ASIAN AMERICANS FROM PARIAHS TO PARAGONS
Peter I. Rose
Picture the following. The setting is San Francisco or perhaps Vancouver. On the campuses there are many Chinese exchange students. Downtown there are Japanese salesmen and Korean greengrocers. Everywhere there are refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. People say they are taking over, but more often than not it is said with a sense of facetiousness, not horror.
While "takeover" is a far-from-accurate image, in recent years North America has become a magnet for thousands of people from Asia. While many have come to study or to ply their wares, many more have come to stay. Between 1970 and 1980 the number of Americans who specified Asian or Pacific Island ancestry according to census takers increased 146 percent, making it the fastest-growing segment in our population.
A hundred years ago the prospect of such a "yellow tide" would-- indeed did--evoke hysterical outcries against potential inundation, urgent calls for measures to stay the flow, and ruthless attacks on those already here. Not today. Concerns about threats to our way of life, when expressed, are far more apt to be directed against those coming from across the Rio Grande than from across the Pacific.
The images of those who used to be called "Orientals" have changed
A longer version of this chapter has appeared as a chapter in Clamor at the Gates, edited by Nathan Glazer ( San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, 1985), pp. 181-212.