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  • Jeenah Gwak

The “Different” Asians

Asian Americans are America’s fastest growing major racial group.


Asia is a large continent, consisting of 48 countries, according to the United Nations. While it is true that some Asian countries share common religions and languages, each of these countries have unique cultures and traditions. Each country has its own specific cuisine and national holidays. However, Asian people are much too often grouped into one category, described as monolithic. For example, stereotypes made about East Asian people are applied to all Asians, including South Asians and Southeast Asians.


The term “East Asians” refers to people from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. South Asians are people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Southeastern Asian countries include Brunei, Burma (Myanmur), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.


There are over 22 million Asian Americans in the United States as of 2021. According to Pew Research Center, “six origin groups – Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese – accounted for 85% of all Asian Americans as of 2019” out of the 48 origin groups in Asia (Budiman and Ruiz). There are at least one million people in each of these six groups, with Chinese Asians being the largest Asian origin group in the United States. At the time of this study, there were around 5.4 million Chinese Americans (24% of the total), 4.6 million Indian Americans (21% of the total), and 4.2 Filipino Americans (19% of the total), along with 2.2 million Vietnamese, 1.9 million Korean, and 1.5 million Japanese. This specific study analyzed 15 other countries, which each made up “about 2% or less of the nation’s Asian population.” These 15 countries included Pakistani, Thai, Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, Taiwanese, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Burmese, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Mongolian, Bhutanese, and Okinawan people.


I have had countless personal experiences with people assuming that all Asians, given our title as the “model minority,” are well-off. By using the descriptor “well-off,” I don’t mean rich; rather, I mean middle-class or higher.


Many people, when they speak of Asians, are actually referring to attributes of East Asians, and understandably so, if the majority of Asian people that they have encountered are of East Asian origins. I’m certainly not excusing stereotypes made about the general Asian-American population. However, a significant percentage of Asians in the United States, as proven by statistics in the previous paragraph, are East Asians.


In reality, people of varying Asian origins live extremely different lives. The income gap between affluent Asians and impoverished Asians is larger than that of any racial group. Access to adequate healthcare looks vastly different for every community. Quality education is available to only fortunate and wealthier communities.


These differences are what highlight the diversity of the Asian American population. These differences are what counter the “model minority” myth that is constantly perpetuated by the media. These differences are what disprove the stereotypes made about the so-called “monolithic” Asian-American community. And these differences are valued.


Consider reading this Pew Research Center Study that I based this blog on. I hope that this brings insight and a deeper understanding of the topic discussed above.



Sources:


Budiman, Abby, and Neil G. Ruiz. “Key Facts about Asian Origin Groups in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 10 Oct. 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/29/key-facts-about-asian-origin-groups-in-the-u-s/.


United Nations, United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/.

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