Who are Asian-Pacific Islanders Americans?

The 1980 US Census categorized Asian American and Pacific Islanders into 4 categories:

East Asians: Chinese, Japanese, Korean ….

South Asians: Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lanka…

South East Asians: Filipino, Vietnamese, Hmong, Indonesians…

Pacific Islander: Guam, Samoa, Fiji, Marianas….

Asians have been in the US from the very beginning. In 1849, the Chinese came here during the Gold Rush. They didn’t get rich but stayed on to help build the Intercontinental railroad. In May 2019, our country will be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the railroad that connected the East and the West Coast.

1882 marked the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese immigrated to fill some of the farm jobs.

Filipinos immigrated in 4 waves, as US Nationals and as veterans of the US Army forces after WWII.

The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act was a direct result of Civil Rights movements lead by Martin Luther King Jr.

The Hart Celler Act allow immigrants other than European to enter the US and gain citizenship.

The Asian population grew from less than 1 million to over 22 million today.

Up till 1968 Asians did not have a collective identity. The different ethnic groups (Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, etc.) live their lives separated and in isolation of each other. When the Japanese were interned during WWII, the Chinese and the Koreans wore signs to “advertise” that they are not Japanese.

The word Asian American was coined by Yuji Ishioka and Emma Gee (UC Berkeley) and Ronald Quidachay (SF State) to highlight our common heritage and thus the term “Asian American” was born and first used in the 1980 US Census.

How are the Asian Americans doing right now?


There is Good News!

In 2013, Pew Research published a glowing report stating that Asian Americans are flourishing in the US as compared with the other ethnic groups

Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority and we are more satisfied with our achieving the highest education attainment (~ 50% with college degrees), highest family income and brightest outlook of our future in the US.


And Not So Good News!

Although the Indians, Filipino and the Chinese are doing relatively well, some South East Asians are doing poorly. Most still have difficulties with English and their income, healthcare and education are lower than all other ethnic groups.

When education achievement is normalized, the income of Asian Americans does not look as high. Also, Asian Family tends to be larger, when normalized their family income does not look as good.

Although there are more Asian American professors, technical workers and lawyers than other ethnic groups, our membership in the academic and technical executive ranks are negligible and the appointment of Asian lawyers to the judgeship is low.


We are only 5.8% of the US population, if Asian Americans do not cooperate with each other to form coalitions, we wouldn’t have any political power and our votes would not be respected.

We have to understand issues that would unite us and those that would divide us.

If it weren’t for the Civil Rights movement of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s influencing the passage of the Immigration Reforms of 1965, most of us would not be here!

We need to learn to work with the other minorities to form the coalition to influence the political system.

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