The Times Poll (Aug. 20) on Asian-Americans found that “one recurring criticism of Asian residents was a perceived lack of desire to integrate into mainstream American life.” This observation is due to the fact that it is very difficult for Asian-Americans to be perceived as an integral part of American life.
President Clinton has yet to nominate a single Asian-American to a White House position that requires Senate confirmation. The Times Poll found that 51% of the respondents viewed Asian-Americans as industrious. Asians are typically viewed as hard-working and dedicated but not as potential leaders either in the public or private sector.
It is not that Asian-Americans are averse to integration into “mainstream American life,” but that the “bamboo ceiling” presents a tough obstacle to overcome. Efforts to increase cultural diversity in American firms and government tend not to include Asian-Americans.
ANDREW Y. KO
* Regarding the Times Poll article, as a fortysomething African-American woman, I do not find that “clannishness” is a negative factor in the Asian-American community. I think it is a positive and necessary factor that has allowed them to prosper and move forward despite racism and prejudice.
Because they primarily keep their money in their own communities and work together to achieve high educational goals, Asian-Americans have built a strong economic base, and in the process they have gained respect and admiration from other groups. They have proved that assimilation is not the key to equality, but that more often a strong economic base is the key.
If African-Americans were more “clannish” with their spending power, we too would be able to build a stronger economic base in our own communities.
* Regarding Barbara Smith’s comment in the story on Asian-Americans (“They come in with their money and buy up the neighborhood . . . I don’t want to sound like a horrible person or anything, but that’s what I’m seeing.”).
Though Smith may not have meant to sound “horrible,” the fact remains that at least to this Asian American, she did. After reading her comment, I felt as though I has been slapped in the face. Inherent in her statement is the attitude that the “American Dream” does not apply to Asians or for that matter to any minority group.
Call me old-fashioned, but I was raised with the offbeat notion that if I worked hard enough and long enough and if I was persistent enough and determined enough, I would and could do anything I aspired to.
Comments and attitudes such as Smith’s do an injustice to both minority groups in America and to the image of the American Dream itself.
* Your overblown article made me laugh. Ethnic activists/spokespersons are the main cause of racial tension today. They derive their power and must justify their existence by stirring up controversy (real or imagined). They infect our youths with their own prejudice and hypersensitivity.
* You overlooked one very important reason that Asian-Americans have been faring better than other minority groups. It is the fact that we are not legally considered minority by the government. When I tried to apply for medical school 15 years ago as a “minority,” I was rejected and was told that only African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans qualified for minority status. At that time, I was bitterly disappointed. But looking back, I am glad that I had not been given any special consideration over other applicants, because it meant that I was equal to others.
THUAN L. TRAN MD
* Your article is entirely based on an absurd poll that appears to have interviewed the Asian-American, Anglo, Latino and African-American communities but in fact neglected a very significant part of the Asian-American community: the non-English speaking immigrant population.
You are portraying this as a valid poll when you have neglected those in our community who are living in impoverished conditions, with a poverty rate that exceeds that of whites by 38%. Yes, while it may be true that the Asian-Americans whom you polled are faring well, you neglected to report that the poverty rate for recent Chinese immigrants exceeds 28%, that many Southeast Asian refugees are struggling to get out of welfare and that the majority of non-English speaking Korean-American immigrants who work 12-16 hours a day were unavailable to be polled.
I see your article as another attempt by the oppressive majority and those who share your prejudices and stereotypes to pit one minority group against another.