The Asian American Movement

The Asian American Movement

The Asian American Movement

The Asian American Movement

Synopsis

Active for more than two decades, the Asian American movement began a middle-class reform effort to achieve racial equality, social justice, and political empowerment. In this first history and in-depth analysis of the Movement, William Wei traces to the late 1960s, the genesis of an Asian American identity, culture, and activism.Wei analyzes the Asian American women's movement, the alternative press, Asian American involvement in electoral politics. Interviews with many key participants in the Movement and photographs of Asian American demonstrations and events enliven this portrayal of the Movement's development, breadth, and conflicts. Author note: William Wei teaches modern Chinese history and Asian American studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Born in Tinghai, China, and raised in New York City, Dr. Wei is also the author of Counterrevolution in China: The Nationalists in Jiangxi during the Soviet Period.

Excerpt

Each group of Asians in America has had a long history of fighting for equality and justice, using its members' common cultural heritage and ethnic identity as the basis for collective action. Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and Japanese have all mobilized their compatriots by appealing to shared values and customs, in a common language. On this basis they have engaged in labor struggles, initiated litigation in the U.S. courts, participated in "homeland" politics, and shared other activities to defend their interests. But the small size of each Asian ethnic group limited its effectiveness. Not until the civil rights movement of the 1960s exposed the pervasive problem of racism in U.S. society and raised questions about exactly how democratic the nation's political system in fact was did members of the various Asian ethnic groups begin to think of themselves, and to act politically together, as Asian Americans. Thus was the Asian American Movement born.

Among the last of the "ethnic-consciousness movements," the Asian American Movement has been essentially a middle-class reform movement for racial equality, social justice, and political empowerment in a culturally pluralist America. It has functioned as an inter-Asian coalition that embraces the entire spectrum of Asian ethnic groups, acknowledging their common experiences in American society and calling for a higher level of solidarity among the groups. Central to its existence has been a new sociopolitical entity called the Asian American, for although the coalition reflects its members' diversity as Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, and other kinds of Asian Americans, it also affirms their unity with other Americans. The concept Asian American implies that there can be a communal consciousness and a unique culture that is neither Asian nor American, but Asian American. In defining their own identity and culture, Asian Americans bring together previously isolated and ineffective struggles against the oppression of Asian communities into a coherent pan-Asian movement for social change.

The Movement, as it was popularly called, began in the late 1960s and was primarily the result of the convergence of two historical developments: the emergence of a generation of college-age Asian Americans and the public protests surrounding the Vietnam War. The first wave of Asian immigration . . .

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