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QUESTION: I feel that the recent wars against Japan, Korea, and Vietnam have a profound impact on the way Asian Americans are viewed - instead of immigrants who have contributed a lot to the building of America, they're seen as mass groups taking advantage of limited opportunities that American GIs fought to secure. Do you think the rest of America can accept the wars against Asians plus the North Korean threat and not have hostility toward the growing Asian population?
HELEN: That is one of the archetypal stereotypes of Asian Americans - that we are the invaders, not only the perpetual foreigner, but the enemy. I think it will be persistent and that we will continue to have to deal with it. In the foreseeable future, the issue of North Korea being part of the "axis of evil," China being a long-term strategic threat to the United States - they say 2020 is the estimated year that the Chinese economy will outpace the U.S. economy - these things are going to have immense implications, not just globally, but domestically for Asian Americans, particularly East Asian Americans.
So the point is very well taken. It is part of our reality. And historically it is a way to manipulate American popular opinion - when it comes time to whip up the enemy of the moment. This image of Asian Americans has been very useful to political demagogues to turn us into wedge issues and to distract people, to whip up racism whether in the 1800s or with Wen Ho Lee a few years ago. It's one of those things that is always running in the background for Asian Americans. We have to be very aware and proactive on this.
SHERYL: The idea of the foreigner and all the perpetual stereotypes that have been used over the years are a political tool. This is a big example of why the Asian American community needs greater political mobilization and unity in order to combat this because it's going to be a continual issue given all the things going on with North Korea and China, and all the impressions that the United States has had about Asians and Asian Americans for many years.
QUANG: You know, this is a really complex question. White America has always seen the foreigner as a threat, and wars - resulting in immigration, refugees coming to the United States - have always been the prism through which people understand Asians arriving here.
HELEN: Also in the war against terrorism - one of the earlier questions talked about the Middle East - South Asian Americans have definitely been profiled as a terrorist enemy here, along with Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. So, you know, this goes beyond wars in East Asia. The Persian Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan - these are also part of the larger way that war has affected Asia and Asian Americans beyond East Asia.
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