The Asian American Movement

The Asian American Movement

Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    The Asian American Movement
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0374-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    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...

  6. 1 Origins of the Movement
    (pp. 11-43)

    During the late 1960s, Asian American political activism began spontaneously in different places, at different times, and with different perspectives. On the West Coast, it began when community activists focused attention on the wretched conditions of San Francisco’s Chinatown and campus activists protested the absence of their historical experiences in college and university curricula. From these demonstrations came a plethora of community-based organizations providing much needed social services to the Asian ethnic communities and campus organizations offering vehicles for Asian American student activists throughout the western seaboard to participate in protest politics. On the East Coast, political activism began quietly...

  7. 2 Who Am I? Creating an Asian American Identity and Culture
    (pp. 44-71)

    Where are youreallyfrom? Often asked of Asian Americans, this question implies that they are strangers in the land, as European Americans seldom accept an American locality as an answer. The question haunted many of those who participated in the Movement, especially young middle-class Asian Americans who were twice alienated from American society. As with other members of their generation, they were suffering from the spiritual malaise that came with life in what young people in the 1960s and 1970s regarded as a culturally sterile and one-dimensional society dominated by complex and corrupt institutions that sought to “coopt” them.¹...

  8. 3 Race versus Gender: The Asian American Women’s Movement
    (pp. 72-100)

    The Asian American women’s movement has been and still is one of the most dynamic elements within the Movement. Its participants have been mainly middle-class Asian American women responding to oppression in both their ethnic and mainstream societies—as individuals, in small informal groups, or as members of large structured organizations. Though the Asian American women’s movement has never been a single entity with a unified theory and agenda, it has promoted personal and group empowerment and continues to struggle for the right of Asian American women to participate equally in a pluralistic society that has yet to be fully...

  9. 4 Speaking Out: The Asian American Alternative Press
    (pp. 101-131)

    From the beginning, Asian American activists were attracted to the printed word and appreciated its power to move people emotionally and politically. Those with a heightened ethnic consciousness saw newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and journals as means of reaching out to others and voicing long suppressed personal feelings. Those working in campus and community groups saw periodicals as a means of gaining visibility, disseminating information about their own activities, and publicizing their perspective on national and international issues. Those belonging to Marxist—Leninist organizations saw the press as a political instrument that could preach revolution—that is, a radical restructuring of...

  10. 5 Activists and the Development of Asian American Studies
    (pp. 132-162)

    As a result of their participation in the Third World strikes at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) and the University of California at Berkeley in 1968-1969, Asian American student activists gained the right and responsibility to define an entirely new field of inquiry—Asian American Studies (AAS)—whose very existence challenged the “traditional, unidimensional, minority-negating perspective of Western-based history and experience.”¹ Besides taking the prevailing Eurocentric interpretation of the country’s origins and development to task, they became part of the ongoing struggle to re-vision America as a multicultural society. At State. AAS became part of a...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 163-168)
  12. 6 “To Serve the People”: Reformers and Community-Based Organizations
    (pp. 169-202)

    Responding to arguments that legal desegregation was not enough to guarantee full participation in American society for minorities, in January 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty. He established the Office of Economic Opportunity and spent billions of dollars on antipoverty programs, creating nearly two million new jobs. The War on Poverty was prematurely terminated by Richard Nixon in 1974; but while it lasted, it was a catalyst for change in the Asian American community, as it was in the African American community. It gave birth to many community-based organizations that provided social, health, and legal services;...

  13. 7 The Emergence and Eclipse of Maoist Organizations
    (pp. 203-240)

    Some members of the early phase of the Asian American Movement had received their political baptism in the New Left student movement.¹ They constituted some of the Movement’s most politically progressive elements, bringing with them pertinent parts of the New Left’s ideology, goals, and tactics; but they also brought with them its problems, notably sectarianism. In the late 1960s, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and similar groups were rent over whether the New Left should continue to be a coalition of locally based groups that adhered to the ideal of participatory democracy or should move toward a centrally controlled...

  14. 8 From Radical to Electoral Politics: The Asian American Odyssey for Empowerment
    (pp. 241-270)

    Asians in America have been a disenfranchised group throughout most of their history. As “aliens ineligible to citizenship,” immigrants were denied the right to vote by the Naturalization Act of 1790, which stipulated that only “free white persons” could apply for naturalization, implicitly denying that privilege to people of color. After the Civil War, the laws were changed in 1870 to permit the naturalization of persons of African descent. The denial of the right of Asians to apply for U.S. citizenship was reaffirmed by the courts in such civil cases asOzawa v. U.S.(1922) , which stated that the...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 271-276)

    The emergence of the Asian American Movement in the late 1960s was a water-shed in the history of Asians in America. It was and remains a viable means to empower Asians in America by redefining them as Asian Americans and organizing them into an inter-Asian coalition to raise their sociopolitical status and improve their lives. As a reform movement, it sought to identify inequities in the existing system and tried to rectify them. At the same time, the Movement has given a national focus to previously separate and sporadic instances of resistance to racial oppression, linking diverse Asian ethnic groups...

  16. Abbreviations
    (pp. 277-280)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 281-336)
  18. Index
    (pp. 337-355)