Thursday 24th August 2017,

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JadeSandwich: Has the Term Asian American Outlived Its Usefulness?

posted by Randall

 

The term Asian American was derived in the 70’s when political activists coined the term as a way of uniting the then relatively small number of  Americans of Asian descent in the United States. While it largely succeeded in giving greater voice to a divergent group of people, some fear it has backfired in failing to recognize the diversity and uniqueness within the Asian American community.

In the blog JadeSandwich, Jade Park writes, “Korean Americans are very different from other Asian Americans. In fact every ethnic group of Americans – be it Chinese American, Japanese American, Filipino American, etc. – is similar yet vastly different from each other because each group inherited a background from different countries that have very different languages, cultures, mindsets, and histories.”

Park finds it annoying that some non-Asians see all Asians as one and the same. She bluntly states, “I mean, how the hell does the hanbok I’m wearing look like a geisha’s kimono? And why does it have to be a stinking geisha’s? Why the hell is it weird if I don’t like sushi? It’s not my cultural food! How am I supposed to know what that says in Chinese? I’m not Chinese!”

In recent years, the pendulum has swung politically as Asian American subgroups have demanded that data gathered about Asian Americans be disaggregated so as to recognize these differences.

What do you think? Has the term Asian Americans outlived its usefulness? If you are a member of an Asian subgroup, do you identify as an Asian American? Read the JadeSandwich blog, then let us know what you think.

 

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8 Comments

  1. from @ErwinDeLeon via Twitter regarding whether the term "Asian American" has outlived its usefulness: While I realize the need to highlight our differences, we still need to work together as Asian Americans. We are less than 6%.

  2. Regarding whether the term "Asian American" has outlived its usefulness: I would agree with that, Erwin The term is accepted more by second and third generation Asian Americans who have witnessed its historical evolution. It's a tougher concept to grasp for new or newer arrivals to this country.

  3. jadesandwich says:

    Thank you very much for including the link to my blog in this!

    Just wanted to mention here as well though, (and I say this in the blog post, too) I still do consider myself as an Asian American. I am all for using the term so that the Asian American community can fight racism, prejudice, and a lot of other problems our community faces as a group. However, there is a fine line between using the term for said purposes and using it as a means of convenience. The term, I feel, is often used to generalize rather than to address the generalizations that encourage racism, stereotyping, etc.

    Thanks again!

  4. Thanks, Jade. If I incorrectly gave the impression that you do not consider yourself Asian American, I stand corrected.

  5. Randall says:

    From @AAModelMinority via Twitter on whether the term Asian American has outlived its usefulness: Yes definitely

  6. wshepherd says:

    spot on, Jade.

    I recall sitting with one of the elders of my church, at lunch, all the little kids laughed and played, others found time to chat life, church and Japanese American folk stories. We sat quietly enjoying the afternoon lunch.

    Turning to me, she spoke with a deep concern ” son, we came a long way since interment camp, most of us lost everything when America sent us to culture prision.”

    I sat, quiet and still as this woman in her late 80s shared her story. She took a long pause, and I asked the question ” was it worth it, Mom” .. a sigh, and challenging response was presented “William, I call you son.. I recall when Dr King would come to LA.. ohh, he had fire, and we had fire then also, we lost too much becoming the Asian American”

    I’ve been lucky, yes -I’ve been lucky to meet so many elders just like Mom. Not just at one of the oldest Japanese American churches in America, and not simply the ones on the streets of Little Tokyo, LA. I’ve known South Korean elders in Korea, and all around Asia.

    Truth is, as an African American, with an adopted family legacy .. there is a time and place to know where home is.

    I work in cultural branding, our firm is co-founded by a man from New Zealand, and he has Chinese origin. As the other co-founder, I also know.. home is where the heart is, its too easy to say Asian American .. that often discounts the struggle of the elders, and wipes the culture slate blank, creating a model minority?

    thx..Jade!

    1. jadesandwich says:

      Thank you very much for sharing your story, your reply, and for the thanks!

      Yes, generalization for the sake of convenience is a terrible thing that really washes away so much of the finer points of every individual and group.

      1. AsAmNews says:

        From @GabrielleKazuko via Twitter re: whether the term Asian American is outdated: Fascinating. As a mixed American (white, Japanese, Filipina) I've always appreciated the term. But I can also see the other side. I think it's very individual how people want to be identified

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