{[ promptMessage ]}

Bookmark it

{[ promptMessage ]}

asian - CHAPTER 14 Because the image of Asians as...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–19. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 1

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
Image of page 3

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 4
Image of page 5

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 6
Image of page 7

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 8
Image of page 9

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 10
Image of page 11

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 12
Image of page 13

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 14
Image of page 15

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 16
Image of page 17

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

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 18
Image of page 19
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER 14 Because the image of Asians as “foreigners" is per- vasive, it is easy to forget that Asians have been a significant presence in the United States for more than a century. Chinese, mostly male laborers, dom- inated the first large-scale Asian immigration to the United States from the 18503 to 18805. Japanese male laborers replaced these Chinese as a result of antimChinese agitation and violence throughout the western United States in the early 19003. The Fil- ipino population in the United States rose rapidly between 1920 and 1930. With the 1965 immigra- tion law that abolished the quota system, there has been a dramatic increase in Asian immigration in the past three decades (Immigration and Natural- ization Service, 1995). Prominent among the new arrivals have been Koreans and Southeast Asian refugees. Today, the term Asian American applies to mem- bers of over 28 subgroups who have been classified as a single group because of their common ethnic origins in Asia, similar physical appearance, and simflar cultural values (Barringer, Gardner, & Levin, 1993). The classification of a multitude of groups under the single rubric of Asian American masks important differences among and within groups. Asian Americans are culturally and experi- entially diverse; they differ in immigration experi- ences (Chan, 1991; Takaki, 1989), occupational skills (Shu & Satele, 1977), cultural values and beliefs (Kitano & Daniels, 1988), religion, primary language, income, education, average age (Bar— ringer et al., 1993; Jiobu, 1988), and ethnic identity (Ishii-Kuntz, 1994c; Sue & Kirk, 1973). Their fam- ilies’ experiences vary considerably by ethnic back- ground, class, gender, sexual orientation, and age (Ishii-Kuntz, 1997a, 1997c). To speak of the Asian 274 Diversity Within Asian American Families MASAKO ISHll—KUNTZ American family is to ignore the great diversity in the forms, lifestyles, and experiences of such fami. lies. This chapter focuses on the complexities and similarities within American families of Asian ancestry and discusses how the family experiences of the various Asian-origin groups are and have been systematically influenced by gender, class, ethnic- ity, and other dimensions of social stratification. PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON FAMILY DIVERSITY Western observers have commonly thought of Japanese families as traditional, with a sharp divi- sion of labor between husbands and wives and a strong emphasis on interdependence among family members. However, my own family experiences in Japan Were different from the expectations sur- rounding the “typical” Japanese family. Although my father had an extremely demanding full-time job, he actively participated in child care and house- w0rk while my mother spent most of her time pur— suing her career. My parents also encouraged me to be self-suffi- cient, rather than dependent on them. Lunch mak- ing was a good example of this emphasis through- out my childhood. In Japan, making obentas (boxed lunches) is one of the most important tasks of moth- ers. Customarily, these obentos are highly crafted elaborations of food: a multitude of miniature por- tions, artistically designed and precisely arranged, in a container that is sturdy and cute. Many mothers are dedicated to making nutritional and tasty-look— ing obenros for their children’s school lunches (Allison, 1991). Japanese women who can make beautiful obentos are often considered to be “good” uH~HAH—— E’rfi‘flbnua‘m ersity in ch faint; lies and r Asian eriences we been ethnic- Lion. lght of E1) divi- t and a family nces in is sur— though ll—tirne house- 1e pur— F—suffi- 1 mak- rough- boxed moth— rafted e por- urged, others look- uches make good” DiverSltY Within Asian American Families mothers. In fact, some child care centers have abentc photo contests to award mothers who can make the most nutritional and appealing lunches for their children. Japanese women’s magazines are = , also filled with photos and recipes of the most attractive obento menus for children. I was perhaps the only child in my Japanese ele- mentary school who prepared her or his own obem‘o because my mother refused to participate in this art. As a child, I was well aware of the unattractive appearance of my obento and was sometimes too embarrassed to open my lunch at school. Looking back, however, it was not the appearance of my obento that I was worried about, but the negative impression that my obento gave my teachers and peers about my mother. In Japanese society. where “uniqueness” is not readily accepted and appreci— ated (Chiba, 1985), my obem‘o symbolized the out— of—group orientation of my family life. My embar— rassment about obentos, however, disappeared quickly when I moved to the United States in my teens. I still remember how happy I was to see my new American friends eating a variety of lunches, none as attractive as the obentos of my peers in Japan. As I was discovering the diversity of American society initially through school lunches, I also became acutely aware of my Asian heritage. I was no longer part of the majority. In Japan, I always thought that my parents were different from other Japanese parents, but I discovered that they were also different from the parents of my American friends. For example, my parents never expressed their concerns and opinions about any school- related issues, such as the assignment of teachers. I sometimes wondered why some children changed teachers at the beginning of the school year. I soon discovered that it was possible for them to do so because their parents complained to the school principal, whereas my parents would never have thought of doing such a thing. My encounters with family diversity continued during my college years in Washington state, when I started making American friends of Asian ances- try. The Asian American student association to which I belonged consisted not only of Japanese Americans but of students with Chinese, Korean, and Filipino backgrounds. Although we shared a sense of being a minority in the United States, the heritage our ancestors brought to the United States was richly diverse. Asian Americans are often clas- sified as a group with similar physical features and cultural values, but each Asian American group brings with it diverse family experiences. Despite the model—minority image surrounding Asian Americans (Kitano & Daniels, 1988), some of my Asian American friends came from poor families, and others never excelled academically. At the same time, despite the ideal image of tight-knit Asian families (Ishii—Kuntz, 1997a, I997c), a good num- ber of my Asian American friends’ parents were divorced or separated. Furthermore, although the image of obedient Asian American children was prevalent, many of my Asian American peers had severe conflicts with their parents. My personal experiences, therefore, helped me realize the super~ ficial nature of the images that the American public has of Asian Americans and their families. These early experiences had a significant impact on my decision to become a sociologist with a strong interest in diverse family lives. As a sociolo- gist and an Asian immigrant in the United States, I felt compelled to study diverse family experiences among Asian Americans. Moreover, I felt responsi- ble for debunking various myths surrounding Asian Americans and their families so that the American public, educators, and practitioners could gain a better understanding of the rich heritage of, as well as the history of discrimination against, Asian Americans. THEORETICAL APPROACHES TO STU DYING ASIAN AMERICAN FAMILIES Social anthropologists view behavior as a manifes- tation of, or a vehicle for conveying, culture (Lebra, 1982). In the past, Asian American families were frequently studied using this cultural perspective, which dates back to the teaching of Cunfucianism (see Glenn & Yap, 1994; Takagi, 1994). Many anthropological studies (see, for example. Cauclill, 1952; Connor, 1976) have focused on how the con- 276 tinuity of Asian cultural values shaped Asian Amer- ican family relationships and contributed to Asian Americans’ work ethic. Such values include famil- ism, which emphasizes the importance of family over the individual, and filial piety, which enforces respect for the elderly and reverence for tradition. Cultural theorists have pointed to the low divorce rates among Asian Americans and close ties between generations (shown in high rates of inter- generational coresidence) as indicators of family stability, and they have argued that these patterns can be explained by the continuity of such unique Asian cultural values as familism and filial piety. Cultural explanations have been used to study Asian American families much more frequently than African American and Latino families, which have been studied primarily from historical, eco— nomic, and political perspectives (Stanfield, 1993). The cultural approach reflects an assimilationist bias in the study of race relations, and it is extremely limited for studying diversity within Asian American families, primarily because of its tendency to view culture as a constant, rather than a variable that changes across historical periods and over generations. Cultural theorists have argued that since Asian Americans share the unique cul— tural heritage rooted in Confucianism, they are likely to have similar family experiences. For exam- ple, the prevalence of three—generational house— holds among many Asian American populations can he seen as a manifestation of the important Confucianistic concept of filial piety. Yet Asian __ American family experiences are diverse because they have been influenced by such factors as socio- economic status, immigration history, generational status, age, gender, and nativity, to name just a few. In contrast to a cultural theory, a critical theory that focuses on the constraints imposed on Asian American families takes into account the legal, political, and institutional structures surrounding Asian Americans and their families (Glenn & Yap, 1994; Takagi, 1994). Using this perspective, we can examine how such factors as immigration policies and institutional structures that control labor mar- kets have influenced the formation, functions, struc- tures, and relationships of Asian American families. A critical perspective differs from a cultural per- RACIAL, ETHNIC, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES 1N FAMlLlES spective in the following four ways. First, a criticai theory argues for understanding Asian American families in their social and historical contexts_ when':."' . ' ' we examine the social and historical contexts, We; ' must consider a set of interrelated factors, such as. ' race, gender, class, and other forms of stratification, ' Second, unlike a cultural theory, which views Asian American families as cohesive and Stable units, a critical theory views families as a frequent source of conflict. In her study of Issei (first—gener- ation) and Nisei (second-generation) domestic workers, Glenn (1986) described a contradictory experience of Japanese American women. The Japanese American family is a social unit that must 'struggle against external forces like racism; thus, all family members must work together to fight against discrimination. At the same time, however, the farm. iiy is an organization that subjugates women by placing them at the bottom of the family hierarchy and authority. This contradictory experience of Japanese American women has created conflict in their families. Third, because a cultural theory has been used to explain the “success” stories of Asian Americans, it considers assimilation to be the ultimate goal of immigrants. Stated another way, a cultural theory defines the “success” of immigrants in terms of the immigrants’ level of assimilation and acculturation into the mainstream culture. Instead of focusing on the “success” aspect of Asian Americans, a critical theory explains why it is difficult for some groups of Asian Americans to achieve economic parity with European Americans. Fourth, whereas a cul— tural theory aims to explain the common experi- ences among Asian Americans, a critical theory allows us to examine the diversity that exists within Asian American families and the various changes that are taking place in Asian American families. Cultural and critical theories can be further c0n- trasted in terms of the gender relations in Asian American families. Assuming a continuity of val- ues, cultural theorists view gender hierarchies as a reflection of Confucianistic values that emphasize men’s superiority and women’s obedience to their husbands. This theory, however, falls short of explaining why, among some Asian American groups like Japanese Americans, there has been a fan fur are sh; spr tio the is: ,acduuu American xts.When- rtexts, Wei-:- 5, such as " .tification, ' ich views nd stable tfrequent rst—gener. domestic tradictory men. The that must I; thus,all ht against ,the fam— omen by hierarchy ience of onflict in u used to :ricans, it : goal of a1 theory 11s of the llturation :using on a critical e groups ic parity as a cul- 1 experi- Ll theory ts within changes nilies. her con- in Asian J of val- hies as a 1phasize to their short of merican ; been a .' Diversity Within Asian American Families trend toward more egalitarian relations between wives and husbands (Espiritu, 1996; Ishii—Kuntz, 1997c; Takagi, 1994). Using a critical perspective, I argue that the gender hierarchy that has existed in Asian American families has been a product of such factors as husbands’ and wives’ differential earning power and a gender gap in educational attainment. ' Historical evidence indicates that changes in family structure and relationships have been driving forces in the lessening of gender inequality in the home. For example, more than 40,000 Japanese on the Pacific Coast, along with their 70,000 American— born children—"who were U.S. citizens—were removed from their homes and incarcerated in “relocation camps” during World War II. As a con- sequence, the economic and social basis for Issei men’s authority and security was abruptly taken away, which ironically gave many Japanese Ameri- can wives and daughters more freedom and power than they had before-the incarceration (Broom & Kitsuse, 1956; Nakano, 1990). From a critical perspective, Asian American families play an active role in maintaining family functions and relations. Individual family members are not only the recipients of various legal, political, and institutional forces, but active participants in shaping their family lives. In adopting a critical per— spective, I challenge several traditional assump tions of Asian American families. First, I question the view that Asian American families exist in their own tight-knit communities and are thus immune to “outside” forces, since it is known, for example, that Asian American families have been greatly influenced by restrictive immigration laws and the history of racial discrimination. Second, I assume that individual family members play an active role in forming and shaping their families. Rather than simply having inherited cultural values, Asian Americans have actively and skillfully used their cultural heritage as resources for survival. Third, I challenge the image of Asian American families as being ideal and free of conflicts. Recent research (see Espiritu, 1996) has shown that interest and investments in the family are not equal among fam— ily members. Conflicts arise over many family issues, including the division of household labor and child care (Takagi, 1994). 277 The challenges of a critical perspective against the traditional views of Asian American families are in line with feminist critiques of family studies (see Ferree, 1990; Glenn, 1987; Thompson & Walker, 1989). Feminist scholars have stressed that families are neither separate from wider systems of male domination nor automatically solitary in their own right (Ferree, 1990). Furthermore, feminist per- spectives are extremely helpful and useful in under- standing a variety of Asian American family expe- riences. The proposition that gender is continuously being constructed to advance a variety of individual and group goals is central to West and Zimmer- man’s (1987) concept of “doing gender.” According to this View, being a man or woman socially is not a natural or inevitable outgrowth of biological fea— tures, but an achievement of routinized conduct. For example, a father who actively participates in child care may have little in common with other men who are not involved with their children, although they are both men biologically. Instead, these involved fathers may think and behave in ways similar to women who “mother” (Risman, 1987). Similarly, Asian American family experiences are constructed through members’ daily interaction with each other and with people in the outside world. Just because one is born into an Asian Amer- ican family does not mean that one’s values, beliefs, and family experiences will be identical to those of other Asian Americans. Rather, these experiences are constructed by social and historical situations that surround the families because these situations provide the concrete resources and constraints that shape family interactions. Feminist perspectives are critical in that they view families as fully integrated into wider systems of economic and political power and recognize the sometimes conflicting interests of family members. Perhaps the only diversion of fem— inist perspectives from that of a critical theory is the feminists’ focus on gender as a central tool with which to study family interaction and relationships. DEFINITION OF FAMILY Families encompass a wide range of experiences and issues, so it is extremely difficult to provide a single definition of family. The difficulty is rooted I l . 3 I I 278 in the fact that even though every person is a mem- ber of a family (if only in a biological sense), there is no universal definition of the family. This diffi— culty is particularly evident when families are viewed cross-culturally because there is a substan- tial variety in family arrangements worldwide. In light of this variability, it is important to define fam- ily as broadly as possible to encompass diverse experiences. Most official definitions of family emphasize blood ties, adoption, or marriage as criteria for membership and value the functions of procreation and socialization of ofisPring. The US. Bureau of the Census (quoted in Barringer et al., 1993, p. 136) uses the term family to mean “a group of two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together in a household.” This definition is extremely limited when one considers various fam- ily forms that exist in difierent cultures and subcul- tures. For example, many Americans form families without legal marriage, and in other countries, such as Brazil, the Constitution recognizes that a family arrangement can exist outside legal marriage (Goldani, 1990). In many families, the members do not necessarily reside together in the same house— holds, as exemplified by Japanese salaried men who live apart from their families owing to their frequent relocation (Ishii-Kuntz, 1993, 1994a). In addition, Asian Americans frequently accommodate recently immigrated distant relatives or fiiends into their households (Chan, 1991). Thus, a definition of fam— ily that is based on strict membership criteria and .. specific functions excludes many of primary groups that have family—like qualities, including child-free couples; couples whose children no longer live at home; and unmarried heterosexual, gay, or lesbian couples with children. Given all these shortcomings concerning the conventional definition of the family, it is not espe- cially useful to think of the family in terms of spe- cific memberships created by marriage, birth, and adoption or according ...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}