The Asian American movement has been active in the country for more than two decades. Its main objective has been to fight the apparent racial inequality as well as the social and political injustices. William Wei traces the activities of the movement in an in-depth analysis. He takes the reader on a historical path right from the beginning: its identity, its culture and some of its activism. The author focuses on the movement’s women wing, the other substitute press and how the Asian Americans have been participating in the electoral politics. In this book, he incorporates interviews with the movement’s active members, illustrative photographs of the organization’s demonstrations and events. These strategies enliven the portrayal of Asian American Movement’s range of activities. This paper is primarily meant to analyze the main points raised by the book, but first, a brief history of the author is given.
William Wei is currently a professor at the University of Michigan. He spent his early childhood in New York City’s lower east side, where he mingled with many other immigrants, especially the youth from the Caribbean and Scandinavia. As a result of this very early socialization, Wei (an Asian American) is said to have different cultural values and attitudes, such as Chinese (his origin), Puerto Rican and Jewish. These attributes make him a multicultural person.
Prof. Wei attained his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, specializing in current Chinese history. This has, thus, enabled him to take a keen interest in not only Chinese American studies but also in the whole Asian American studies. This interest is reflected in two of his famous works: Counterrevolution in China (released in 1985, University of Michigan Press) and The Asian American Movement (1993, Temple University Press), which the paper will be analyzing. Wei has been teaching history at the University of Michigan for more than thirty years. He has also served as the Director of Seawall Residential Academic Program (Center West).
The experience and the education level of Prof. Wei make him the best possible person to write about Asian American issues. This is why his assessment of the Asian Movement should be trusted. This is because he may have experienced some of its activities being an Asian American himself. In the book, he chronicles the activities of the movement right from the late 1960’s.
The Asian American Main Points
The United States soldiers had killed some Vietnamese only to label them as gooks. Additionally, two of the many auto workers chanted anti Japanese sentiments before going ahead and clubbing one Vincent Chin to death. What was their punishment? They were sentenced to a period under probation and slapped with a paltry fine of less than $4000. These were just some of the many atrocities aimed at Asian Americans that necessitated the need for a social movement fighting for their rights and equality among the American population. Wei discusses how the government urban programs would only be improved in case there are protests by the community. The Asian American Movement was mainly aimed at giving the Asian Americans their own identity. Therefore, they focused their campaigns on fighting the demeaning stereotyping in the national media. As a result, they came up with their own films, music and written (and spoken) materials, which explored and laid bare the experiences of the Asian Americans. They also used such media to educate the general public about their history (Chapter 2).
The movement rejected the stereotype traits such as ‘quiescent’, the ‘model minority’ and ‘assimilating’. Some of the members were devout followers of the Chairman Mao’s China political activism. Some of the many Asian Americans acted as political militants during the Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition presidential campaign, while others participated in the San Francisco strike of students. The identity campaigns also led to the importation of conflicts, such as the Cambodian versus the Vietnamese. Additionally, the minority Pacific Islanders found themselves in competition for resources with the more populous Chinese. This again mirrored the Asian conflicts. The author’s chronicles of the movement outline how the social inequalities based on race, gender, and class arise from time to time. For instance, there were conflicts with the Hispanics and Blacks over university admissions as well as the political redistricting. The class divisions among the Asians did not go unnoticed. There were political activists who organized strikes against the Chinatown elites that included the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) and the Six Companies.
The women groups of the movement fought for the right of the women valiantly (p. 90). However, there were accusations that these feminist groups further enhanced the negative stereotypes that demeaned the Asian men. These accusations were led by the Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan. These feminist groups include the Pan Asia and the National Network of Asian Pacific Women. These groups sourced for funds to set up offices in Washington where they held meetings with the White House (Chapter 3). The social movement also led to the development of national and political institutions. This is exemplified when the federal government sponsored the International Women’s Year (1975) and the Houston Conference (1977). These gestures facilitated and gave further credence to the Asian American Movement women groups.
Wei also looks at this bias in terms of the alternative media and the challenges they were facing (Chapter 4). For instance, he chronicles the constant challenges of ‘Bridge’. The author explores the university education with respect to the Asians. He looks at the Asian American studies in the universities and outlines how they are discriminative towards the Asians (Chapter 5). The movement fought against the restrictive admission and for equal opportunities for Asians to be part of the teaching staff.
As it has already been mentioned, the movement led to the improvement of social programs. For instance, the insistence of groups such as San Francisco’s Chinatown to the local government about the biasness in a housing project for the affluent that had been undertaken as well as questioning the hiring of their members at a Holiday Inn construction project (Chapter 6).
The activities of some groups in the movement also led to competition for resources. This competition is shown when some Chinatown groups managed to mobilize more than $10 million from the government. Other groups had to rely on their members’ contributions. Others simply could not accept outside funding.
William Wei provides a clear account of the activities of the Asian American Movement, right from its formation in the late 1960’s to the early 1990’s. To write this highly informative book, he interviewed as well as looked for information from more than 200 active members of the movement. In addition, he ably used other reliable alternative written works and documentations. This simply means that this account is accurate. The Asian Movement does not explicitly address the sociological written work but provides a very clear picture of the social struggles. It expertly analyses the social reform in the country, the state machinery and the influence of social movements. The book gives evidence that shapes the sociological thoughts on race, class as well as gender struggles, although limited to the scope of Asian Americans. The author also outlines the complexity of the many ethnic relations, involving this minority in the United States, which are increasingly growing in number (Clarence). It gives a proper insight of the Asian Americans and how they expect to be treated.