Much like a snapshot of a seemingly happy family on vacation glosses over the fuller picture of fights, tension, and love that occur on a daily basis, the Pew report glosses over and even fails to mention entirely some key issues, namely:
* Entire countries of origin were pretty much left out of the report. Most Southeast Asian communities in the US, with the exception of the Vietnamese American community, were mentioned on one page titled “Other Asian Americans.” As many have noted, it is these communities–Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian–that face extreme poverty in this country, as well as a long history of US-led war and aggression in their home countries. And out of all South Asian immigrant groups, only Indian Americans were given a thorough analysis, despite growing Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, both of which tend (at least in New York City) to have extremely high rates of poverty.
*Many Asians are the very definition of the working poor – in New York City, 20 percent of all Asians lived at or below the poverty line, and 40 percent were low-income, according to a 2008 report by the Asian American Federation of New York. AAFNY also found that half of all working-age Asians living in poverty held jobs – highlighting the extremely low-wage work that is the only option for many Asians.
* Poverty levels for almost all Asian communities are as high as or higher than levels for the general population, compounded by language access issues and inability to access government services.
* Structural racism is a reality for many of our communities – Southeast Asian youth around the US are targeted by the police as members of “gangs,” and after 9/11, racist attacks against South Asian communities dramatically increased, and continue to occur on a regular basis, compounded by domestic spying and surveillance by local police forces and the FBI and CIA.
* A large portion, about 13 percent, of the Asian immigrant community is undocumented, many of them young people and low-wage workers.
And the list can go on and on. At CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, where I work on a daily basis with Chinese immigrants living throughout New York City, I see every day how Asian families are struggling with low wages, threats of eviction, language access issues, and cuts to needed social services. Where was this detailed in the Pew report?
But–I’m not writing this to show how Asian communities have it bad (too). What’s *more* interesting to me is thinking about how the report in many ways neglects to frame our communities within a broader analysis of race, migration, and economics.