NAAAP Response to Pew Research Center’s “Rise of Asian Americans”

This text is from a commentary by Hector Javier, Chief Strategy Officer for NAAAP National:

The National Association of Asian American Professionals commends Pew Research Center for its recently released research report entitled “The Rise of Asian Americans.” We urge commentators and readers of the report to be fair and to give due critical consideration of its nuances, scope and context, and avoid the temptation to reduce the findings to broad brush strokes, so the general public may get better, balanced insights into the challenges and opportunities that we face as Asians and as Americans. The full 225-page report is available at Pew Research Center Publications.

The research report has gained considerable mainstream media attention for emphasizing the fact that Asians now have the highest immigration rates among all ethnic groups, and for appearing to confirm widely held beliefs that Asians have higher educational and income levels, among other measures of success. The Pew Research Report should be lauded for its generally positive portrayal of Asians in America, and for encouraging more discussion and analysis for a deeper understanding of Asian Americans and of our historical and future roles in a rapidly changing American society. The fact that the Asian community has made great strides over the past century and a half in overcoming racism and international conflicts to become part of the diverse fabric of American life is to be celebrated with an eye to continuing our progress as a just and vibrant society. For NAAAP, these findings further reinforce the belief we have in common with our supporters in the business community, government, and civil society that Asian American professionals, students, immigrants and entrepreneurs are well worth investing in.

Having recently commemorated the 30th anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin, while applauding the passage of a US House of Representatives resolution apologizing for the Chinese Exclusion Act passed 130 years ago, and living in a time where the US Ambassador to China is a Chinese-American and more American mayors and governors and corporate leaders are now Asian American, we honor our hard-fought gains and promise America our continuing contributions to our society’s successes.

However, NAAAP cautions mainstream media and other observers, including some in our own Asian American community, that the nuances and details of this Pew Research report should be carefully considered. This is not a time for self-indulgent celebratory back-slapping, nor is it a time to rest our laurels on an oversimplified “model minority” stereotype. The Pew Research Center astutely emphasizes that the Asian American community is not a monolithic community, and that it is in fact comprised of many cultures with different ethnic and national origins, different degrees of assimilation and acculturation, and different generational worldviews. As a matter of fact, if one takes the time and effort to read critically beyond the sweeping surface generalities, we find that the Pew Research Center’s report identifies issues and areas of concern which Asian America and American society in general must address.

For example, despite the impressive professional and financial success of Asian Americans as a whol , the Pew research report identifies certain populations in our community as having higher poverty rates than other Americans. Linguistic and cultural barriers remain a concern for first-generation immigrants who were part of the Pew study. The Pew research report also notes that difficulties in relations remain between some ethnic communities, which as a society embracing multicultural tolerance we must continue to resolve. The Pew research report notes that Asian Americans are more likely to be affected by long-term unemployment. Issues such as immigration, the educational pressures on children, the growth of mixed families, and family values in an American cultural context are other topics mentioned in the report that deserve further public discussion.

If we thus take the Pew research report in its proper context, in conjunction with other studies and observations by Asian American organizations*, and in light of reports of widespread bullying of Asian schoolchildren and hazing of Asian American military servicemen, as well as the perpetuation of negative Asian stereotypes in media and in political advertisements, we must point out the continuing disparities in Asian American representation in high-level executive leadership positions in corporate America, in Asian American civic engagement and political involvement, in Asian American health issues, in race-based access to higher education opportunities, and many other issues. We realize that despite impressive progress, we still have a long way to go. Future studies on the Asian American population would benefit from the insights of Asian American organizations which have experience in many of these aforementioned areas.

“The Rise of Asian Americans” should be read as a clarion call and a positive challenge for more study and more action to enable America to better harness the great potential of Asians to contribute to and be an integral part of American society. It is NAAAP’s view that we have a long way to go to make Asian Americans, and American society in general, fulfill the potential of Asian Americans to be leaders and active participants in American and global society. To this end, NAAAP reemphasizes our continuing commitment to engage with our members and with our corporate sponsors and our institutional and civil society partners, as well as our chapters in Canada and our Asian and American diasporas overseas, to develop and nurture the pipeline of emerging leaders and rising leaders for our communities, for our workplaces, and for society’s greater public good.

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*NAAAP recognizes our esteemed colleagues at the Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP), Asian Pacific Islander American Vote (APIA Vote), Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), the Committee of 100, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), and other Asian American organizations.

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