Asia and Asian America Section Announcements
In response to the Pew Research Center's recent report, The Rise of Asian Americans, the following is a response prepared by Paul Ong and several other Asian American scholars.Letter to Pew Research Center
June 22, 2012
Dear Paul Taylor and Dr. Mark Lopez,
We are writing on behalf of the Asian American Pacific Islander Policy and Research Consortium (AAPIPRC), a national organization of four university-based Asian American research centers. [i] We respectfully submit this response to the Pew Research Center's recent report, The Rise of Asian Americans. Pew has assembled U.S. Census Bureau and government economic data, developing a detailed survey questionnaire, and conducting extensive telephone interviews with a national sample of 3,511 Asians. We acknowledge this is a major investment of Pew Research Center's time and resources, and as a result has added to the publicly accessible information on the economic, social, and political situation of Asian Americans.
While there are merits to the Pew report, the selection of what information to present and highlight is highly biased, and the framing and interpretation of the analysis are incomplete and implicitly misleading and damaging for Asian American communities. We believe it is important to acknowledge the many accomplishments made by Asian Americans, but not at the expense of a fuller understanding of the diverse, complex and nuanced reality. The publication presents overly generalized descriptive and aggregate statistics, fails to critically explain the causes and limitations of observed outcomes, and falls short of examining tremendous and critical differences among Asian ethnic groups. We echo the comments by many Asian American scholars, advocates and lawmakers who point out how the study could lead policymakers, the media and the public to draw conclusions that reflect inaccurate stereotypes about Asian Americans being only a community with high levels of achievement and few challenges. There are many educational, economic, and health disparities, among others, facing our diverse communities. The selection of included populations leaves out some of the most distressed groups; consequently, the studied subjects are not representative.
As academic researchers, we understand the power and importance of quantitative analysis, but numbers are not just numbers, and they do not speak for themselves. They support a narrative through subjective decisions on topics, research design and methods, large frameworks to interpret results, and prioritizing which findings to highlight. We do not necessarily dispute the validity of many of Pew's numbers, but we are deeply troubled by the emphasis that leaves the reader with a one-sided picture. A primary example revolves around the claim that "Asian Americans are the highest-income," an assertion that is the lead line in the press release and rests on median household income. Pew is accurate in reporting the most recently available numbers from the American Community Survey ($66,000 for Asian Americans and $54,000 for non-Hispanic whites), but fails to fully adjust for two critical factors: one, Asian Americans tend to have larger households, and two, they are heavily concentrated in high-cost metropolitan areas.
Because of a larger household size, income does not go as far in covering expenses. Analytically, per capita income is a more realistic measure. Nationally, Asian Americans on the average have 93 cents to every dollar for non-Hispanic whites. High-cost metropolitan area puts a strain on available income, and the economy partially adjusts for this through offsetting higher wages (compensating differential). Analytically, it is more accurate to compare statistics at the metropolitan level. Over half of Asian Americans (54%) live in the ten metropolitan areas with the highest number of Asian Americans. In these areas, Asian Americans have 71 cents to every dollar for non-Hispanic whites. Clearly, the statistics on median household income and on adjusted per capita income portray Asian Americans very differently. Accounting for household size and location is very well known within the extensive literature on Asian Americans. While we realize that Pew acknowledges the potential role of household size and location, it nonetheless decided to spotlight unadjusted median household income. We believe that there are also other analytical flaws with the report because of Pew's "spin".
"Spinning" and selectively framing have serious implications. Pew examines race relations, and not surprisingly, the findings indicate inter-group tension. Unfortunately, the report does not adequately explain the factors and context that create the friction nor formulate effective solutions. Instead, it implicitly highlights the negatives. In examining perceived discrimination, the report does not integrate the research showing that Asian Americans are less likely to interpret, report and verbalize such acts, which can result in under-reporting. While the report sheds light on significant U.S. immigration trends and policies as they relate to Asians, it does so in a way that can adversely affect Asian-Latino relations. By highlighting the success of high achieving Asian immigrants, it shifts the immigration policy debates away from the concerns and contributions of Latino immigrants, especially the large numbers who are undocumented. This "model minority" framing can have a damaging impact on intergroup collaborations.
Again, we want to be balanced in our critique. We assume that Pew has made a useful contribution that brings much needed attention to the accomplishments of Asian Americans. At the same time, this has been counter balanced by the negatives. Our goal is to inform the public, decision makers and the media with accurate and well-rounded research that incorporates quantitative and qualitative methods, along with historical and humanistic accounts that give depth to the Asian American experience. It is important, therefore, for Pew and other organizations to include researchers and analysts with greater knowledge of Asian American experiences. As you know, we are in the process of establishing an independent policy voice that more adequately represents Asian Americans. The Consortium is an initial effort to promote solid applied research. In this larger effort, we look forward to support and collaboration with Pew, along with other mainstream institutions. We look forward to your response. Please send any correspondence to Professor Paul Ong (email@example.com), who has agreed to coordinate AAPIPRC's activities on this issue.
Professor Joyce Moy, Executive Director
Asian American / Asian Research Institute at the City University of New York
Professor Lois Takahashi, Director
University of California Asian American Pacific Islander Policy Multi-campus Research Program
Professor Paul Watanabe, Director
Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston
Professor David K. Yoo, Director
UCLA Asian American Studies Center
[i] This statement was prepared by Paul Ong, Melany De La Cruz, Chhandara Pech, Jonathan Ong and Don Nakanishi.
Please join us in congratulating the incoming section chair, council members, secretary-treasurer, and student representative!!
Lynn Fujiwara, University of Oregon
Pawan Dhingar, Tuffs University
C.N. Le, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Anthony Ocampo, Cal Poly Pomona
Jane Yamashiro, University of Southern California
Christina Chin, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Please join us in congratulating our colleagues on their fine work who were honored at our section's reception in Denver, Colorado in August 2013.
Co-Winner: Kang, Miliann. 2010. The Managed Hand: Race, Gender, and the Body in Beauty Service Work. University of California Press.
Co-Winner: Saito, Leland. 2009. The Politics of Exclusion: The Failure of Race Neutral Policies in Urban America. Stanford University Press.
Research Paper Award:
Zhang, Q. Forrest and John A. Donaldson. 2010. “From Peasants to Farmers: Peasant Differentiation, Labor Regimes, and Land-Rights Institutions in China’s Agrarian Transition” Politics and Society, Vol. 38, No. 4.
Graduate Student Paper:
Naomi Hsu (University of California, Berkeley). “Local Political Contexts and the Puzzle of Asian American Under-Participation in Electoral Politics.”
Outstanding Teaching Award:
Hung Thai, Associate Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies, Chair of Sociology, Director of Pacific Basin Institute, Pomona College
Early Career Award:
Nadia Kim, Associate Professor of Sociology, Loyola Marymount University
Justice for Palestine: A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color FeministsBetween June 14 and June 23, 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and women of color feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, we sought to affirm our association with the growing international movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us-including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the U.S.-was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.
During our short stay in Palestine, we met with academics, students, youth, leaders of civic organizations, elected officials, trade unionists, political leaders, artists, and civil society activists, as well as residents of refugee camps and villages that have been recently attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Everyone we encountered-in Nablus, Awarta, Balata, Jerusalem, Hebron, Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Birzeit, Ramallah, Um el-Fahem, and Haifa-asked us to tell the truth about life under occupation and about their unwavering commitment to a free Palestine. We were deeply impressed by people's insistence on the linkages between the movement for a free Palestine and struggles for justice throughout the world; as Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted throughout his life, "Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Traveling by bus throughout the country, we saw vast numbers of Israeli settlements ominously perched in the hills, bearing witness to the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions. We met with refugees across the country whose families had been evicted from their homes by Zionist forces, their land confiscated, their villages and olive groves razed. As a consequence of this ongoing displacement, Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the world (over five million), the majority living within 100 kilometers of their natal homes, villages, and farmlands. In defiance of United Nations Resolution 194, Israel has an active policy of opposing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes and lands on the grounds that they are not entitled to exercise the Israeli Law of Return, which is reserved for Jews. In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in eastern occupied Jerusalem, we met an 88-year-old woman who was forcibly evicted in the middle of the night; she watched as the Israeli military moved settlers into her house a mere two hours later. Now living in the small back rooms of what was once her large family residence, she defiantly asserted that neither Israel's courts nor its military could ever force her from her home. In the city of Hebron, we were stunned by the conspicuous presence of Israeli soldiers, who maintain veritable conditions of apartheid for the city's Palestinian population of almost 200,000, as against its 700 Jewish settlers. We crossed several Israeli checkpoints designed to control Palestinian movement on West Bank roads and along the Green Line.
Throughout our stay, we met Palestinians who, because of Israel's annexation of Jerusalem and plans to remove its native population, have been denied entry to the Holy City. We spoke to a man who lives ten minutes away from Jerusalem but who has not been able to enter the city for twenty-seven years. The Israeli government thus continues to wage a demographic war for Jewish dominance over the Palestinian population.
We were never able to escape the jarring sight of the ubiquitous apartheid wall, which stands in contempt of international law and human rights principles. Constructed of twenty-five-foot-high concrete slabs, electrified cyclone fencing, and winding razor wire, it almost completely encloses the West Bank and extends well east of the Green Line marking Israel's pre-1967 borders. It snakes its way through ancient olive groves, destroying the beauty of the landscape, dividing communities and families, severing farmers from their fields and depriving them of their livelihood. In Abu Dis, the wall cuts across the campus of Al Quds University through the soccer field. In Qalqiliya, we saw massive gates built to control the entry and access of Palestinians to their lands and homes, including a gated corridor through which Palestinians with increasingly rare Israeli-issued permits are processed as they enter Israel for work, sustaining the very state that has displaced them. Palestinian children are forced through similar corridors, lining-up for hours twice each day to attend school. As one Palestinian colleague put it, "Occupied Palestine is the largest prison in the world."
An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance. Everywhere we went we met people who had either been imprisoned themselves or had relatives who had been incarcerated. Twenty thousand Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons, at least 8,000 of them are political prisoners and more than 300 are children. In Jerusalem, we met with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are being protected from arrest by the International Committee of the Red Cross. In Um el-Fahem, we met with an Islamist leader just after his release from prison and heard a riveting account of his experience on the Mavi Marmara and the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. The criminalization of their political activity, and that of the many Palestinians we met, was a constant and harrowing theme.
We also came to understand how overt repression is buttressed by deceptive representations of the state of Israel as the most developed social democracy in the region. As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of "pink-washing," the state's use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice. We met the President and the leadership of the Arab Feminist Union and several other women's groups in Nablus who spoke about the role and struggles of Palestinian women on several fronts. We visited one of the oldest women's empowerment centers in Palestine, In'ash al-Usra, and learned about various income-generating cultural projects. We also spoke with Palestinian Queers for BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], young organizers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as part and parcel of a comprehensive framework for self-determination and liberation. Feminist colleagues at Birzeit University, An-Najah University, and Mada al-Carmel spoke to us about the organic linkage of anti-colonial resistance with gender and sexual equality, as well as about the transformative role Palestinian institutions of higher education play in these struggles.
We were continually inspired by the deep and abiding spirit of resistance in the stories people told us, in the murals inside buildings such as Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, in slogans painted on the apartheid wall in Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, and Abu Dis, in the education of young children, and in the commitment to emancipatory knowledge production. At our meeting with the Boycott National Committee-an umbrella alliance of over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the General Union of Palestinian Women, the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI], and the Palestinian Network of NGOs-we were humbled by their appeal: "We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state."
Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation.
We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the U.S. and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end U.S. financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation. We call upon all people of conscience to engage in serious dialogue about Palestine and to acknowledge connections between the Palestinian cause and other struggles for justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University* Ayoka Chenzira, artist and filmmaker, Atlanta, GA Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz* Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz* G. Melissa Garcia, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University* Anna Romina Guevarra, author and sociologist, Chicago, IL Beverly Guy-Sheftall, author, Atlanta, GA Premilla Nadasen, author, New York, NY Barbara Ransby, author and historian, Chicago, IL Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University* Waziyatawin, University of Victoria*
*For identification purposes only
July 12, 2011
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