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Letters on the Korean "Lost Colony," Jee Suh. Jae Ran Kim. Jenny Ryun Foster. Kimberly Waters. Bounheng Inversin. Lao Angelz Newsletter. Previous studies have made similar observations Brown et al. However, Table 6—2 , which differentiates the Asian and Pacific Islander category among 11 ethnic groups, illustrates the need to recognize and analyze the internal heterogeneity of this population. Several Asian and Pacific Islander groups, for example Cambodians, Hmongs, and Laotians, do not reflect high educational attainment levels, and generally have far fewer college graduates and proportionately more non-high.
There have been a growing number of studies on Asian and Pacific Islander educational issues and institutions. At the same time, other Asian and Pacific Islander groups with stronger group-level academic profiles, like the Chinese, Koreans, Thais, and Asian Indians, also show significant percentages of individuals with limited educational backgrounds.
Approximately 25 percent of the women in these four groups had not completed high school, and more than 10 percent had less than eight years of schooling. Such between- and within-group differences, as well as other quality-of-life indicators, are expected to continue among Asians and Pacific Islanders in the future. The combination of significant demographic growth, along with extraordinary internal diversification, has had a number of implications for Asians and Pacific Islanders. They have come to represent an increasingly sizable percentage of the populations in some states, most notably California, and in urban areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco counties.
As a result, such topics as redistricting, bilingual ballots, and fair political representation have become critical policy issues for Asians and Pacific Islanders involved in electoral politics. Indeed, a number of Asian and Pacific Islander communities—from Silicon Valley in Northern California to Queens and Chinatown in New York City—expressed deep concern about potential gerrymandering practices, and the possible dilution of Asian and Pacific Islander electoral strength during reapportionment hearings at the beginning of the s.
As never before, Asian and Pacific Islander leaders participated actively in these deliberations, and they will likely continue to do so Saito, At the same time, their unusual internal heterogeneity will challenge leaders and organizers of different Asian and Pacific Islander sectors and communities—often separated by both real and symbolic boundaries of national origin, language, culture, social class, religion, and other characteristics—to find common ground on key policy issues, to cope with the uneven political development and maturation of different ethnic groups, and to seek effective mechanisms for pursuing shared interests in a unified manner on both continuous and ad hoc bases LEAP Asian Pacific American Public Policy Institute and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, ; Ong, Although this may appear visionary, there are examples of such unifying issues since the s, including opposition to university admissions quotas, anti-Asian violence, glass ceilings, and unfair immigration policy legislation.
Nakanishi, ; Tsuang, ; Takagi, ; U. Commission on Civil Rights, ; Woo, ; Chi et al. Americans, and especially among groups like Koreans and Vietnamese, which are overwhelmingly composed of recent immigrants. Therefore, the extent to which the two major parties further cultivate their relations with, and address the specific concerns of, the Asian Pacific American community will greatly determine the future partisan direction of the Asian Pacific American electorate Nakanishi, b In recent years, a number of political commentators and scholars have speculated about whether Asians and Pacific Islanders will become a major force in American electoral politics, perhaps akin to the Jewish population, because of their dramatic demographic growth and concentration in certain key electoral states like California, New York, and Texas Tachibana, ; Cain, ; Stokes, ; Nakanishi, a; Karnow, ; Miller, Indeed, their voting potential, coupled with other attractive aspects of their political infrastructure, like their proven record of campaign fund-raising, could elevate Asians and Pacific Islanders to the status of important actors in American electoral politics Asianweek, ; Miller, ; Purdum, Since the s, there has been an unmistakable increase in the representation of Asians and Pacific Islanders in electoral politics.
In , when the first edition of the Asian Pacific American Political Almanac was published, it listed several hundred elected officials, who held offices primarily in Hawaii, California, and Washington Nakanishi, ; almost all were second- and third-generation Asians and Pacific Islanders, and the vast majority were Japanese. In contrast, as mentioned earlier, the eighth edition of the almanac, published in , lists more than 2, Asian and Pacific Islander elected and appointed officials in 33 states, as well as the federal government Nakanishi and Lai, Although most are second or third generation, a growing number are immigrants, such as Jay Kim of Walnut, California, the first Korean elected to Congress; David Valderrama, the first Filipino elected as a Delegate to the Assembly of Maryland; and City Councilman Tony Lam of Westminster, California, the first Vietnamese elected to public office.
At the same time, in the s, Asian and Pacific Islander candidates have run well-financed, pro-. Beyond this seemingly optimistic and glowing assessment of Asian and Pacific Islander electoral achievements, however, is the reality of an immigrant-dominant population that has yet to reach its full electoral potential, especially in transforming its extraordinary population growth into comparable percentages of registered voters, and actual voters during elections.
Previous studies have found that rates of voter registration vary markedly; Japanese Americans have the highest percentage of registered voters and Southeast Asians have the lowest Nakanishi, b. The discussion here is based on the , , and CPS data, which included information on voter registration and voting for Asians and Pacific Islanders. These data allow examination of both national and regional trends, with a sufficiently large sample of Asians and Pacific Islanders, 5 and analysis of potential differences in registration and voting rates in relation to U.
The CPS data were particularly useful because they provided detailed information, similar to the decennial census, about the citizenship status of individuals. It was therefore possible to differentiate between both foreign-born and U. Unfortunately, this data source does not allow analysis of differences in electoral participation among the array of Asian ethnic communities.
The major findings are that foreign-born Asians and Pacific Islanders have lower rates of voter registration than U. The survey included 2, of ,; and the CPS had 3, of , Both weighted and unweighted data were analyzed for this report. As was the case in a separate analysis of naturalization rates Ong and Nakanishi, , multiple-regression analysis revealed that year of entry was the single most important factor in determining voter-registration rates.
In terms of actual voting, two other factors along with year of entry—educational attainment and age— were found to be the best predictors. Finally, the characteristics of Asian and Pacific Islander voters as a whole, as well as between U. Rather, it has many dimensions of diversity, which are influencing its continued development.
The Asian and Pacific Islander population in the United States has the largest percentage of individuals over the age of 18 hereafter, adult who cannot take the first step toward participating in American electoral politics because they are not citizens. In , 55 percent of adult Asians and Pacific Islanders were not citizens, compared with 44 percent of Hispanics, 5 percent of Blacks, and 2 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. By geographic region, percentages of non-citizens among the adult Asian and Pacific Islander populations showed that Honolulu had the lowest 21 percent , New York had the highest 73 percent , Los Angeles County followed closely 63 percent , and the Oakland-San Francisco region also had a substantial percentage 52 percent.
According to CPS data for , nationwide, 1,, Asians and Pacific Islanders were registered voters, of whom 58 percent , were U. Hawaii, on the other hand, which has far less Asian and Pacific Islander immigration than many mainland states, had an overwhelmingly U.
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Asians and Pacific Islanders by birth or naturalization exhibited low overall rates of voter registration. Nationally, CPS data estimated that 56 percent of all Asians and Pacific Islanders were registered, compared with 61 percent of Blacks and 69 percent of non-Hispanic Whites Table 6—4. The level of Hispanic voter registration 53 percent was simi-. Indeed, in some regions, the differences in voter-registration rates between Asians and Pacific Islanders and non-Hispanic Whites, who usually have the highest rates of registration, were quite substantial.
In , in the Oakland-San Francisco region, 56 percent of all adult Asians and Pacific Islanders were registered to vote, compared with 86 percent of non-Hispanic Whites, 73 percent of Blacks, and 63 percent of Hispanics. At the same time, voter-registration rates for Asian and Pacific Islander communities were highest in Los Angeles 64 percent and lowest in New York 54 percent. Previous studies found that Asians and Pacific Islanders have lower rates of voter registration than Blacks and non-Hispanic Whites, and usually the same or somewhat lower rates than that of Hispanics.
Among Asians and Pacific Islanders, those who were U. In , as Table 6—4 illustrates, 56 percent of all U. Indeed, foreign-born Asians and Pacific Islanders had among the lowest rates of any group, including naturalized Hispanics 53 percent. However, in terms of electoral participation beyond registration, both Asians and Pacific Islander naturalized and U. Therefore, Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants appear to reflect a provocative series of discrete, nonlinear trends from becoming citizens to becoming registered voters and then to becoming actual voters: they have one of the highest rates of naturalization after immigrating, but one of the lowest rates of voter registration after becoming citizens.
Once they register to vote, however, naturalized Asians and Pacific Islanders have among the highest rates of voting of any group Ong and Nakanishi, A closer and more detailed examination of naturalized Asians and Pacific Islanders indicates that those who immigrated prior to had rates of voter registration comparable to, if not higher than, those who were born in this country Table 6—5. Indeed, this was the case for practically all age groups, all educational attainment levels, and for women. On the other hand, those who immigrated since the late s had rates of registration substantially lower than U.
This was consistent for practically all age and educational attainment levels, as well as for men and women. As in the case of naturalization, year of entry was the best predictor of voter registration in a multiple-regression analysis. For voting, by contrast, year of entry, educational attainment, and age were the strongest explanatory variables.
Like the process of naturalization, the importance of time-dependent variables for electoral participation is consistent with the view that immigrants and refugees must often undergo a prolonged and multifaceted process of social adaptation and learning before fully participating in their newly adopted country. To become actively involved in American electoral politics, and to become politically acculturated, may be one of the most complex, lengthy, and least understood learning experiences. Foreign-born Asians and Pacific Islanders, like other groups of immigrants Gittleman, , largely acquired their core political values, attitudes, and behavioral orientations in sociopolitical systems that were different in a variety of ways from that of the United States.
Some of their countries of origin did not have universal suffrage, others were dominated by a single political party which made voting nearly inconsequential , and still others were in extreme political upheaval as a result of civil war or international conflict.
Indeed, one of the major reasons why many Asian and Pacific Islander refugees left their homelands was to escape horrendous political situations. As a result, previously learned lessons and orientations toward government and political activities may not be easily supplanted or supplemented. For example, adult education classes in American civics and government, which immigrants usually take to. The Asian and Pacific Islander electorate is clearly in the process of transformation and change. Its future characteristics and impact will be largely determined by the extent to which newly naturalized, foreign-born Asians and Pacific Islanders are incorporated into the political system, and encouraged to register to vote and to cast their ballots.
The changing electorate in the City of Monterey Park in Los Angeles County, where Asians and Pacific Islanders constituted 56 percent of all residents in , is illustrative of trends in political partisanism Table 6— 6. In , among Chinese voters, there was a plurality of Democrats 43 percent over Republicans 31 percent , but also an extremely high percentage of individuals who specified no party affiliation 25 percent , and considered themselves to be independents.
In contrast, the Japanese, who experienced far less population growth, reflected a different electoral profile, showing a preference for the Democratic party and a greater likelihood of declaring a party affiliation rather than registering as an independent. Moreover, the total Asian and Pacific Islander electorate in Monterey Park changed its overall partisan orientation through the addition of these new, largely Chinese, registered voters. In , Asian and Pacific Islander voters as a whole in Monterey.
Din and Chen et al. Note: In , Asian Pacific Americans were 44 percent of all voters in Monterey Park; 32 percent of all Democrats; 54 percent of all Republicans; and 69 percent of all individuals who registered as No Party. Park showed a slight majority preference for the Democrats.
By , with an increase of more than 4, new registered voters, it was no longer possible to characterize the Asian and Pacific Islander electorate in the city in this manner. In an analogous fashion, on a larger national scale, the Asian and Pacific Islander electorate at both the grassroots and leadership levels have been undergoing, and will continue to undergo, significant changes with the increased political participation of foreign-born Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Although there has been a visible increase in political involvement and representation by Asians and Pacific Islanders during the past decade, it would be highly remiss to conclude that they have now become a powerful and unified political entity. It would also be incorrect to conclude that they are now capable of competing equally with other political actors, be they other immigrant and minority groups or special interests, in realizing their specific political goals. Compared with other, more established political actors, like Jews and Blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders still have not fully developed and used the wide array of real and symbolic resources that are needed to compete on an equal basis in major electoral and policy arenas with other groups.
Their various levels of internal diversity have often prevented them from being the unified political actor suggested by their overarching umbrella label of Asian and Pacific Islanders. In some of the smaller California suburban cities like Torrance, Cerritos, and Monterey Park, and to a lesser extent in the big cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles, Asians and Pacific Islanders have become increasingly viable and recognized political participants.
In most areas aside from Hawaii and at higher levels of state and federal decision-making, however, Asians and Pacific Islanders remain largely ignored and underrepresented. Indeed, as a result of both structural and group-specific constraints, they have not been able to sufficiently cultivate a statewide or national political presence. Also, they have yet to develop an explicit set of national priorities that could, at least, be recognized when major policy issues dealing with the poor, the elderly, health care, or even United States relations with Asia are legislated and implemented.
At best, their present impact on American politics and public-policy deliberations has been regional and sporadic rather than national and continuous; and their reputed success as a model minority continues to disguise their lack of influence and representation in many of the most significant decision-making arenas and social institutions of American society.
The contemporary remnants of the political exclusion and isolation that Asians and Pacific Islanders experienced in the past must be fully confronted and eliminated not only by Asian and Pacific Islander groups, but also by the two major political parties and others who believe that citizens should be able to fully exercise their right of franchise.
Unfair redistricting of Asian and Pacific Islander communities, lack of bilingual voter-registration application forms and ballots, restrictions on campaign contributions from permanent residents, and opposition to the implementation of legislation like the National Voter Registration Act of a. Asians and Pacific Islanders, both foreign-born and U. In recent years, the incentive and necessity for Asians and Pacific Islanders to become more involved in electoral politics has been greatly enhanced in both obvious and unexpected ways. Politicians and the major political parties, which had long neglected to address the unique public-policy interests and quality-of-life concerns of Asians and Pacific Islanders, have become increasingly responsive and attentive, especially to the growing sector of the Asian and Pacific Islander population that contributes sizable amounts to political campaign coffers.
Less interest, however, has been shown toward augmenting the long-term voting potential of Asians and Pacific Islanders, and few attempts have been made by the Democratic or Republican parties to finance voter-registration and education campaigns in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. However, the increasing number of Asians and Pacific Islanders, especially those of immigrant background, who are seeking public office appears to be stimulating greater electoral participation among Asians and Pacific Islanders at the grassroots level.
For example, it is becoming a common practice for Asian and Pacific Islander candidates to make special efforts in seeking monetary donations and in registering new voters among Asians and Pacific Islanders in the jurisdictions in which they are running for office. These activities provide Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants with important and direct vantage points from which to understand the workings of the American political system, thereby facilitating their political acculturation. At the same time, a wide array of advocacy and social services groups have formed in Asian and Pacific Islander communities across the nation, and a number of different outreach campaigns have been launched to promote citizenship and to register individuals, particularly those who have just become citizens at naturalization ceremonies.
And finally, disastrous events like the civil unrest in Los Angeles in , in which more than 2, Korean and Asian and Pacific Islander-owned businesses were destroyed, have underscored the need for immigrant-dominant communities to place greater organizational and leadership emphasis on augmenting their access to and influence in local government and other policy arenas, as well as to increase their representation in voter-registration rolls.
The start of the new century, widely viewed optimistically because of seemingly positive demographic trends, will be an important period to witness and analyze because of the extraordinary challenges and opportunities that will undoubtedly be presented to Asians and Pacific Islanders in realizing their full potential as citizens and electoral participants. However, the level of success that they will achieve in the political arena as well as other sectors of American society will not be solely determined by the Asian and Pacific Islander population, or its leaders and organizations.
It will undoubtedly require the assistance and intervention of a wide array of groups, leaders, and institutions in both the private and public sectors. Whether Asians and Pacific Islanders become a major new political force in the American electoral system is nearly impossible to predict with any precision; however, our ability to raise and seriously entertain such a question in the context of the historical disenfranchisement and exclusion of Asians and Pacific Islanders is quite revealing in itself.
Akaka, D. Nakanishi and J. Lai, eds. Arax, M. Los Angeles Times March 3 :1—3. Long Beach, Calif. Asianweek June 1 Bai, S. University of Pennsylvania Law Review 3 — Bouvier, L. Washington, D. Brown, G. Bunzel, J. Au Diversity or discrimination?
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Asian Americans in college. Public Interest — Sacramento: Department of Finance. Cain, B. Election Politics — Carmody, D. New York Times December 6 :B8. Chan, S. Boston: Twayne. Chen, M.
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Haub, and J. Willette U. Hispanics: Changing the face of America. Yetman, ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Din, G. Claremont Graduate School. Duran, R. Endo, R. Emily Moberg Robinson , PhD, received a bachelor's degree in history from Wellesley College and a master's degree and doctorate in history from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research is in memory studies and immigrant and national identity. Robinson has taught courses in U. This powerful collection is appropriate for public, school, and academic libraries.
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