Motivation for Immigration for the Different Asian Groups
Since the 1950s, most Asian immigrants have come from China, Vietnam, India, Korea, and the Philippines, resulting in sizeable contributions to the American population. However, compared to Japanese immigrants, most of the mentioned Asian populations that came to the U.S. in the 1950s were driven by the need for economic stability, the same with the Hispanic immigrants (Healey and Stepnick 368). However, unlike the Hispanic immigrant, the Asian settler was highly educated, had professional skills, and searched for opportunities to expand their skills and practice their careers (Healey and Andi 368). The elite immigrants contributed to the image of success associated with Asians. However, the stream of Asian migrants in the 1950s included the top and bottom levels of educational and occupational hierarchies.
The other associated motivator for the Asian immigrants in the 1950s was a marriage between the Asians and the American personnel stationed in different countries during World War II. During the 1960s and 1970s, the American involvement in the Southeast Asia war resulted in the creation of interpersonal ties between the U.S. and countries like Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam (Healey and Stepnick 368). Out of the interpersonal ties came governmental programs that drew refugees, many of whom were fleeing from the countries due to the difficult living conditions associated with the war.
The differences in culture between the immigrants and the Americans led to prejudice and discrimination from the Americans. As Healey and Stepnick (369) show, Asians, particularly the Chinese, posed a threat to American democracy and institutions, especially the working class. Late in the 19th century, the Americans believed the Chinese culture would never be fully assimilated, and by viewing them as racially inferior, the Americans justified their establishment of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (Healey and Stepnick 369). The same stereotype was then transferred to the Japanese and the subsequent Asian communities that came to the U.S. By 1962, the result of the prejudice and discrimination was evident in the social distance scores, an indicator of the long-term anti-Asian prejudice record in America (Healey and Stepnick 369). The Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, Koreans, and the Philippines ranked in the bottom third, alongside other colonized and racial minority groups.
After World War II, the Japanese fell to the bottom of the rankings, mainly due to their involvement in the war. The government and the media were the main agents of propaganda that led to the changes in the social distance score for the Japanese. In a 1941 Time magazine article, quoted in Healey and Stepnick (370), “The Chinese expression was likely to be more placid, kindly, open; the Japanese more positive, dogmatic, arrogant.” Furthermore, the “Japanese are nervous in conversation, [and] laugh loudly at the wrong time” (Healey and Stepnick 370). Moreover, in recent decades, the relationship between the Americans and the Asian groups remains the same, as evident in the social distance score.
Even though the group rankings have remained relatively stable, the groups’ social distance scores have fallen. The scores reflect the general shift from blatant prejudice to modern racism and increased tolerance (Healey and Stepnick 370). However, the position of Asians, as held by the Americans, has remained the same since the 1920s and is reflected in the anti-Asian prejudice cultural nature. By 2017, the key component associated with prejudice and discrimination against Asians was competition for resources (Healey and Stepnick 370). The same has been the case since 1882, when the Americans considered the Chinese a threat to their democracy and institutions.
Healey, Joseph F, and Stepnick, Andi. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender. Sixthed. Sage. 2020.