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Of Asian-Americans The book is entitled strangers from a different shore and it's published by Little Brown. Asians are the fastest growing ethnic minority in the United States and have often been hailed as the model minority because of their accomplishments. At the same time Asian Americans are often seen as foreigners in their own land and the Asian-American success story has been accompanied by the rise of a new wave of anti Asian sentiment from college campuses to the work world. The book is in part deals with the roots of that and the author professor to KAKE says he really had quite a few reasons for writing the book. One is that he had been teaching classes about Asian Americans for many years and had never had a textbook. This in in in part fulfills that need. He also says though what he thought about it he realized that he wanted to write something for everyone for his students for Asian-Americans and everyone else. As we talked this morning with the professor to KAKE you're welcome to call in. If you have questions for us
or thoughts to share with us our telephone number here is 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. That is our That is our local number here 3 3 3 W while we do also have a toll free number however. So that done no matter where you are you can use that number and we'll pay for the call. That is 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5 Just keep in mind that those numbers are different. Three three three W while out locally and 800 1:58 wy alone for anybody who would be outside of the immediate area here. Professor out to KAKE Hello. Oh hi David thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it. Appreciate you giving us some of your time. It seems to me that that basically Asians came to the United States for the same reason that so many people came to the United States that America was seen as the land of opportunity that they were fortunes to be made. It's the old stories about all you had to do was reach out and virtually the the wealth and in whatever form you should choose would just fall
right into your hands. It is that is that correct you think. Yeah I think for an immigrant. From Asia from Pacific shores and landed on the western shore there is a widespread myth and a popular notion that Americans came originally from Europe that are American that American means indeed European. I could remember just last summer this country celebrated the 20th anniversary of the American landing on the moon and on an NBC News Special. Buzz Aldrin was asked by a reporter what's the significance of the American landing on the moon. An elder friend replied Well Americans have always been a pioneering people. We came from Europe and we landed on the eastern shores and we marched westward to conquer the front here and the moon was our latest frontier. Well millions of Americans. Getting myself asked the question we because many of which were already here
in places like Illinois and many of us came we landed on the eastern shores but we came from Africa and there were others who were included in the United States by an act of war and or against Mexico. There were others like my grandparents who went to America and landed on America's western shores but I think it's true. Where do you came from Europe or from Asia you brought with you a kind of vision a kind of hope here in America. One could begin life anew. It seems that Asians really are caught in a strange double bind because at the same time as as you you point out in your book and as I mentioned the Asians are often pointed to as you and you have to put this in quotes because it's in a way a little troubling but it's pointed to as the model minority. You know we always talk about how well Asian students do in school for example and how successful Asians
have been. And at the same time as you suggest that Asians are often an almost invisible people and don't get it somehow don't get credit for being Americans. How how did we end up with that story on the situation. You know. The question is model for whom you know a camera. I remember last year watching the 60 Minute segment entitled Asian Americans a model minority and Mike Wallace was interviewing I sent home a high school teacher and he was praising Asian American students as super bright super achiever as quote unquote whiz kids. And Mike Wallace a cheat they're doing so we'll. Should we bottle it. In other words if Asian Americans had some kind of a formula for success and also wondering what he meant by bottled it bottled it for whom. And then Mike Wallace went on he said why can't the black and Hispanic kids do it. Well and I think you know what's
happening here David is that the model minority is the phenomenon of the 80s. You know we're being celebrated as a model for black and Latino. We're not doing as well. And the message of the model minority image is that well if only blacks and Latinos could get their act together if only they too could emphasize the importance of the family and in the importance of certain values American values quote unquote like thrift hard work and industry then blacks and Latinos can make it too. I was on a program with Pat Buchanan recently and then Pat Buchanan spouted the same myth. You know he said Oh chai. Some Americans and Japanese Americans have family incomes which exceed that of white and that blacks can make it too. But they have to be like Asian Americans and you know I have to tell Pat Buchanan is on the NBC Bryant Gumble show called The Race. I ditto that
beacon in that he didn't know what he was talking about. For one thing if you take family income family incomes have no meaning unless they're understood in relationship to the number of persons working per family. And the statistics will show that Asian-American families have more work risk per family than white families and that's one reason why you have higher family incomes. But the other point that you can't overlook completely with the fact that Asian-Americans tend to be concentrated in Hawaii California and New York City. And so we're located in high cost of living areas so high income does not necessarily translate into higher standard of living. Because if you take the statistics for white families. Your including in it incomes of white families living in Maine in Mississippi and in Montana and their family incomes of whites would tend to buy it. Don't worry that
the National Family income for white families. So there is this mythology about Asian-Americans as a model minority and question that I have to ask you as a historian and also as a scholar and a social critic is well why do we have the celebration of Asian-Americans as a model minority in the 1980s. And I think it has to lot to do with the condition of our economy and the emergence off the underclass black and Latino. Well I'd like to talk about some of the some of the history that you document in your book the the Chinese were the first Asians to come to America certainly in large numbers and that was in something like 18 49. So it was some time some time ago. You write in your book that the way that the Chinese were viewed and treated represented a pattern that would be repeated as other Asians came to the United States. What was that pattern and how was it played out over time.
Well it's important to know that when the training initially came to California and aching for you knowing this is right right after the war against Mexico and the Treaty of Guadalupe Dago which include. Need a provision for the annexation of the soft West when the Chinese first arrived. There was a kind of gray period in race relations between white Americans and Chinese white Americans initially except that the Chinese in California they thought that the Chinese represented the kind of interesting diversity and the Chinese were even invited to participate in some of the celebrations. Like you know celebrations which occurred in San Francisco celebrating the Fourth of July. But then the Chinese began competing with white miners in the foothills of the Sierras.
And like white miners then began to resent to this economic competition with the Chinese in the pattern of race relations began to change very significantly and turned to a different direction from some tolerance and curiosity and acceptance a 2:1 of hostility. And what this shows is that I think there is a structure off economic fear and economic competition which influences racial attitudes and patterns of race relations. And don't listen to be learned from this I think that you know it's important to look at racial attitudes and race relations not only within the context of American culture that is stereotypes of Asian Americans of stereotypes of blacks of stereotypes of Native Americans. But
to realize that the stereotypes function in relationship to an economic structure. And if we're going to try to address some of the problems of racism then we also have to address the structure of the economy that pit different groups against each other. You you also explained that that is the Chinese in California were viewed as as a great source of labor they were also viewed as a threat in in many ways and that the response by the people there was to what they wanted to do was to try to keep the migrant workers forever and never let them become citizens. You know what the structure of the economy had a very contradictory relationship to the Chinese. On the one hand you had miners you had white workers and their interests dictated they command Chinese Exclusion.
On the other hand you have the white employers like Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker and also the factory owners of fent France. Cisco about 50 percent of the Chinese the workers in San Francisco in 1870 were Chinese. So you have the employers of Chinese labor in California and the employees of Chinese labor wanted inclusion they want to keep the gates of immigration open to the Chinese. But at the same time both the white working class and the white employer class shared a common disdain a common cultural hostility toward the Chinese. So while Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker wanted to recruit Chinese labor and to import Chinese labor into this country at the same time they said we want men with women men with all things we do not want the Chinese to reproduce themselves in America by bringing families here and also our Leland Stanford and Charles Clarke are
opposed granting the Chinese eligibility to naturalized citizens. Ship they saw the Chinese as essentially a colonized workforce workforce of non-Whites who would be brought into this country specifically to work for a period of three to five years and then would be sent back to China. Well did the Chinese how did the Chinese think of it were they thinking of settling in the United States or you know there is this notion that the Chinese as well as other Asian groups Japanese Filipino Koreans came to America. Sojourners were as European Margret team here as settlers and this is their part full of mythology which is completely Iranian. Recent studies of European immigrant groups have shown that European immigrants also came
here largely as Sojourners. If you look at the return rate for telling immigrants Greek immigrants and caring immigrants as well as the Irish You will find that the return rate at which the rate of those returning to the homelands was about 50 percent. If you look at Chinese Japanese immigrants you'll find that the return rate was also about 50 percent. So I think the truth of the matter is that migrants from both Europe and America came here largely Sojourners. But then 50 percent of them speed OK. And those who stayed. Saw that there were reasons to stay here. They had certain kinds of opportunities here to break from certain kinds of traditions. Also many of them got stuck here when they got over here. They could earn as much money. Their dreams were dreams deferred or dreams dashed and so they didn't have enough money even to go
back to China or Japan or to Greece or to Italy and then too they felt embarrassed about point because they had left promising their family that when they returned they would return with wealth. And it was embarrassing to be failures. But then what happened too is that many of them when once they got over here like my grandparents had children here. Then they began to see that their children were not Japanese that their children were American and also as immigrants they had to.
Focus 580
Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans
Producing Organization
WILL Illinois Public Media
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WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
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Episode Description
This item is part of the Asian Americans section of the AAPI special collection.
With Ronald Takaki (Professor of Asian American Studies, University of California-Berkeley)
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Talk Show
asian-pacific islander; Cultural Studies; science; Race/Ethnicity; Education; race-ethnicity
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Guest: Takaki, Ronald
Host: Inge, David
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
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Illinois Public Media (WILL)
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Duration: 15:13
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Chicago: “Focus 580; Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans,” 1989-11-08, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 29, 2023,
MLA: “Focus 580; Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans.” 1989-11-08. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 29, 2023. <>.
APA: Focus 580; Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from