Recent Pew report on Asian Americans provokes mixed reactions from community members.
The Pew Research Report on Asian Americans incited some controversy with its assessments of the progress that this cohort has made in the United States. Many Asian Americans bristled at particular conclusions—objecting to conclusions that promote the notion of Asian Americans as a “model minority,” for example—and welcomed a forum to respond. One such voice belongs to Los Angeles-based social worker Forrest Hong, PhD, LCSW, C-ASWCM, who kindly shared his insight with demodirt.com readers.
demodirt.com: How would you describe your overall reaction to the Pew Research report on Asian Americans?
Hong: Mixed. On one hand it is a positive that a well known and reputable organization has taken the time to research and publish a report. On the other hand, would it have been better to present the research in such a way that would have encouraged further research and examination. Perhaps by presenting how each specific Asian American group responded and presenting questions and issues that would require further research and follow-up.
demodirt.com: How do you think the publication of this report will affect Asian Americans in the short- and long-term?
Hong:I would hope that the short- or long-term benefit will be providing current researchers access to more current demographic and economic data of a diverse population within itself.
demodirt.com: What are the most compelling and accurate conclusions that the report announces?
Hong: That like other ethnic groups, Asian Americans are no different. There are pockets of Asian Americans who do well and there are those who do not. Perhaps another issue that it points out, Asian Americans some show success in education and reaching the "American Dream", they are also under-represented in other areas. Similar to other groups, Asian Americans hold on to certain religious and cultural beliefs and, similarly, over time each generation has made changes to their own identity.
demodirt.com: What are the greatest shortcomings of the report?
Hong: The report fell short of examining the impact and issues of immigration. Within the Asian American population, immigration varies within the group. Through history, we learned - or did not learn- about the early immigration patterns of some sub-Asian American groups. The report does not take into account why education and "fitting in" to the American way was so important. It does not take into account the transformation of the Vietnamese "boat people" and the Cambodian genocide survivors into the mainstream. The report does not point out the various social and psychological issues Hmongs and Vietnamese workers face as a result of learning how to survive and adapt their skills. And, it does not explore the entrepreneurial efforts of Korean, Chinese, and Thai as they learned to bring in to their communities services beyond the stereotype of computers and software design. Perhaps most of all, the report does not look at how each generation sees itself as different from their predecessor.
demodirt.com: What do you hope future reports on Asian Americans will focus on?
Hong: Future reports will need to take a look at some of the failures of this population's inability to reach and fulfill their dreams. There exists within the Asian American context, issues of religious affiliation, LGBT and inter-cultural acceptance, concerns with an aging population that is not financially secure; looking at how there are similarities between other ethnic groups and cultures as it relates to immigration and residency; changes over time between each generation in terms of loss of language, cultural values and beliefs, politics, and aspirations.
demodirt.com: Do you have any final comments to share?
Hong: What America was and what America is can also be reflected in the changing nature of the "early" Asian Americans to the more current and expansive Asian Americans. Just as America has changed, so has the Asian American population. Little has been written about the Asian American, instead we read about the Japanese-American or Chinese-American experiences. We know and read little about the psychological impact the war had on the Vietnamese who came to America. We know little about the changes and adjustments they made based on their experiences. Little research has been done specifically on the Hmongs or Cambodians who fought with American soldiers and were left out of the benefits of helping in that war similar to what many Philipino veterans experienced following WWII.
There is much to be learned from the study of the plight and success of all Asian Americans, perhaps that study can begin by accepting the fact that the term “Asian American” encompasses a much larger and diverse group of cultures than what we may have originally believed existed.
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