American Asians & Asians

American Asians comprise one of the fastest growing groups in North America.  They are highly diverse, including dozens of ethnicities and languages; these include individuals from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Laotian, Philippine, Thai, and Vietnamese ancestry.

History & Background

The first Asians to settle the United States were Chinese Filipinos, who had originally migrated to Mexico then moved to what is now Louisiana.  Beginning in the 1840's, increasing numbers of Chinese workers immigrated to the western U.S., as well as Japanese, Koreans, and Filipinos to Hawaii.  These early immigrant laborers underwent much persecution and were not granted citizenship, even if their children were born in the United States.  This exclusion caused them to form their own communities where they could be self-sufficient.  Conditions for Asians in the United States did not improve dramatically until after the World War II, after thousands of Japanese Americans were released from the isolated camps in which they had been forced to live.  During the 1970s and 1980s, immigration increased from Southeast Asia following the Vietnam conflict.

Notable Events

Chinese New Year. Celebrated on the first day of the first moon of the lunar calendar (variable, from January 29th to February 19th), this colorful holiday is commemorated through festivals, food, family, and traditional rituals that focus on the coming of  a new year.  Many crafts and activities associated with this holiday can be incorporated into classrooms to recognize the Chinese New Year. 

Culture & Traditions

Asian Americans commonly face challenges in establishing cultural identity, especially second-generation immigrants who struggle to balance traditional cultural ideas with the pressure of assimilating into American cultural society.  When working with individuals of Asian ancestry, educators need to understand three of the main Eastern philosophies and their impact on Asian culture:  Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.  Within these philosophies families are highly structured, hierarchical, and paternal.  Within the family systems children are taught that they must avoid bringing shame to their family and that the welfare and integrity of the family are very important.  These Asian philosophies also teach principles of peace, balance, and harmony, causing some Asians to avoid confrontation or appear passive, indifferent, or indecisive.  Using indirect methods of communication may be appropriate for some Asian students with strong ties to their ancestral culture.