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Asian Californians

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Asian Californians

By Sucheng Chan
1991, 236 pages, paperback.
Excerpt from the Introduction
Books in the Series

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Excerpt from the Introduction

THE RAPID GROWTH of the Asian-ancestry population in the United States and most dramatically in California in the last two decades has aroused national concern and curiosity. Who are these people? Why have so many of them entered the United States? Why do some of them cling to their native cultures and languages? These questions are not new, for they were also asked about earlier generations of Asian immigrants. Asians began coming to the U.S. in significant numbers in the 1850s, and from the start they were treated like perpetual foreigners, segregated, paid low wages, and excluded from the host society. Today, even when most Americans agree that tolerance should be shown toward people who speak languages other than English and who possess different cultural and physical characteristics, many still look upon Asian Americans with suspicion. While praising them as "model minorities" that other nonwhite groups should emulate, some Euro-Americans nonetheless resent them for working "too hard," living too frugally, and showing an almost frightening desire to succeed. At the same time, many scholars and public policy makers overlook the plight of the poorer Asian Americans as the better-educated ones join Euro-Americans in work and play, attending the same schools and churches, buying homes in the same neighborhoods.

Asian Americans are a heterogeneous minority, composed of immigrants from more than a dozen nations as well as the American-born descendants of earlier arrivals. The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and Asian Indians have the longest histories in the U.S., but today Vietnamese, Laotians, Kampucheans, Thais, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, and other groups are also becoming more numerous. Despite such ethnic and linguistic diversity, the term Asian American has meaning. In addition to certain similarities brought over from their homelands, these people have been shaped by common experiences in the United States. Because their non-Asian neighbors, employers, and government agencies have treated them alike, the American environment has exerted a greater-and ultimately a more homogenizing-influence on them than have the cultural traits they brought from Asia.

In this study, I present a succinct integrated history of the eight major Asian immigrant groups in California within the dual contexts of international relations and California history. It is important to look at the changing relations between the U.S. and the Asian emigrant nations because they have invariably affected how Asian immigrants were treated. California history also forms a backdrop because the changing economy of the golden state and race relations within it have likewise influenced the lives of Asian immigrants and their descendants.

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Books in the Series

The Golden State Series includes -

Afro-Americans in California, 2nd Edition: Rudolph M. Lapp
Asian Californians: Sucheng Chan
Chicanos in California: Albert Camarillo
Indians in California: George H. Phillips
California Agriculture, 2nd Edition: Lawrence J. Jelinek
California Education: Irving Hendrick
California Labor: David Selvin
California Utopianism: Robert V. Hine
California Women: Joan Jenson and Gloria Lothrop
California's Changing Environment: Raymond Dasmann
California Politics: 1846-1920: Spencer C. Olin, Jr.
Modern California Politics, 3rd Edition: Jackson K. Putnam
Los Angeles: Andrew Rolle
San Francisco: Robert Cherny and William Issel
Spain's Colonial Outpost: John A. Schutz

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