These are the Loneliest AmericansJay Caspian King Penguin Random House 272 pages $27
Jay Caspian Kang’s story of life is extraordinary, but it can also be quite common for families with similar values.
Although his parents were born in North Korea and emigrated to South Korea during the Korean War, they had family roots. After he got married, his parents moved to the U.S. Although they arrived in relative poverty, his parents were able to enjoy significant social mobility. Their children also flourished in America. Even though his journey was difficult, Far from easyKang eventually earned a B.A. An elite liberal arts college (Bowdoin), as well as an MFA at an Ivy League university, Columbia. His well-respected book was published. Romance. His work as an editor and reporter for ESPN was his. The New Yorker, ViceBefore joining, you can read more about it here. The New York TimesWhere his ColumnsThese are great.
His latest book is America’s Most Lonely People To explore the current state of being Asian in America, he draws from his family’s stories and on his journalism over time. The book places his life and work in the context of the larger journey of Asian Americans in America from the 1800s to the present. This book is inspired by his daughter’s birth, who was born to a non-Asian mother. Kang was pondering how his child would navigate the hyphenated identities of her mother and peers.
A new identity
“Asian American” As Berkeley, 1968 saw the creation of an identity. In 1968, Berkeley saw the birth of an identity. The Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) sought to build a panethnic coalition based on the Black Power Movement (and the growing Chicano Movement), in order to solve the common problems that Asian communities faced.
Through the 1960s the common thread that united the America’s most powerful Asian group was the close connection they had to U.S. foreign military intervention. PacificationEventually conquestHawai’i to the ColonializationThe Philippines to World War II, and subsequent Japan’s occupation(where approximately 55 ThousandU.S. Soldiers remain stationed (to this day) to the Korean War (nearly 29000U.S. troops remain stationed on Korean soil) Vietnam WarThe U.S. withdraw was not accompanied by an ambitious Programs for refugee resettlement).
In the aftermath of conflicts, large numbers of Asians became Americans by marrying U.S. troops in their country. The family unification policy eventually permitted parents, siblings and close relatives to military spouses, as well. Many of these migrants settled near or on military bases and built strong community bonds. Others from Asia directly Served in the militaryMany of them have been naturalized citizens in return for their service to America throughout American history.
From the 1800s to the 1960s, Asian America maintained a complex, intense and ambivalent relationship with the United States.
The U.S. has a shameful domestic history, beyond its invasions and occupations overseas. oppression, exploitation, ExclusionPlease see the following: GewaltForbidden against Asians. Many aspects of Chinatowns or Japantowns can be compared to each other. Living monumentsThis is the history. Koreatowns, as Kang points out, were quite different. These were created later as a positive effort to establish an ethnic enclave of Korean Americans. They rivaled, or even exceeded, the Japantowns, Chinatowns, and Japantowns in many U.S. city at the time.
AAPA created an identity for Asian Americans around the common history. This organization organized Asian-American students to resist discrimination and combat military adventure. There were tensions between ethnicity and classes from the beginning of the project. Before long, however, all the threads that connected war and oppression domestically would be more fragile.
Kang describes how the United States was limiting immigration during periods of violence, oppression and exclusion that were most severe. When the United States began opening up, some of the worst hostilities had already been eliminated. One reason laws can be liberalized was that people have become more friendly towards immigrants in general. Particularly Asian AmericansThis was in the time following World War II.
The White House minimized the likely effect of the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act, which relaxed U.S. immigration regulations, despite this liberalization. President Lyndon Johnson argued that the legislation was not necessary. ThatIt was a big deal, and it would not change U.S. society in the long-term. He was incorrect.
Immigrants now make up a significant portion of America’s total population. This is a level not seen for over a century. These growth factors have been driven largely by Asian migrants. A majority of U.S. immigrant families arrived in the 1970s and 1980s. Asia:. However, Asian migrants were short-sighted by Latin Americans in the 1990s and 2000s. Since 2008 however, a greater number of Asian migrants have arrived. Numerous new migrantsThe United States has been once more Asian since 1965. Asian Americans have grown from 1965 onwards. Less than half of 1 percentaccording to 2020 U.S. Census estimates). The number of Asians currently living in America has increased by roughly 20% since Hart-Celler became law.
Therefore, most Asian Americans’ family history in the U.S. is now a part of their identity. After 1965. They are Hart-Celler’s children, according to Kang.
The post-Hart–Celler wave of immigrants had generally no connection to America’s worst treatment of Asians. They were not subject to internment nor legal exclusion.
In addition, the U.S. military began to focus more on North Africa and the Middle East after 1975’s fall of Saigon. The U.S. also saw a shift in immigration patterns away from Asian nations where it had waged major wars. Recent decades have seen a greater number of Chinese and Indian migrants arrive in the United States than other Asian nations. These two groups are now worth approximately $1.2 billion. It is nearly half45 percent of current Asian-Americans are from this region. As a function of these changes, the imprint of the United States military and its campaigns abroad—both the scars and the ties—have grown markedly less pronounced within America’s Asian population as well.
America was a symbol of freedom, opportunity and hope for Hart-Celler’s children. America had fewer corruptions and was not as parochial as the nations it hailed. It was more open to mobility. More stability was available and there were more opportunities. Ethnic or religious minorities faced less persecution in America than their homelands. Post-1965 immigrant families flocked to America because they believed the American dream was possible. Their children are often more optimistic about the U.S. than they were their parents.
According to general statistics, Asian migrants are able to make a comfortable life in America and have seen their children prosper here. Asian Americans seem to have achieved success not only by matching whites in average, but exceeding them. Not all Asian Americans can thrive the same. Asians have the The most socioeconomically dividedThe U.S. has a racial-ethnic bloc, which is characterized by stark differences along lines of nationality.
The average income of Indian Americans, Chinese, Thai, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Thais, Thais, Thais, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Sri Lankans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, and Thais is significantly higher than the U.S. overall averages. The Vietnamese Americans compare roughly with U.S. standards on this measure. However, the U.S. has a smaller population of Bangladeshi, Hmong and Cambodian Americans. They therefore have less access to the U.S. Networks and infrastructures that are ethnically-orientedThese people often come to the U.S. to seek help and have lower levels of cultural capital. This population tends to have higher rates of education attainment and household income. fallConsiderably See below the U.S. average—and as a result, they tend to be absent from most discussions about Asian America. ThisKang asserts that discourse is fundamentally by-and-for elites.
Because most Asian Americans are not directly connected to America’s history, violence, marginalization, or oppression, many of them learn more about the past. In collegeParticipation in affinity groups and engagement with peers, as well as in classes.Wake up” media. The identity of the “Asian American” was formed in college and is still strongly tied to higher education institutions.
Kang points out that being exposed to the U.S. history of violence against Asians and the exclusion they face while pursuing professional qualifications can have contradictory results. While it alienates Asian-American elite aspirants away from America’s preferred narratives, it allows them to see themselves clearly in America, which helps to make them feel more at home, and to appreciate the long-standing and deep role that people like them have played in American society. This increases the victimhood and precarity of Asian Americans, as well. This helps them to fit in betterThey hope to become part of the elite.
Indeed, Kang argues, one reason college-educated Asian Americans gravitate toward this discourse is because they come to recognize that upward mobility in the knowledge economy is largely contingent on pleasing white liberal gatekeepers—on mirroring their values and fitting into their worldviews. The reliable way of showing one’s ability to be woke is by leaning into identitarian discourse. Education pedigreeAnd Moral characterYou can be among Google and Harvard. New York Times, and McKinsey & Co. crowd. Recognizing and lamenting systemic disadvantages can both signal and reinforce one’s elite (actual or aspirational).
Asian Americans who are affiliated to prestigious institutions in the knowledge economy tend to support affirmative action based on race (which is practiced at elite universities and colleges). Highly regardedAsian applicants were not treated equally with people of other origins. Asian Americans are also at disadvantage, Rely heavilyMany who are admitted into elite schools of education have passed standardized test to be eligible for admission.
Rob Henderson, a social psychologist, has described these positions as “Luxury beliefs.” For students who are already admitted to their school of choice, they will not be affected by the removal of standard testing or persistence in affirmative action. They’ve been admitted. In fact, their child’s ability to replicate their class rank may be enhanced by the removal of standard testing. Commonly, college essays are relied upon much more than standardized tests to determine parental socioeconomic status. You can also examine the details of each individual.SAT scores don’t do as well. For new immigrants looking to enter elite institutions, it would be far harder to beat the elite children of Asian-Americans in admission essays than it is on standard tests. For incumbent Asian elites, then, an embrace of fashionable professional-managerial class ideas on affirmative action and testing costs them nothing and provides a range of benefits—from helping them fit in with liberal white peers to helping restrict and weaken competition from future cohorts of elite aspirants.
Things are different for Asian immigrants who hope to see their children move freely in America. Or for those who imagine they might have attained had they made it into their target school—whose families are proud, but not the way they would have been if their child was an alumnus of Harvard, Princeton, or MIT. Among populations likeTheseKang cites the wide acceptance of affirmative actions, elimination of standard testing and other positive changes. Resentment is common among Asians who are already successful.
It gets lonely near the Summit
A subset in America of Asians struggles to identify themselves as hyphenated. People who have been born in America as immigrants, or those with less education and/or wealth tend to see themselves as Americans of Korean descent. They do not have to wrestle with conjunctions such “Korean American”, and all the contradictory statements. Even less important or helpful to them is a panethnic identity of “Asian American” that places Koreans under one umbrella with Indians, Mongolians, and Indonesians.
All these groups plus Hispanics or blacks are considered to be one. They The possibility of internal diversity being integrated with a wider group known as “peoples of color”, would be absurd when juxtaposed to whites. First because so many migrants desire to live in the United States. für their kids and them to live with whites well and accept the culture. The mainstream. A second reason is that there are long-standing tensions among people of Asian descent, Hispanics and African Americans in communities with Asian Americans.
In Chapters 3, and 6, Kang offers a detailed overview of tensions that persist and sometimes solidarity between Asians, and other minorities. Kang continues to say that while hyphenated identities and race-making narratives are not a common theme among Asian Americans, but they have a profound resonance with younger Asian immigrants and second- and third generation migrants as well as current professionals and students. Kang describes these Asians “the lonely Americans.”
Although they feel “other” in America, they would be considered an outsider in their home countries. They aren’t “white”, and they don’t want to be “white.” They are proud of their heritage, but they want to be more. They are driven to get prestigious jobs and credentials, as well as to live in predominantly white areas. But they also feel intense. Vertigo, guilt and shameAssociated with social mobility and integration in elite institutions and predominantly white social networks. They are faced with problems based upon their race or ethnicity. However, they recognize that other people may find them relatively simple. You can take this example:
- Although they and their children attend excellent K-12 schools, they are often bullied, ignored, or even exoticized at school. Even though Asians experience less bullying than others racial and ethnic groups, it is still a very common target for harassment. Particularly, the basis Their race and ethnicity.
- The average American Asian-American has the highest educational attainment. The most highly regarded schools however, have a higher average education. de facto Asian admissions are subject to capsAsians are required to participate in student bodies that is sufficiently diverse to be considered “diverse”. Higher levelsThis is more common than for people from other cultures to get a chance at admissions to the top universities. Additionally, even though most Asian youth go to college in some form, many high school students are not eligible for admission. Significantly worseWhites with similar education levels are more educated than those of other races.
- People who have a college education tend to get good jobs. Asians face many challenges. Different forms of microaggressionsfrequent exclusion from top positions in their companies (a phenomenon known as the “The Exclusion”).bamboo ceiling“).
- Asian Americans are a minority in professional circles. Significantly underrepresentedU.S. TV, Film, and Literature They are also often featured in Unfortunate waysWhen they These are rendered visible. Asians are also known for their ability to see. Significantly underrepresentedIn local, state and national elected office.
- Asian Americans may be subject to racialized animism, but it is not as severe as the other races and ethnicities. (Recently,NBER studyIt was found that Asian Americans are able to achieve extraordinary success in comparison to other minorities because they were not subject to the same oppression as other racial or ethnic groups. Hate incidents are not uncommon for Asians. Significantly less frequently than other racial and ethnic groups—and these usually involve words, vandalism, and social shunning rather than direct physical violence. If there is direct physical violence Does Asian-American professionals should not be surprised to find that they conform to the accepted practice of making huge deals about race and ethnicity when the perpetrator is white while making no mention whatsoever of race and ethnicity for the aggressor if the latter happens to be Asian. non-white. After the death of Those attacks, they are expected to offer up sentiments of racial solidarity—even as many of those they seek solidarity With Continue to see Asians as “privileged minorities” with less pressing problems than theirs.
Kang identifies this as the key reason for the “loneliness”. It is hard to make people care about the problems or struggles of Asian Americans. They have already internalized it. prevailing ethos of the professional-managerial class, they often feel a bit of guilt or shame They will be themselves We are focusing our attention on issues that Asians face in the U.S.
This is a disturbing trend among many Asian Americans. Chapter 7 examines the rise in “radical” Asian movements in America. These tend to be focused on maintaining the means for social mobility of Asian migrants. They push through the bamboo ceiling and assert Asians’ rightful position in American culture. Fetishized, and intensely pursuedpredominantly by Asian men. Other than sexual entities).
These movements tend to draw on a wild mélange of black nationalist ideology, “redpill” manosphere writings, and “woke” symbolic politics. Kang observes with great insight that even though they are opposed to most Asian-American professional’s mainstream liberalism (which is perceived as having sold out in an Sisyphean bid for acceptance by liberal whites), the “radicals”, as Kang calls them, aren’t as distant from their opponents as they appear to be.
Mainstream Asian elites are often identified as “peoples of color”, and they show solidarity with those who identify the same. However, these alliances often amount to nothing more than a multi-cultural elite competing for representation. The New York TimeThe C-Suite and Ivy League, as well as Hollywood productions. The “radicals” likewise remain centered overwhelmingly on professional-managerial class concerns: elite schools, bamboo ceilings, and so on. Participants are often highly educated, wealthy and just like the mainstream. They may “demand” rather than request respect and recognition—more in principle than in practice to date—but they remain just as preoccupied with the “white gaze.” They want respect and recognition Whom??) They obsess over their white counterparts’ positions in relation to media, politics, and the dating market.
Much of the postcolonial literature is still focused on producing and “the West”, in the same manner. Similar image of power relations that orientalist scholarship did, the “radical” Asian movement presents itself as an alternative to professional-managerial Asian politics but is probably better understood as a variation of the same.
For their part, first-generation Asians of working-class and older age have been moving toward the GOP in recent years (both During the Trump yearsAnd After). The other way around is the Growing political divisionThe relationship between the knowledge-economy professions and all others seems to be just as it is within Asian-American circles. The “loneliest Americans”—who tend to be deeply enmeshed in the symbolic professions and consolidated in Knowledge Economy Hubs—could find themselves even more isolated down the line.
Kang persists in his efforts to bring attention to the class dynamics involved in discussing racial identity and racial resentments. This and other reasons make Kang’s book an excellent entry point into understanding the current state of America, where it is today and what our future holds. While technically the book is “about” those of Asian heritage, many aspects of America’s story are about all Americans.