Fong - The First Suburban Chinatown

Fong - The First Suburban Chinatown - NEW IMMIGRANTS AND...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–12. Sign up to view the full content.

Image of page 1

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 2
Image of page 3

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 4
Image of page 5

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 6
Image of page 7

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 8
Image of page 9

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 10
Image of page 11

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 12
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: NEW IMMIGRANTS AND THE DlLEMMAS OF ADJUSTMENT The First Suburban Chinatown: The Remaking of Monterey Park, California Timothy P. Fong A New and Dynamic Community On an early morning walk to Barnes Memo— rial Park, one can see dozens of elderly Chi- nese performing their daily movement exer- cises under the guidance of an experienced leader. Other seniors stroll around the perim— eter of the park; still others sit on benches watching the activity around them or reading a Chinese—language newspaper. By now children are making their way to school, their backpacks bulging with books. They talk to each other in both English and Chinese, but mostly English. Many are going to Ynez Elementary, the oldest school in town. When a nearby coin laundry opens its doors for business, all three television sets are turned on: one is tuned to a Spanish novella, another to a cable channel’s Chinese news- cast, and the third to Bryant Gumbel and the Today show. Up the street from the park a home with a small stone carved Buddha and several stone pagodas in the well-tended frontyard is an at— tractive sight. The large tree that provides af— ternoon shade for the house has a yellow rib— bon tied around its trunk, a symbol of sup- port for American troops fighting in the Per— sian Gulf. On the porch an American flag is tied to a crudely constructed flagpole. Next to it, taped to the front door, Chinese characters read “Happiness” and “Long Life” to greet visitors. These sights and sounds are of interest not because they represent the routine of life in an ethnic neighborhood but because they signal the transformation of an entire city. Monterey Park, California, a rapidly grow- ing, rapidly changing community of 60,000 residents, is located just eight miles east of downtown Los Angeles. An influx of immi— grants primarily from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the People’s Republic of China has made Monterey Park the only city in the continen— tal United States the majority of whose resi- dents are of Asian background. According to the 1990 census, Asians make up 56 percent of the city’s population, followed by Hispan— ics with 31 percent, and whites with 12 per— cent.‘ In the early 19805 Monterey Park was na- tionally recognized for its liberal attitude to— ward newcomers. In fact, on June 13, 1983, New Immigrants and the Dilemmas ofAdjustment 369 Time magazine featured a photograph of the city council as representative of a successful suburban melting pot. The caption read, “Middle—class Monterey Park’s multiethnic city council: two Hispanics, a Filipino, a Chi- nese, and, in the rear, an Anglo.”2 Another na— tional public relations coup came in 1985 when the National Municipal League and the newspaper USA Today named Monterey Park an “All-America City” for its programs to welcome immigrants to the community.3 Nicknamed “City with a Heart,” it took great pride in being a diverse and harmonious community. But despite these accolades, there were signs that the melting pot was about to boil over. Tensions had begun to simmer with the ar— rival in the late 19705 ofChinese immigrants, many of whom were affluent and well edu— cated. New ethnic—oriented businesses sprang up to accommodate them: nearly all the business signs on Atlantic Boulevard, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, con- spicuously displayed Chinese characters with only token English translations. In 1985, the same year Monterey Park received its “All—America” award, some three thousand residents signed a petition attempting to get an “Official English” initiative on the munici— pal ballot; a local newspaper printed an arti- cle accusing the Chinese ofbeing bad drivers; and cars displayed bumper stickers asking, “Will the Last American to Leave Monterey Park Please Bring the Flag?”4 In April 1986 the two Latinos and the Chi— nese American on the city council were de- feated in their bids for reelection. Voted into office were three white candidates, one a pro- ponent of controlled growth, the other two closely identified with the official—English movement in Monterey Park and the state. In June the new council passed Resolution 9004, which, among other things, called for English to be the official language ofthe United States of America.5 Though the resolution was purely symbolic and carried no legal weight, it was immediately branded as a deliberate 370 Multiculturalism in the United States slap at the city’s Chinese and Latino popula- tion. Undaunted, the council continuedto take controversial actions that critics labeled “anti—Chinese,” among them adopting a broad moratorium on new construction and firing the city planning commission that had ‘ approved many Chinese—financed develop- ments. But it was rejection of the plans pro- posed by a Taiwanese group to build a senior . housing project that prompted a rare display 7 of public protest by the usually apolitical 7‘ Chinese community. Four hundred people, : mostly elderly Chinese, marched to CityHall carrying American flags and signs reading, “Stop Racism,” “We Are Americans T00,” and “End Monterey Park Apartheid.”6 These high—profile controversies, lasting L throughout the 19805 were not isolated orin- ‘ cidental cases of cultural conflict. Indeed, . events in this community have received pub- licity in local, national, and even interna- ‘ tional media; recently, scholars too have be- I come interested in Monterey Park, focusing primarily on ethnic politics and race rela- ' ' tions.7 Close study of the community is im- portant for several reasons. To begin with, L ‘ Monterey Park’s Chinese residents reflect the changing pattern of Chinese immigration na- ‘ tionwide. Chinese newcomers to Monterey Park and elsewhere are not analogous to the historically persecuted and oppressed male laborers who came to this country in the mid—nineteenth century; they are men and women generally much better educated and more affluent than either their Chinese pre- decessors or their white counterparts.8 Fur- ther, similar demographic and economic _ changes are occurring not just in Monterey Park but throughout southern California’s San Gabriel Valley and Orange County, and in the northern California cities of San Fran- cisco, Mountain View, and San Jose. In- creasing Chinese influence is felt also in New York City’s boroughs of Manhattan and Queens (particularly Flushing), in Houston, Texas, and Orlando, Florida. Outside the United States, recent examples of a rapid in- t popula— inued to :5 labeled )pting a :tion and that had develop— lans pro— la senior e display [political 1 people, City Hall reading, foo,” and ;, lasting :ed or in- Indeed, ved pub— interna— have be— focusing ace rela-- ty is im~- ;in with, zflect the ition na- {onterey us to the Led male y in the nen and ated and rese pre— ts.8 Fur— :onomic Ionterey ifornia’s nty, and in Fran- ose. In— ) in New an and [ouston, :ide the apid in— flux of Chinese people and capital are found in Sydney, Australia, and in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada? Next, because demographic change and economic development issues have created a complex controversy in Monterey Park, the intersection of ethnic, racial, and class con- flict shows up quite clearly there. One promi— nent aspect of the social, economic, and po— litical dynamics in Monterey Park is the popular call for controlled growth combined with a narrow nativist, anti—Chinese, anti— immigrant tone in debates that crossed eth— nic lines throughout the community. And again, these developments too are relevant nationwide, occurring as they did at a time of increasing concern over immigration: over statistics showing that almost 90 percent of all legal immigrants coming to the United States since 1981 have been from non—Euro— pean countries,” and over the numbers of undocumented immigrants crossing the southern US borders. Documented and un- documented immigrants are rapidly chang— ing the face of many urban centers. Finally, the conflicts in Monterey Park took place in a period of increased anti—Asian sentiment and violence. Debate occasioned by the large trade deficit between the United States and Japan, suspicion raised by large Asian investments throughout the nation, and envy generated by repeated headlines about Asian superachievers in education all fueled the fires of resentment throughout the 19805. The 1982 killing of Vincent Chin in Detroit, a widely cited act of anti—Asian vio— lence, prompted a US. Commission on Civil Rights investigation.11 The commission con- cluded that the upswing in animosity toward Asians reflected a perception that all Asian Americans, immigrants, and refugees are “foreigners” and as such are responsible for the economic woes of this country.12 This study of Monterey Park examines the evolution of conflict in the city and locates the beginnings of its recovery from internal strife and unwanted negative media atten- tion. I argue that what was generally seen by the media and outsiders as a “racial” conflict was in fact a class conflict. At the same time, I demonstrate the highly charged saliency of ethnicity and race in the political arena and show how they were used to obscure class in— terests and to further political interests. Effects of Chinese Immigration As the influx of Chinese to Monterey Park be— gan, most community leaders and residents compared the newcomers with the Ameri- can-born Japanese nisei who had moved to the community twenty years earlier and quickly assimilated. Together they welcomed the Chinese as yet another group of hard— working people who would naturally be more than happy to settle into the established wholesome life of the community. But be— cause these Chinese were new immigrants, expectations for their immediate assimila— tion proved unrealistic, and several areas of friction developed—involving business and social organizations, schools, and even super— markets. Divided Organizations When it became obvious that no one could stop the influx of Chinese immigrants to the community, Eli Isenberg wrote a con— ciliatory column in December 1977 titled, “A Call for Open Arms,” which was later trans— lated into Chinese and republished in the [Monterey Park] Progress: Twenty years ago, Monterey Park became a pres— tige community for Japanese. At first they settled in Monterey Hills. Today they live throughout and are active in the community. They were in- vited and accepted invitations to become in- volved. Today George Ige is our mayor, Keiji Higashi, a past president of chamber of com— merce, is president—elect of Rotary. Fifty other Japanese men and women serve on advisory boards and in other leadership roles. New Immigrants and the Dilemmas ofAdjustment 371 Today we must offer the same hand of friend— ship to our new Chinese neighbors. They should be invited to join service clubs, serve on advisory boards, become involved in little theater and PTA. . . .To become and stay a good community, there must be a structured effort to assimilate all those who want to become a part of Monterey Park. The city itself should coordinate this effort through the community relations commission and call on all organizations in Monterey Park to play their part in offering a hand of friendship to - 13 our new neighbors. lsenberg may have written partly in re— sponse to the formation of an independent Monterey Park Chinese Chamber of Com- merce in September l977—much to the cha— grin of the original chamber. A great deal of animosity and criticism were leveled at this separate group for their reluctance to cooper— ate with established merchants. Shortly after lsenberg’s column appeared, a series ofmeet— ings between the two groups resulted in the admission of the Chinese organization to the regular city Chamber of Commerce and the formation of a new Chinese American com— mittee. “Helping keep the doors open was Fred Hsieh,” recalls Isenberg. “Fred played an important role in maintaining an integrated Monterey Park Chamber of Commerce.“4 After the proposed “Chinatown theme” was rejected in 1978, however, some dissatis— fied Chinese business people resurrected the idea ofa separate Chinese business organiza— tion and grumbled about other aspects of their chamber membership. For one thing, few of the Chinese businessmen spoke much English and could understand little of what was being said during meetings. Chinese merchants also resented having to seek chamber approval for business decisions; they wanted more autonomy. Furthermore, unlike Frederic Hsieh, most of the Chinese saw little to be gained by interacting with es— tablished merchants who, they felt, were an— tagonistic. Though they remained in the 372 Multiculturalism in the United States chamber, the tension was not resolved, and flare—ups periodically occurred. The Lions Club was even less successful at amalgamating with the newcomers. In the , early 19805 an ad hoc group ofChinese asked , Lions Club International to charter the Little ' Taipei Lions Club in Monterey Park. Given the historical prestige of the Lions Club in Monterey Park, its aging and dwindling membership was embarrassed by the forma- tion of a separate club. Although they for- mally voted to sponsor the Chinese Lions or- ganization in 1985, there was a great deal of reluctance. “The effort to recreate Little Tai- pei in Southern California,” says Joseph Graves, was “unfortunate”: “We would infi- , * nitely rather they had joined the existing, strong, long—time club with traditions.” Graves spoke with pride of the original club’s accomplishments, such as “screening all the children’s eyes in Monterey Park. . . . [And] it looks like about 50 percent to 60 percent are Oriental?”5 The projects ofthe Little Taipei Lions Club have been admirable, as well. Twice a year, during Chinese New Year’s Day and on y 1 Thanksgiving, it sponsors a free lunch for se- nior citizens in Monterey Park’s Langley Center, and it has raised considerable money for various non-profit organizations in the community——for example, making major donations to the city’s public library to pur- chase Chinese—language books. But Graves objects that the Little Taipei Lions Club just . gives out money rather than organizing work projects: “The Lions Club believed in the idea - ofgoing down and pouring cement to builda , Memorial Bowl, or hammering nails to the , roof of the pavilion at the park,” he insists. “As older members, we look down our noses ' i ‘ at any organization that doesn’t get their ‘ hands dirty.”10 In the mid—19805 the Monterey Park ., i Kiwanis Club refused to sponsor a separate Chinese chapter, but one was formed anyway _ i To persistent rumors that a Chinese Rotary . Club would soon be organized as well, esolved, and successful at mers. In the hinese asked ‘ter the Little Park. Given ions Club in l dwindling y the forma— gh they for- ese Lions or— great deal of tte Little Tai— says Joseph 3 would infi— the existing, traditions.” riginal club’s sening all the 1.. . . [And] it 0 percent are ei Lions Club Twice a year, Day and on lunch for se— rk’s Langley arable money ations in the aking major brary to pur— . But Graves ans Club just anizing work 'ed in the idea tent to build a g nails to the k,” he insists. wn our noses ;n’t get their )nterey Park or a separate ‘med anyway. tinese Rotary Zed as well, long—time Rotary member Eli Isenberg re— sponded in 1985: “Apartheid, whether in South Africa or in service clubs in Monterey Park, is a giant step back.” In a tone quite dif— ferent from that of his 1977 “Call for Open Arms,” he continued: “Asians do not have a Constitutional right to form service clubs where they will be comfortable with mem- bers oftheir kind. All service clubs, from their international, should ban this happening. Provided, of course, that the Anglo clubs are willing to accept Asians as is the case in Monterey Park.”[7 Little Taipei Lions Club members inter— viewed during their Thanksgiving day lun— cheon in 1990, however, denied that they are separatist. While passing out plates ofturkey and trimmings to senior citizens, many said they meant no disrespect toward the estab— lished Lions Club and had no intention of competing with it in service to the commu— nity. As a master of ceremonies in the back— ground called out winning door prize num— bers in both English and Chinese, one member asserted that there was plenty of room for both clubs. Another member found nothing surprising about preferring to be with people his own age who spoke his lan— guage: “What is wrong with a service club that happens to be sensitive and in touch with the Chinese community?” Angered by any perception that the Little Taipei Lions Club serves only the Chinese, he added: “Look around you. There are lots ofdifferent people here. We happily serve them [all]. . . . But we do things for the Chinese in this city that no one else would.”18 Bilingual Education The impact of the newcomers on the local schools also generated a great deal oftension. Brightwood Elementary School is located in the heart of one of the most heavily concen— trated Asian sections in Monterey Park (cen— sus tract 4820.02), and surrounded by well maintained middle—class homes built in the 19505. In early 1978 a Chinese bilingual edu— cation plan initiated at Brightwood School opened what the PTA president called “a bucket of worms.”19 On Ianuary 21, 1974, the United States Su— preme Court had ruled in the landmark Lau v. Nichols case that the San Francisco Unified School District had failed to provide neces— sary assistance to nearly 2,000 Chinese American students who did not speak Eng— lish. The district was ordered to implement “appropriate relief,” subject to approval by the court. This precedent—setting case estab- lished bilingual education in public schools for students who speak limited or no Eng— lish.2O In 1976 the school district of which Brightwood was a part was cited by the De— partment of Health, Education and Welfare’s Office of Civil Rights for having an inade— quate English—as—a—second language (ESL) program. The department ruled that affir— mative steps should be taken to correct the language deficiency of many minority chil- dren, in order to give them equal educational opportunity. The district complied the fol— lowing year with a Spanish bilingual pro- gram in elementary and secondary schools and planned to phase in a Chinese bilingual program in 1978. The proposal divided the Brightwood School—which was 70 percent Asian at the time—along English— and non—English— speaking lines. The plan called for all stu— dents from kindergarten to third grade to be taught in Chinese andEnglish. Opposition to the program was led by American—born par— ents of Japanese and Chinese ancestry who were fearful that implementation would im— pede their children‘s educational progress in the future. Some threatened to take their chil- dren out of Brightwood and place them in private schools, or move them out ofthe dis— trict entirely. Supporters of the plan, mostly immigrant parents, welcomed bilingual edu- cation because they believed it would help their children maintain their native language New Immigrants and the Dilemmas ofAdjustment 373 and provide them with emotional and psy— chological support and the acceptance they needed within a new environment. A small third group of more moderate parents sup— ported bilingual education but wanted the district to consider a “transitional” program that would instruct children in their native language but at the same time teach them enough English to allow their eventual trans— fer to a regular classroom. During meetings to discuss the plan, the debate became intense. “Let them talk Eng— lish,” cried out one angry mother. “Why don’t they leave the whole damn school as it is?”21 Eventually, even supporters of the program asked the school board to delay implementa— tion until the district could provide parents with more information and options. The de— lay was granted, and the bilingual program at Brightwood School did not start until earl...
View Full Document

  • Spring '09
  • Any

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern