Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850

Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850

Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850

Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850

Excerpt

According to the census of 1980 there were 3.5 million Asian Americans in the United States, about 1.5 percent of the total population. This was the first time in history that the Asian American population had amounted to as much as 1 percent of the total. Numerical incidence, however, does not necessarily indicate relative importance. The burden of this book, which treats systematically only the two pioneer Asian American groups, is that the immigration and acculturation of Asians has been much more significant in the history of the United States than their relative numbers would indicate. Examination of the unique experiences of Chinese and Japanese Americans gives a different and instructive perspective to more universal questions concerning the nature of the immigrant experience and the role of race and ethnicity in American life.

To examine the Asian American experience involves, among other things, looking at American history the "wrong way"; that is, from west to east rather than from east to west. Most American history, quite properly, focuses on the Atlantic migration and its consequences; the emphasis here will be on the Pacific. Even the question of the frontier--since the time of Frederick Jackson Turner, a crucial nexus for those concerned with American civilization-- assumes an entirely different cast when viewed from a Pacific perspective. The standard approach views the frontier as an internal zone moving relentlessly from the Cumberland Gap to South Pass and beyond. But among westerners, particularly Californians, a defensive rather than expansive frontier psychology often developed. Although Californians dreamed of expansion, territorial and commercial, ever . . .

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