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Asian-Nation : Asian American History, Demographics, & Issues

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Welcome to Asian-Nation

Welcome to Asian-Nation, an authoritative, one-stop information resource and sociological exploration of the historical, demographic, political, and cultural issues that make up today's diverse Asian American community. You can think of Asian-Nation as an online version of "Asian Americans 101."

The Purposes of This Site

While Asian Americans "only" make up about 5% of the U.S.'s population (as of 2008), we are one of the fastest growing racial/ethnic groups (in terms of percentage increase) in the U.S. Asian Pacific American Heritage © HMS Co. The Asian American community has received a lot of scrutiny over the years but in many ways, still remains misunderstood. Therefore, this site serves as a concise but comprehensive introduction to the Asian American community. Its purposes are to:

  • Educate those who would like to learn more about the Asian American population
  • Provide general and specific information about different topics and issues that affect the Asian American community
  • Identify other sources of information related to Asian Americans

What You Can Expect

First, I define "Asian Americans" as the population living in the U.S. who self-identify as having Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry, in whole or in part, regardless of whether they're U.S.- or foreign-born, a U.S. citizen or not, length of residence, or in the U.S. legally or illegally. I also use the following terms to mean the same thing: Asian American, Asian Pacific American (APA), and Asian Pacific Islander (API). Of course, being "Asian" is not necessarily the same as being "Asian American" and I focus on this distinction throughout Asian-Nation.

I also acknowledge that there is a debate over how certain Asian groups should be referred to -- Filipinos or Pilipinos, Koreans or Coreans. For now and until there is a clear consensus one way or the other, I will use the conventional norms, while acknowledging that different members of each group have differences preferences.

Second, while there is certainly a lot of unique characteristics and differences within the diverse Asian American community, unfortunately I cannot detail the specific issues and experiences of every single Asian ethnic group. By necessity, much of the data and discussion within Asian-Nation focuses on the dozen or so largest Asian ethnic groups that represent the vast majority of the Asian American population.

Chinatown in the 1920s © Bettman/Corbis

At the same time, where it's appropriate, I describe issues that affect specific Asian groups, such as the Japanese "internment" or recent suspicions about Chinese espionage. But the main focus of Asian-Nation is on issues and experiences that affect all Asian Americans, especially in the context of how we are typically treated as though we are all the same.

Finally, despite what some academics believe, I do not feel that it is possible to discuss these issues in a completely "non-biased" or "objective" way. I feel that you as the reader deserve to know my personal perspective and what kinds of biases I may have. Therefore, I will say that much of what I present in Asian-Nation is based on my subjective knowledge and experiences as an immigrant, an Vietnamese American, an Asian American, and a person of color.

However, this does not mean that everything in Asian-Nation is merely my personal opinion. As much as possible, I discuss the issues as straightforwardly as possible, drawing on sound academic and sociological research, and incorporating in-depth research and statistics. Nonetheless, there may be instances where I demonstrate my 'liberal' perspective. I'm sure that some readers will object to this but as Bill Cosby once said, "I don't know what's the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

Persistent Stereotypes About Asian Americans

As many social scientists have noted, there are two primary stereotypes that continue to affect Asian Americans. One is that all Asian Americans are the same. That is, many people are either unable or unwilling to distinguish between different Asian ethnicities -- Korean American from a Japanese American, Filipino American from an Indonesian American, etc. This becomes a problem when people generalize certain beliefs or stereotypes about one or a few Asian Americans to the entire Asian American population. The result is that important differences between Asian ethnic groups are minimized or ignored altogether, sometimes leading to disastrous results.

Chinatown today © Richard Cummins/Corbis

The second stereotype is that all Asian Americans are foreigners. Although more than half of all Asians in the U.S. were born outside the U.S., many non-Asians simply assume that every Asian they see, meet, or hear about is a foreigner. Many can't recognize that many Asian American families have been U.S. citizens for several generations. As a result, because all Asian Americans are perceived as foreigners, it becomes easier to think of us as not fully American and then to deny us the same rights that other Americans take for granted. Yes, that means prejudice and discrimination in its many forms.

What's New at Asian-Nation

Be sure to keep up on the important issues making the news that affect Asian Americans, and my particular take on them at Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog, my blog about Asian American news and current events.

May isAsian Pacific American Heritage Month! You can celebrate it in a more meaningful but still fun way by reading How You Can Celebrate, along with some interesting data about the Asian American population at 14 Important Statistics About Asian Americans.

Lunar New Year was on Febryary 16, 2018. Learn about the characteristics of those born in the Year of the Dog -- those who turn 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, etc. this year -- by reading about the Vietnamese version of the Lunar New Year -- Tet, a Celebration of Rebirth.

Finally, make sure to visit the Site Map to see which pages are either New! or Updated! As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions and wish you an interesting exploration.