The Asian American Movement

Contextual points on the Asian American Movement of the 60s and Civil Right Activism in America.  

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  • Created on: 07-06-12 08:18
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Asian-American Movement of 1960s & 70
Civil Rights Activism in the US
The Chinese were the first Asian immigrants to enter the US back in the 18th Century. Chinese emigration to
the US was mostly due to better economic opportunities and with them, they brought their language, culture
and customs. At first only diplomats, merchants, students and their dependents were allowed to move to the
US where they were confined to segregated ghettos called Chinatowns. The Chinese also did not have many
rights due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. There was anti-Asian immigration laws, harsh working
conditions, laws prohibiting marriage between whites and Asians, school segregation, laws against Asians
owning property, and racist violence. In spite of this, the Chinese kept their customs. They drilled the Chinese
language and culture into their children, sending them only to Chinese schools and motivating them to excel in
American subjects. They also joined social organisations which acted to arbitrate disputes, help find jobs and
housing, establish schools and temples, and sponsor social and cultural events.
Protestant and Catholic missionaries came into the unique Chinese American ghettos, establishing churches
and schools and trying to convert and assimilate the Chinese, as well as recruiting Chinese Americans to
support and work for their causes. Those Chinese Americans who were exposed to a segregated but
American education, very quickly became aware of their inferior status. Many became ashamed of their
appearance, status, and culture. Self-hatred and the need to be accepted by white society became their
primary obsession which led to them to leave their customs and become Americans, by adopting the
American customs and behaviours and also converting to Christianity.
However, the Asian- American movement started in the late 1960s and early 70s. Inspired by `Black Power',
large numbers of Asian Americans, particularly college students began protesting against a long period of
discrimination and to change their status. Nicknamed `Yellow Power', they called for Asian studies programs
in US colleges, the development of a united Asian-American community, community-based programs to
revitalize urban Asian ghettos, and an end to racism, especially negative stereotyping of Asians in the media.
An author of an underground Asian-American newspaper of the time said `Yellow Power is a call for all Asian
Americans to end the silence that has condemned us to suffer in this racist society and to unite with our Black,
Brown, and Red brothers of the Third World for survival, self-determination and the creation of a more
humanistic society.'
Due to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, a whole new generation of Asian migrants entered the US.
Asian Americans now had basic rights and racial equality. During this period, thousands of Asians entered the
US each year to make a better life for themselves and to reunite with their families. Since then, there have
been two main types of Chinese Immigration into the US. The first is that of a highly select and well educated
Chinese people. The second (and probably the reason for most of the emigration to the US) is that of victims
escaping from political instability or repression in East and Southeast Asia. Others are ethnic Chinese people
who have emigrated from Vietnam (This may suggest why Mrs Jordan thinks Rose is Vietnamese) and
Cambodia due to war, poverty and threats such as `ethnic cleansing' (where minorities are threatened by
violence and terrorism if they carry out their customs and culture).
The Asians were finally allowed to be themselves and carry out their customs and traditions without being
frowned upon. Their contributions to America have been substantial and now a large number of Asians live in
the US.


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