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  •  Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is held each May to recognize the contributions of Asian Americans to the history and achievements of the United States.  The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting and investing in AAPI communities.  In March, the Administration announced new actions to respond to the increase in acts of anti-Asian violence, and to advance safety, inclusion, and belonging for all Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.  More recently, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan COVID-19 hate crimes bill, to respond to attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which includes funding to increase data collection and reporting.  Dr. Madeline Hsu, provides an overview of the breadth and depth of AAPI contributions to U.S. history and culture, as well as strategies to counter Asian-American discrimination and harassment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  


MODERATOR:  Good morning and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing:  Understanding America:  Asian American History, Contributions, and Current Challenges.  My name is Jen McAndrew, and I am the moderator.  First, I will introduce our briefer, and then I’ll give the ground rules.   

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is held each May to recognize the contributions of Asian Americans to the history and achievements of the United States.  The Biden-Harris administration is committed to supporting and investing in AAPI communities.  In March, the administration announced new actions to respond to the increase in acts of anti-Asian violence and to advance safety, inclusion, and belonging for all Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.  

Our briefer today is Dr. Madeline Hsu, Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, who will provide an overview of the breadth and depth of Asian American contributions to U.S. history and culture as well as strategies to counter Asian American discrimination and harassment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  She is a nationally recognized expert on Asian American history, migration, and diaspora, and the author of several books in this field.  We greatly appreciate Dr. Hsu giving her time today for this briefing.  

And now for the ground rules.  This briefing is on the record.  The views expressed by briefers not affiliated with the Department of State are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State or the U.S. Government.  Participation in Foreign Press Center programming does not imply an endorsement, approval, or recommendation of their views.  We will post the transcript of this briefing later today on our website.  Dr. Hsu will give opening remarks, and then we will open it up for questions.  And with that, I will pass it over to Dr. Hsu.  Over to you.  

MS HSU:  Thank you, Jen McAndrews, for inviting me to give this presentation.  I also want to thank the Foreign Press Center.  I am going to share a very brief overview of Asian American history, and then if you want specific details later, please ask them in the Q&A session afterwards.   

This – first, I want to just cover the category – the census category of Asian American Pacific Islanders.  AAPI, as you can see from this map, covers many, many different groups from a very dispersed geography extending all the way from West Asia into the Pacific Islands.  This includes over 50 different ethnic groups and then also well over a hundred different languages and dialects.  So even though these groups are all brought together under the census category, you can see there is tremendous diversity in terms of actual experiences, trajectories in the United States, and then also histories of migration.   

Now, the – I want to set forth some main principles to bear in mind as we think about chiefly Asian American immigration, which is that it does not become systematic until the United States reaches the West Coast of the United States.  And historically, in terms of the sort of national understandings, the narrative of the United States as it develops, the emphasis has primarily been on westward migrations: westward migrations across the Atlantic Ocean and then also westward migrations as the United States expands across the North American continent.   

Now, in this process, the United States is displacing many Native American populations and also acquires what was previously known as El Norte, the northern part of Mexico including about 50,000 Mexican residents.  Upon reaching the West Coast – and California then quickly becomes a state and the onset of the Gold Rush, as well as the economic development of the western half of the United States, attracts many Asians, including the first wave of Chinese to seek out opportunities, as do many of the migrants from the Eastern part of the United States in the form of the Gold Rush; also recruited actively for undertaking such as agriculture – these are Chinese working sugar cane plantations in Louisiana, infrastructure products – most famously the railroads, also lumber.  Here you can see a representation of the Chinese community in Sierra Nevada.  And this is – you can see there is a host of small businesses: a shoemaker, restaurants, laundries.   

Now, so Chinese participate very actively in the developing of the United States.  They are both migrating as free agents but also as recruited workers for this massive sets of developments.  It’s particularly in agriculture that foreign labor is needed.  Chinese will successively be replaced in the fields, especially in California but throughout the Western Coast, by Japanese and then also Filipinos, Asian Indians, and also Koreans.  However, despite these sorts of high levels of productivity and really helping business emerge on the West Coast, you can see from this political cartoon – I think this one is from 1879 – perceptions of being invaded, of being overwhelmed.   

There are ways in which so much productivity and hard work and entrepreneurial energy can be seen as problems, especially when associated with a group coming from a different part of the world which was associated – at this time, social Darwinism is a leading set of beliefs about racial difference, about the nature of different civilizations and cultures, and Chinese and then other Asian groups will be perceived as – as yellow perils; that is, biologically different and therefore inferior, bearing different culture and civilization, and unassimilable into the United States.  This is another key aspect of Asian American history, not only in terms of perception and racial beliefs, but also legally and institutionally Asian immigrants will be barred from gaining citizenship in the United States for most of U.S. history, from 1790 until 1952.  And so we can see how deeply embedded these beliefs that Asians are essential foreigners and do not belong and should, in fact, be limited in coming to the United States and in their activities here.   

And so the political cartoon here on the left illustrates some of these racial beliefs and the contradiction of the United States as a democracy and a nation of immigrants.  And this woman here wearing white is the figure of Columbia, which represents the ideal of a democratic society, of a republic.  And she says, “Hands off, gentlemen!  America means fair play for all men.”  She is saying this in defense of this cowering figure of a Chinese person, does not look quite human, and they’re – they are standing against the wall bearing these posters explaining all the reasons why, in fact, Chinese do not deserve to be able to become Americans and participate as full equals.  They are seen as coolies, which was a form of unfree labor associated with slavery.  They were seen as barbarians and heathens; they were non-Christian.  They were seen as accepting lower wages and work levels and posing unwelcome and unfair competition. 

On the other side of the political cartoon shows the problem of the United States itself, which is the man is facing attack from a mob, an armed mob, and in the background you see evocations of the United States’ longer history of poor race relations.  You see a tree bearing a noose, evoking lynching.  You also see a burning building – the colored orphanage. This refers to an actual events in 1863 in which a colored orphanage was burned down.   

The United States had and still continues to have a problem with terrible race relations marked by violence and inequality and non-acceptance.  And it is an open question whether or not the United States should continue to allow the immigration of another racial group.  And by 1880, 1882, there was already a clear consensus.  Both political parties agreed on the racial animus against Chinese even though at this time Chinese are only about .02 percent of the national population.  But this – they’re coming to the United States and the efforts to restrict them then led the United States to undertake its first set of systematically enforced immigration restriction. 

And so one of the very important reasons to pay attention to a Asian American history is that the foundations of U.S. immigration law ideologically in terms of the goals of those laws, how the laws are framed, but then also the extreme powers of the U.S. Federal Government to regulate migration and enforce those laws was laid with regard to the racist laws targeting Chinese.   

This is a summary of key immigration and citizenship laws pertaining to Asians in the United States.  The 1790 Nationality Act sets forth the first restrictions regarding what immigrants can gain citizenship by naturalization.  The law was explicitly racist – only free white persons: in practice, white male property owners.  This law creates a legal category: aliens ineligible for citizenship which was then used in laws that targeted Asians for discrimination.   

It is not until the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act that these racial restrictions on citizenship will finally be ended.  The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed in 1882.  It sought to almost totally end immigration by Chinese.  There are only a few exempt classes.  Here we see socioeconomic kinds of priorities coming into play.  So merchants and students are among those Chinese who are still able to come. 

Now, the Congress will renew the Chinese exclusion laws in 1892 and add enforcement measures.  Chinese will be required to carry a certificate of residence to prove their legal entry.  Those Chinese found without these certificates were presumed to be in the country without authorization subject to detention and deportation.  This is the first time these powers are set forth.  So Chinese were actually the first groups of immigrants to be identified, to be racialized, as illegal immigrants, and their lives in the United States after passage of this law are very, very vulnerable, they’re very marginal.  Many Chinese are driven into sort of marginal sectors of the economy, service businesses such as laundries and restaurants.  The only foothold that Chinese gain at this time is the in the 1898 Wong Kim Ark Supreme Court case.  Wong Kim Ark was born in the United States.  His case goes all the way up to the Supreme Court, which affirms that the 14th Amendment, which was passed in order to try to integrate African Americans by offering birthright citizenship to all persons born in the United States – the Supreme Court found that that designation of all persons applied regardless of race or status of parents.  And so this is the landmark case, the precedent-setting case that now applies to all immigrants and their childrens to this day. 

These other laws will apply to the waves of Asian immigrants that follow in the wake of Chinese 1907, 1908 Gentlemen’s Agreement applied to Japanese.  This was a diplomatically arranged restriction of immigration by Japanese lawyers – sorry, by Japanese laborers.  The Japanese Government sought to avoid the humiliation of having its people excluded, was in a position to influence the U.S. Government, and so the Japanese Government would self-restrict laborers from coming to the United States.   

Other laws would expand Asian targets, expand U.S. immigration regulation in general.  The 1917 Immigration Act would impose a literacy standard in general, but applied what was known as a barred zone.  I will show you a map shortly that basically designated a significant region of the world from coming to the United States.  It extended from the Middle East to Southeast Asia.  This becomes more formalized with the 1924 Immigration Act, which banned altogether aliens ineligible for citizenship from coming to the United States.  This was enacted by Congress, which knew that it would be a tremendous insult to the Japanese Government, and Congress passed that law nonetheless.  So you should note that up to this point and through 1965, the primary considerations for immigration regulation in the United States are race and national origin.   

And so here are some images of the other main Asian American groups that are in the country up to World War II, and agriculture is a common theme.  Particularly Japanese, Chinese, and Filipinos also will be funneled through the Hawaiian sugar cane plantations.  You can see small businesses.  This is actually – this is a Bengali businessman.  He actually came through across the Atlantic and arrived on the East Coast, worked in railroads, worked in small business. 

This is the famous Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan, who also worked in agriculture and caught the labor struggles of the Filipino men.  

The Asian American population tended to skew male at this time, because the laws and economic conditions ,and also just the constant threat of violence and the incapacity to gain citizenship and try to sink – the difficulties of sinking roots discouraged Asians, men from bringing over women as well.  

So this is an image of the barred zone, and you can see that it’s just crudely drawn on a map and includes most of Asia.  Japan was kept out of the barred zone, as were the Philippines, which was a U.S. colony.  And the barred zone underscores for us the summary dismissal of Asians as immigrants, but then also the association between geography and differences between races of people.  And so these racial ideologies remain very, very powerful at this time. 

Now, World War II will be the watershed which starts shifting out these kinds of practices and priorities for immigration regulation.  World War II required that the United States forge alliances in Asia, particularly with China, which was the United States’s main ally against Japan.  In contrast, Japanese Americans were racialized as enemy aliens regardless of birth in the United States.  One hundred and twenty thousand Japanese Americans, two-third of whom were U.S.-born citizens, will be removed from the West Coast with the justification of military necessity.  The claim was that they would facilitate some sort of attack by Japan on the West Coast.  And they were placed in incarceration camps for the duration of the war, except for major exceptions.  Japanese Americans were actively recruited out of the incarceration camps to serve in the U.S. military, the legendary 442nd Military Battalion.  Other Asians, particularly Chinese and Filipinos, also served in the U.S. war effort.  

And the World War II for Asian Americans, as for African and Mexican Americans and Native Americans, becomes a key way of demonstrating, of consolidating claims on the United States as a democratic, multiracial nation.   

Now, another set of changing forces pertains to the very important reality that race and national origins are, in fact, very poor determinants of individual attainment and potential.  And so here on the right, we have this sort of bug-like looking Chinese Hooli figure that everybody can agree should not be admitted into the United States.  However, on the left, we have T.D. Lee and C.N. Yang, who will in 1957 go on to become the first ethnic Chinese to win Nobel prizes, specifically in physics.  They come to the United States as students and remain in the United States through World War II, the Chinese Civil War, and then with the onset of the Cold War, which really prioritizes technological and advancement and competitiveness, the importance of holding on to people with training and education, but then also just sort of the sort of singular brilliance to really give the United States its competitive edge is gaining in priority.  

Now, the Cold War also forces the United States to recalculate its relationship with Asian countries.  And so here we can see this map of countries that are in the United Nations.  One, there has been decolonization, and many of the territories in areas which had formerly been in the barred zone are now nations in their own right with seats in the United Nations, okay?  The United States is also shifting its priorities to be anti-communist, and so has a great interest continuing to cultivate allies in Asia.  And so Japan rapidly goes from being a World War II enemy to being a chief ally of the United States, especially after the U.S. occupation.  We have South Korea, we have Taiwan, we have the Philippines, and then we also have this as a justification for the United States considerable interference in Southeast Asia, which then will produce high levels of refugee migrations.  

Okay.  So it’s in this context that the United States will start reforming its immigration laws.  It can no longer afford to have immigration laws that are so overtly racist, offensive to foreign allies.  So it starts removing the racial restrictions, first on citizenship, and then it starts trying to place immigration countries – sending countries on a more level playing field.  The United States will also start more to look more systematically at emitting people in refugees, culminating in the 1965 Immigration Act, which confers formal equality on to immigration to all countries.  This is an image of LBJ signing the law.  LBJ regarded it as a package alongside the major civil rights reforms that he enacted during his roughly six year presidency.   

Now, under the 1965 Immigration Act, all countries get the same immigration limits – 20,000 per country – and alongside a preference system prioritizing family reunification at 75 percent,  20 percent skilled employment, and 5 percent refugees.  Okay, now, Asians given this more open door will immigrate disproportionately through the skilled employment preferences, meaning that they arrive already with college levels of education, if not higher, graduate degrees, and also in – disproportionately in STEM fields.  And so this has positioned them as a model minority. This is particularly visible in the Asian Indian population, which has predominantly arrived after 1965.   

So this overview of immigration to the United States from 1820 to 2009 shows us overall levels, and we can also see the shift in colors as we move from predominantly European immigration.  To this day, Germans actually are sort of the – in aggregate, the largest number of immigrants to the United States, but we have this switch to migration from within the Americas and migration from Asia.  Since 2012, Asian immigrants have been the largest in numbers, superseding that of migration from within the Americas.  So this graph here shows us the employment-based immigrants by region, and so we can see the disproportionate percentages that are skilled immigrants from Asia.   

Now, this is mapped onto United States international education programs disproportionately.  In graduate schools, science and engineering graduate degrees go to Asians.  This maps onto employment practices, especially with the H-1B visa programs that were enacted in 1990.  We –  so these disproportionately go to employees in computer and IT fields.  A significant percentage of the recipients are actually from India.  And so we can see this consequently in sort of the really tremendous levels of educational and professional and household income attainments of Indian Americans, which sort of display most prominently model minority attributes. 

There is also a – the stereotype – I can elaborate more on that – which has accompanied this, which nonetheless has not dispelled ongoing racialization of Asians as foreigners and as being threats.  And so here this is the – evokes the 1982 death of Vincent Chen, who was beaten to death.  He was Chinese American.  He was accused of being Japanese in Detroit in 1982 during the throes of the decline of the U.S. auto industry and beaten to death with a baseball bat.  Adding to this violence was the problem that the killers were convicted of manslaughter but served no time in jail.  They were also found not guilty of having violated Vincent Chen’s civil rights. 

And so I have a couple of slides here which shows us that based on trajectory into the United States, we actually need to think about the Asian American population in ways that are disaggregated.  And so there are very different levels of attainment in terms of percentages with college degrees.  Other main principles to make note of is that for pretty much all of its history, the Asian American population has been majority foreign born, and so very much shaped by the immigration laws at work.  It also depends a lot on whether or not – what immigration pathway was used.  And so Vietnamese, for example, chiefly arrive through refugee status and then through family reunification; much different levels of college education.   This is also reflected in terms of employment.  You can see tremendous differences between those who are lodged in service occupations as opposed to those who manage to attain management and professional kinds of careers and businesses.  There are distinct differences. 

Here I’m going to end with this listing of different resources about Asian American history.  Here is a organization that was founded within the past year, Stop AAPI Hate.  It is – was founded by a former colleague of mine.  With the onset of the pandemic and a lot of the blaming of China for the coronavirus, hate crimes targeting East Asian-appearing persons has really ratcheted up, and this website is intended to encourage people to help report, to gain attention to this problem, and to try to find solutions. 

And so I will end here, and I welcome your questions.  Jen, should I stop the PowerPoint or keep it up? 

MODERATOR:  Yes, thank you, Dr. Hsu.  You can stop the screen share now.  We’ll now open it up to questions from journalists.  If you have a question, you can raise your hand virtually or submit in the chat box.  I would ask you, as we’re waiting for questions, Dr. Hsu, if you could maybe elaborate on the Stop AAPI Hate project at San Francisco State University, which has received 1.4 million in funding from the state of California.  Can you speak to how research and data initiatives like this can help support federal and social action in fighting hate crimes and discrimination? 

MS HSU:  So one of the challenges for Asian Americans – I would say many of us would identify the model minority image as being a chief barrier.  And so there is actually a perception on the part of many that even though we are – still experience racialization perceptions as foreigners, that most people see Asian Americans as having very high levels of integration and acceptance and success, and that therefore – and so one of the problems – I mean, so the model minority is used to vindicate the United States as a multiracial democracy, which then requires that there not be an acknowledgment when the model minority in fact experiences problems.  It is harder also to gain attention because Asian Americans are now only about 6 percent of the national population, and as I was talking about, is actually extremely diverse and heterogeneous.  The largest groups – Chinese, Indians, Filipinos – tend to have the model minority attributes, but because their numbers are bigger, this masks serious ongoing problems, for example in matters such as limited English proficiency, higher levels of poverty among smaller groups, especially from Southeast Asia and then also Pacific Islanders. 

And so having data and having numbers that actually sort of trigger attention from outside of the Asian American population has been challenging, which is why it is important to have this record keeping.  There are barriers for many Asian Americans because of language and then also because of concerns about associations.  Many people, in fact, are refugees from authoritarian societies – nervousness and anxiety about interactions with official entities, government entities.  And so it’s – it has been – there is a lot of organizing and a lot of just being able to track what is actually being experienced by different groups of Asian Americans that – Stop AAPI Hate has really been an important vehicle.  There are many longstanding organizations, but Stop AAPI Hate really responded to the regeneration of the crisis that intensified after the onset of the pandemic.   

There were other crises – after 9/11, for example, and then with the 1996 and 1999 election cycles – so yes, it’s – it is very important that there be more reporting and more understanding of sort of the nuances and the complexities of Asian American experiences.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We do have a hand raised now.  I’d like to call on Nikhi Natarajan from Indo Asian News Service.  If you can unmute yourself, Nikhi, and ask your question. 

QUESTION:  Thank you.  

MS HSU:  Hello. 

QUESTION:  Thank you so much, Jen.  Thank you. Dr. Hsu.  I’m just keeping my video off because it’s a bit patchy right now. 

Thank you so much for the slides.  So those slides answered quite a few questions which I might have had.  So my question now:  Based on what you’ve said about essential research, the Asian American community, what are the areas of research you would be looking at which are exciting now?  Considering the political moment, the cultural moment, the rise of Kamala Harris, and so on, what would be – what would you go back to and say oh, okay, this is something I want to survey, or this is something I’d like to do and find out?  What would those be?  

MS HSU:  So leading research projects, one is actually to develop relational histories to not only within the Asian American Pacific Islander communities, which actually have very diverse histories, sort of distinctive experiences, although we are encapsulated under this one category, but to understand what we have in common, right, yes, while acknowledging the – sort of the various kinds of nuances and differences.  

But not only this.  We also need to have comparative histories with other racialized populations.  And so Asian Americans tell us a lot about general U.S. immigration history in terms of how immigration laws develop, how the priorities have – the priorities that we can see in terms of why certain laws arose at certain junctures; for example, during economic crises or during times of international conflict.  But they also have been used to – these strategies and these rationales then also get applied to other groups.  

So the racialization as illegal immigrants has now been applied to other groups such as predominantly now Mexican Americans, right, and then also Central Americans, but also the enforcement strategies have been applied to these other populations as well.  And it’s also important to note that things like the enforced immobility of enslaved African Americans, right?  And so immigration laws in part are about a denial of rights of migration and mobility, and we can – and also as strategies to control and restrict laborers, right?  And so we can also draw these lines of comparison then with African American history and African American experiences.   

So these are some of the examples.  We can also see removal of Native Americans onto reservations then as part of this larger project of understanding sort of territoriality though geographies and trying to remove people perceived as not having a place within our nation and situating them someplace else, right, which is also related to our current overwhelming project of how to secure United States borders and to try to control who crosses in and out and what they do in the United States.   

So these are some major projects.  Among Asian American scholars, especially with the most recent election cycle, there is great interest in understanding sort of the politics of Asian American conservatives.  This is a question that we haven’t sufficiently been exploring.  I am also very interested in understanding migration and circulation of people between the United States and other countries and how that then is a key aspect of the United States international relations.   

So these are some ongoing and developing projects. 

QUESTION:  Thank you, Dr. Hsu. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  I don’t see any other hands raised or questions submitted in the chat box, so I’ll just turn it back over to you, Dr. Hsu, just to make some closing remarks. 

MS HSU:  Oh, there is question by Kenji Kohno. 

MODERATOR:  Ah, did I miss this? 

QUESTION:  NHK, yeah. 

QUESTION:  Yes, and thank you very much for doing this.  And just following up the questions, you mentioned some difficulties of making Asian American politically influential in American politics.  What difficulties you would say to expand the influence as an American, as an Asian America, like Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucuses?   

MS HSU:  So recently, there has been a consortium of very, very affluent sort of Asian American entrepreneurs who have put together a fund – I think it’s something like $20 million – to try to support Asian American organizations.  So Stop AAPI Hate would be an example of this.  There are organizations like Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which collect information but then also try to encourage actions such as participating in the Census, registering to vote, and then also trying to ensure that Asian Americans, even those with limited English language proficiency, people who face language barriers, are informed about voting, informed about the issues, and informed about how to actually manage to vote.  I think this fund also can be used to make campaign donations.   

And so Asian Americans struggle against the problem of being only 6 percent of the United States population.  This is anticipated to increase.  The Asian – Asian immigration is increasing at the highest percentage levels.  It is true that we have a very, very wealthy sector of Asian Americans, and this is one of the ways in which Asian Americans can try to increase their clout. But there’s the inherent challenge of sort of language capacities.  You need to make sure that information about elections, about the issues are available in many different languages.  There’s also the challenge that people who immigrate have to go through steps and processes before they can actually gain their citizenship and vote.   

And so it is to try to make sure that Asian Americans move through this pipeline relatively swiftly.  It’s also to try to – I know among many of my colleagues and – this sort of friend group – there’s campaigns now to try to require – in K-12 education at schools, there is a requirement for Asian American Studies among sort of a broader array of ethnic studies courses to try to make sure that there actually is knowledge about Asian American history, inclusion of Asian American perspectives, rather than the assumption that Asian Americans are sort of a assimilated honorary white population.   

And so these are some of the strategies.  We are also hoping to build awareness among nonAsian Americans, also to develop coalitions with other racialized populations to emphasize that there are ways in which our histories intersect in significant ways. Just sort of being targeted, for example, for racial hate crimes, but then also being racialized as foreigners.  So the immigration rights sets of issues actually draw us sort of into alignment with many Mexican American and Latinx populations.  So these are some of the many ways in which Asian Americans can try to gain more influence and more visibility. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you for that.  Um, I’d like to return to Nikhi, who has a follow-up question.  Nikhi?   

MS HSU:  Okay.   

QUESTION:  Dr. Hsu, since there’s a bit of time, I just thought I’d ask you this.  It’s certainly not political, but here’s the thing:  During the election cycle of 2020, we all noticed how the now-Vice President Ms. Harris – so she would often talk about her mother and her Indian heritage, but predominantly what we heard was about her being a black American rather than an Indian American.  Now, of course, the jury will always be out on this, okay? 

MS HSU:  Yes.   

QUESTION:  So – but I want to see as a strategy or as somebody looking at Asian American attitudes over so many years, where is this coming from?  Of course, I understand the politics.  Of course, I understand the word bank that’s there.  There must be something more to this.  The framing of oneself or one’s identity, especially when you’re multiracial, as this or that, and the strategies behind it, it’s an open question.  And like I said, it’s not just nearly political, although here, it is.  Yeah, that’s my question.  Thank you.   

MS HSU:  So I’ve read a bit about Kamala Harris’ biography, and I can see – I mean, and this is also inferring from the literature I’ve read about African American mothers trying to raise their children and particularly their sons, or trying to prepare your child for the world that they will encounter.  And unfortunately, physiognomy counts for a lot in people’s perceptions.  And I can see Kamala Harris’s mother – Kamala Harris is raised in the Bay Area.  African American community is very, very well developed there.  The Indian American population is now very, very sizable.  But at the time of Kamala Harris growing up would not have been that large, that her mother, I think, also in part because of her own political values, but also preparing Kamala Harris, raises her to identify and to be aware of and understand her father’s African American community.  This also is complicated because her father was also, I think, a immigrant from the Caribbean, right?  And so that sort of historical trajectory is also somewhat different, but it is in a way preparing Kamala for a world as they knew it then.   

Since then there have been many transformations.  For one, there’s just been sort of a huge increase in terms of Indian immigration.  There’s also been, I think, a forging of a greater acknowledgment and acceptance of mixed-race people.  So it’s worth bearing in mind that miscegenation laws were not cast out by the Supreme Court until 1967.  But then we, I think, still have not figured out exactly how we negotiate and how we sort of count, how do we register people who are of mixed-race ancestry.  

But I think what I proposed earlier, which is this emphasis on the relational histories and relational approaches, allows us not to sort of box people into either/or situations.  It allows us to try to emphasize and explore the kinds of shared causes and experiences, ways of trying to sort of find pathways in the United States as sort of physiognomically racialized persons, but in ways that don’t set us apart from people who may be categorized in different ways.  And so it is an effort to try to forge sort of a common ground and understanding.  But so that’s – but it is tricky, because we haven’t yet developed those stories and those narratives.  And Kamala Harris represents, I think, a tremendous opportunity to try to explore and see what those stories, what those particular versions of Americanness can be, but we haven’t developed those stories yet. 

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Thanks for taking that question.  Yeah.  Thank you, Jen. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  If there are no other questions, over to Dr. Hsu for some closing remarks.

MS HSU: Ah, closing remarks.  Okay.  So I’m very glad to have had this opportunity to speak with members of the foreign press.  I think if you do have follow-up questions, I welcome you to get in touch with me or to check out some of the resources I have listed o the final slide of my PowerPoint.  It is – and what I was attempting to do in this discussion was to just direct you to sort of overarching themes in Asian American history, how the Asian American population has really been extensively shaped by immigration regulations and particular racialized views of Asian Americans.  But the real meat and the real sort of fascinating stories actually come from Asian Americans themselves, their stories.  I encourage you to seek them out and to just learn about those particularities, because what I think you will find is that Asian Americans, like pretty much every other American, has a story about migration, about adapting, sort of about their U.S.-born children that then faced different circumstances.  But these are sort of very rich stories and they’re very classically American stories, just sort of the details may be somewhat different.  And so I hope I encourage you to go and learn more about these populations.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will make Dr.  Hsu’s presentation available to the attendees after we conclude.  On behalf of the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Press Center, I’d like to thank Dr. Hsu for sharing your expertise today with the foreign press.  And this concludes today’s briefing.  Thank you and good afternoon. 

MS HSU:  Thank you. 

U.S. Department of State

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