Asian Americans are defined as a population living in the U.S. who have Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry, in whole or in part, regardless of whether they were U.S.- or foreign-born, a U.S. citizen or not, length of residence, or in the U.S. legally or illegally. The following terms also mean the same thing: Asian American, Asian Pacific American (APA), and Asian Pacific Islander (API). There are a lot of unique characteristics and differences within the diverse Asian American community. In examining their experience from the perspectives of historical consciousness, race, gender, class, and culture, this essay hopes to compare and contrast the transition from sojourner to immigrant of Filipino communities and Korean communities in the mainland and Hawaii.
In the 1920s and 30s, thousands of young Filipinos traveled halfway across the world, in search for a better future for themselves and their families. By being the first large population of Filipino immigrants, they were subject to blatant individual and structural racism that prevented them from succeeding socially, economically, and politically in the United States. The jobs available to them were either as dishwashers, busboys, and domestic workers in the cities; as factory workers in the Alaskan canneries; or as farm workers in the California valleys. Through their struggle, they made life better for those who came after them. Filipino farm workers in the valleys of California established a strong legacy of collective leadership, inter-ethnic solidarity, and fighting for workers’ rights. This legacy was passed on to later generations and had a lasting impact on Asian Pacific American labor organizing. On the other hand, Before World War II, Korean-Americans were the smallest Asian community to settle in the United States. Immigration records indicate that about seven thousand Koreans immigrated to Hawaii between 1903 and 1905. This wave of immigration was brought to a sudden end by the Japanese occupation of Korea. Further immigration was all but nonexistent until 1953, which marked the end of the Korean War. After the war, two separate streams of Korean immigration took place. After being hardened through years of war in Korea, these immigrants felt determined to build better lives and thrive in their new settings.
There are many similarities between Filipinos and Koreans as sojourners and later on as permanent settlers. For both, the primary motivation to become immigrants has been for the future success of their families. Another similarity is the emphasis and importance of education. This commitment to learning is evidenced by an almost 100 percent literacy rate of Korean and Filipino immigrants to this country. Moreover, most of these immigrants have obtained college education and are practicing professionals in their own countries of origin. They sacrificed their white-collar professional careers in their countries to come to the U.S. for the advancement and future of their children. For both races, the preservation of culture and traditional values, including work ethic, is integral to the Filipino and Korean immigrants. As they grow in number, so does the challenge of preserving their cultural roots. The church is one of the main vehicles through which they hold on to their culture. These two races are predominantly church goers. Today, like most Asian Americans, Filipinos and Koreans as communities, have responded to America’s opportunities by contributing so much to this country through self reliance, hard work, strong families, and emphasis on education.
In terms of language, however, Koreans are not as articulate in English as compared to Filipinos, who generally can speak English. Due to this, the original sets of Koreans who came to America turned to retailing and entrepreneurship because of cultural and language barriers. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Korean entrepreneurs have limited social skills and business experience in America, the advanced college education that they earned while in Korea made up for many of their shortcomings, and these proved useful in creating successful business ventures. As an ethnic group, they have the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the country.
In our study on the meaning of larger society of multiculturalism, we acknowledge the significant contributions and achievements made by Asian American people to both the economic development and the cultural heritage of America. The core values and ideals of the nation emanate today not from the so-called mainstream but from the margins, from among them, Asian Americans. These groups in their struggles for equality have helped to preserve and advance our ideals and have made America a more democratic place for all.
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