling the complexities of our community while combating stereotypes that marginalizes us from the mainstream and our comrades in the margins.
Contact the Association for Asian American Studies President Mary Yu Danico at [email protected]