How Do You See Me Now? Thoughts About PEW's Asian American Study

Image: Ophelia Chong / Family Archives
My Grandfather the laundryman, and my father the Engineer. | Ophelia Chong / Family Archives

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer. It brings a new beginning and an end to old outdated ways of thinking. Breakdowns happen so that breakthroughs can happen.

Breaking Through

We were always pictured as the hardworking immigrants who came here to better their families' lives back home. We toiled away at laundries, restaurants, railroads, did menial jobs, and were denied the right to have our families immigrate. We learned the English language and our tone and lilt mimicked by white actors on the silver screen. As we assimilated our children, we started to blend in with the communities, almost seamlessly.

The Pew Research Center released a study that Asian Americans are now the fastest growing minority and lead the general public in education and income. We are no longer the stereotype of the uneducated manual laborer, the pigeon English speaking laundryman, the immigrant who came here with nothing more than the strength of their backs and a name of a cousin who could help them get work. We are now more educated, have more family wealth, and a higher household income than most Americans.

Story continues below

The matrix has shifted.

We were such a threat, that from 1882 to 1943 the U.S. had the Chinese Exclusion Act, which forbade free immigration of the Chinese. Now we are welcomed with open arms because we bring needed cash flow into this country and skilled labor.

How will Americans see us now? Will we be a threat of a different nature? It remains to be seen. In the past we were not allowed to assimilate because of our race; now our entrance into U.S. society is at a level equal or higher of Americans. Will it be economic prejudice that will emerge?

I am more than curious, because it will affect me because I am Chinese and will be viewed as such, not as an observer.

How do you see me now?

Artist, designer and teacher Ophelia Chong explores her adopted city of Los Angeles with an eye and ear for the small moments that tests the duality of being an Asian American. Join her on her journey every Thursday on KCET's SoCal blog

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading