US immigration policies opened
gate for Asian-American success
The success of many Asian-American students is rooted in U.S. immigration
Kids making their way through high school and college are predominantly the
children and grandchildren of Asians benefiting from changes in 1965.
Their parents and grandparents came to America as students, computer
programmers, registered nurses, or math and science teachers to fill America's
employment needs. Asians with a minimum $40,000 to invest in a business also
were welcomed. They eventually brought over parents, wives, kids and other
relatives. As do most Americans with money, they thrived.
Still, stereotypes evolved around them, fed at times by movies and TV.
Many kids talk about growing up with taunting playground rhymes or classmates
making chopping gestures and shouting, "Kung fu."
Brandon Yoo came home crying one day and told his father that a classmate named
Bobby had called him a racial slur at school and made his eyes slope.
His Korean-born father told him, "This is the reason you have to study harder."
Yoo, now 31 and an Arizona State University professor, said his father told him:
"If Bobby studies two hours, you study four hours."
"That was the answer to any problem I had with cultural adjustment," Yoo said.
Half of Asian-Americans over 25 years old had a bachelor's degree, according to
a 2003 U.S. Census Report, compared with 30 percent of White Americans and 11
percent of Latinos. In 2005, their median household income was $61,094,
outstripping the national median by $15,000.
Yoo said Asian success in America makes invisible those Asian and Pacific Island
immigrants who arrived in America, many as refugees, with very little education,
money or support. It masks the mental and physical problems many Asian families
suffer from the trauma they've escaped, the cultural disruptions or the
discrimination they and their kids face.
Children may internalize the "geek" stereotype or the taunting and purposely
under perform or withdraw.
There is little research into how to provide social support or family and
individual counseling to both rich and poor Asians and Pacific Islanders in
America. Research grant money is scarce.
"Unlike other racial minority groups, with Asian-Americans we really don't know
a lot about them," said Yoo, whose Korean parents brought him to America when he
was a 6. "They are literally the overlooked racial minority when it comes to
academics, kids and their problems. We never talk about Asian-Americans."