The New Chinatown
The fascinating saga of the struggles and triumphs of America's
immigrant life, is a testimony to the human need to be free and the endless possibilities realized within the spirit of that freedom.
"The New Chinatown" chronicles the many facets of the Chinese
immigrant life, of New York city's China town, and its uniqueness to other America Chinatowns. Mainly because of the working class
nature of the Chinese immigrants it attracted.
Kwong sets the stage, making the distinction between what he refers
to as the "down town and uptown Chinese" [working class immigrants and the privileged Immigrants] relative to the 1970s census misconceptions.
In this piece, Peter Kwong dispels the many myths and stereo types of the Chinese Immigrant. He then gives us a first-rate education on the origins of the
many flavors of Chinese who immigrated to this area: their apprehension in their new land of the larger out side society, which hemmed them into
oppressed working conditions in the comfort zone of Chinatown.
Dispelling the stereotypical notion of docility, they would eventually organize and fight for better wages
and working conditions, in the restaurants and the garment industries. Joining outside minority groups they fought the high cost of housing, in lower Manhattan. In this China microcosm called New
...New York's Chinatown population before the
1970s consisted only of immigrants from Kwangtung and Hong Kong, but since then it
has drawn Cantonese-speaking people from around the world.
At the end of the Vietnamese war thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians of
Chinese decent who spoke Chinese and
originally came from Kwangtung, came to
Chinatown. Cantonese speaking Chinese from
Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jamaica,
Cuba, Brazil ... found their way to New York. The Funkinese another major overseas Chinese group many of who were sailors have
followed the Cantonese to this country....
New York's Chinatown is somewhat different
than that of other cities. Because of it's large
manual labor and service jobs, New York's China tends to pre-select immigrants of working class origins much more than other American Chinatowns.
Chinese with professional and technical
skills prefer California or Hawaii, where there are already establish communities of Chinese Professionals.... Very few immigrants who came in the 1970s have prospered...
But the image of wide spread success persists. The notion began with the publication of the 1970 census.
It made available for the first time significant statistics on the Chinese in America.
The general public was surprised to learn that
Chinese had a higher education level and a higher percentage in professional fields than the national average. What was believed most impressive was the short period of time it took to attain those accomplishments. Thus, the Chinese American has
emerged as a "model minority."
The discovery of this model has reaffirm the effectiveness of the American melting pot and it's application to nonwhite minorities.
This has been particularly appealing to conservatives
who promote free enterprise and limited government...
Others like Black economist Thomas Sowell have
argued that since the Chinese succeeded, other
minorities should not be given preferential treatment,
lest they loose their incentive to succeed on their own.
Unfortunately, to identify the Chinese as a model
minority is to ignore the complex diversity of Chinese
This ignorance is understandable. For most of
American history the Chinese have been numerically
insignificant: for more than a century, their communi-
ties existed as isolated entities within cities
....On one hand the Chinese were considered to be
docile, law abiding , hard working, steeped in Confu-
cian traditions (whatever that means)....On the other
hand there was also a sinister association of Chinese
with drugs, gambling and tong wars.
The first step in untangling this confusion is to recall the distinction between the uptown and downtown Chinese.
The two groups are quite distinct according to1980
census the downtown Chinese who resided in New York's China-town has much lower median household incomes, a higher percentage of people below the poverty line (24.7 percent compared to 17.2 percent for
New York city overall), and an exceptionally high percent of people without high school diplomas (71.4 percent).
These Chinese rarely come in contact with other
groups....The uptown Chinese in contrast, are a model
minority -- educated, well off, and professionally trained.
...These uptown Chinese of Taiwanese origin posses-
sed a first-class education before they came to the
United States. They were able to move into relatively
high income professional careers after further study
here. They did not start from scratch. To suggest that
they made it by quickly moving upward misrepresents
It is they who have had such a strong influence on the
census statistics concerning education, income and
professions. The figures
would be even more impressive had it not include downtown Chinese.
In other words the Chinese population in this country is polarized. By focusing on averages for the Chinese, the
census figures obscure the real situation.
Chinatown still represents the highest concentration
of Chinese in New York the success of these immigrants has seen expansion into areas like Flushing, Queens, New York. Where they continue to make even
more impressive gains in education and carve out their space in mainstream America.
"Parsing Asian Americans" This Site is a great base of information for Asians and none-Asians alike.
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