What are the challenges facing Asian American ? Affirmative Action – Workplace

1 What is Affirmative Action?

It all started with the Civil Rights Movements that changed the Immigration Act which allowed Asians and other non-Europeans immigration to the US. In 1961 President Kennedy signed EO #10925, strengthened in 1965 by President Johnson with EO #11246 which requires government employers to take “affirmative action” to “hire without regard to race, religion and national origin” to prevent employers from discriminating against members of disadvantaged groups. In 1967, gender was added to the anti-discrimination list. Affirmative Actions are important in leveling the playing field in the workplace and in College Admission. The latter has been a divisive issue for Asian Americans!


2Has Affirmative Action benefited Women and Minorities?

From 1972–1993, % of Female:

– Architects from 3% to 19%;

– Doctors from 10% to 22%;

– Lawyers from 4% to 23%;

– Engineers from less 1% to nearly 9%;

– Chemists from 10% to 30%;

– College faculty from 28% to 42%.

Similarly, it has benefited African and Hispanic Americans, many have entered the executive ranks. Now Women and minorities are running for the Presidency of the US.


3How can Asian Americans take advantage of Affirmative Action?

Up to recently, Asian Americans did not have political savvy nor power to take advantage of Affirmative Action. In 2006, Candidate Obama signed a six-part questionnaire from 80-20 PAC promising to evaluate data on Asian American and level the playing field.

As a result, Obama appointed many Asians, notably, Steven Chu to run the Department of Energy, Gary Locke as Ambassador to China, Preet Bharara as US Attorney, Denny Chin to 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Kal Penn and Hines Ward as Public Liaisons and tried but failed to appoint Goodwin Liu to 9th Circuit Court.

What are the challenges facing Asian Americans? And, how we should work together?


The panel of Asian American Community Leaders

The panel discussion moderated by Joel Wong, the editor of CLUSA, provided the viewpoints of established community leaders, with a focus on political involvement.  Cathy Peng, CEO of ROCS Global, spoke about the low voting turnout of Chinese Americans and her work with United China to improve this form of civic participation. Angelica Cortez, Founder of LEAD Filipino, works with Filipino to build coalitions with the first and second generation students, as well as with other Filipino organizations.  Soma Chatterjee, the Diversity Ambassador for India Currents, cited the successful election of Mason Fong, who is the first Asian to serve on the Sunnyvale city council. Soma also stressed that media coverage is a powerful force for building awareness.

All community leaders stressed the importance of civic participation and building coalitions among groups.  Getting involved requires showing up consistently at meetings, and getting to know others.




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.

Dialog with Joel Wong at Asian American Leadership Summit 2018 (Produced by DingDingTV)

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