Part 3: “Perpetual Foreigner”

Immigration is a hot button topic right now, but much of the dialogue centers around Latino immigrants even though Asians are outnumbering Latino immigrants coming to the US.

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Remember when most people in the US were first or second generation immigrants? They came from places besides Latin America. How have we forgotten where we came from? That we were all once foreigners. Some of us haven’t had the luxury of being allowed to forget though.

What is the perpetual foreigner stereotype?

It is one of the longest persisting Asian stereotypes. No matter how long Asian Americans have been in the US, they are seen as foreigners because they have failed to “successfully” assimilate into American culture like in the video below.

To read more about the perpetual foreigner stereotype click here.

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Have you ever experienced this? Have you ever done it?

Unfortunately, while the video provides an exaggerated portrayal of events, it’s not completely unfamiliar for some of us. While there are large numbers of Asians still immigrating to the US every year, there are Asian Americans who have been here for generations though some people don’t stop to remember this. As we’ve seen in the previous posts of this series, Chinese and Chinese Americans were not welcomed in the US. Other Asians did not fair much better. They did everything they could to achieve the same legal status as other Americans, but it wasn’t good enough. Even when they attempted to assimilate, they were still seen as different even though many other Americans retain aspects from their “home” culture, but at the same time, Asians are accused of being white-washed when they aren’t “Asian enough.”

Where is the middle ground? Is there a middle ground? Is it even possible to have one? Are we striving for a perception of equality that may never exist? How do we even measure assimilation?

Suggested Reading:  Asian Americans becoming “white.”

Reflection Questions:

In what ways have attitudes toward Chinese Americans/Asian Americans changed from the 1800s to now?

Why have things not changed?

The fight for the same legal rights does not come with public acceptance, which is not surprising, but one would hope that some improvement would be made. The first step is definitely increasing awareness and visibility of how immigration and negative stereotypes affect Asian American communities. Pop culture has made the first strides in showing Asian assimilation in America with shows like Fresh Off the Boat, but there needs to be more. This is only the beginning to understanding how to improve the perception around Asian American immigration.

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