A generation ago, whites made up roughly two-thirds of the population in this rarefied Los Angeles suburb, where most of the homes are worth well over $1 million. But Asians now make up over half of the population in San Marino, which has long attracted some of the region’s wealthiest families and was once home to the John Birch Society’s Western headquarters.
The transformation illustrates a drastic shift in California immigration trends over the last decade, one that can easily be seen all over the area: more than twice as many immigrants to the nation’s most populous state now come from Asia than from Latin America.
And the change here is just one example of the ways immigration is remaking America, with the political, economic and cultural ramifications playing out in a variety of ways. The number of Latinos has more than doubled in many Southern states, including Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, creating new tensions. Asian populations are booming in New Jersey, and Latino immigrants are reviving small towns in the Midwest.
Much of the current immigration debate in Congress has focused on Hispanics, and California has for decades been viewed as the focal point of that migration. But in cities in the San Gabriel Valley — as well as in Orange County and in Silicon Valley in Northern California — Asian immigrants have become a dominant cultural force in places that were once largely white or Hispanic.
“We are really looking at a different era here,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California who has studied census data. “There are astounding changes in working-class towns and old, established, wealthy cities. It is not confined to one place.”
Many of the immigrants come here from China and Taiwan, where they were part of a highly educated and affluent population. They have eagerly bought property in places like San Marino, where the median income is nearly double that of Beverly Hills and is home to one of the highest-performing school districts in the state. The local library now offers story time in Mandarin.
But the wealth is not uniform, and there are pockets of poverty in several of the area’s working-class suburbs, particularly in Vietnamese and Filipino communities.
“This is kind of ground zero for a new immigrant America,” said Daniel Ichinose, a demographer at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “You have people speaking Mandarin and Vietnamese and Spanish all living together and facing many common challenges.”
Since 2009, Mr. Huang has built a career as an author and a television personality based on his brash cultural mashups and his take-no-prisoners critiques of everyone and everything.
He has berated fellow chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and David Chang as exploiters and sellouts. On his online recaps, he has attacked the HBO show “Girls” as elitist. He has excoriated Guy Fieri as a cruel joke, and he pontificates on divisive topics like interracial dating and shark fin soup.
He criticized Mr. Samuelsson for exploiting the African-American experience at the Red Rooster in an article he wrote for The New York Observer. He criticized Mr. Chang for debasing his food for the Western palate, and took on Western chefs for cooking ethnic food.
Mr. Huang went fishing with Tom Colicchio and banged around Brooklyn with Anthony Bourdain. He ignited Twitter wars with Food Network stars like Anne Burrell, calling her “fish filet.” He is giving a TED Talk this year on the shifting waltz between authenticity and ethnicity.
“I want to prove you don’t need to have academic syntax to be intelligent,” he said.
Mr. Huang’s appeal is not only in what he says, but how he says it — a profane concatenation of Mandarin and African-American vernacular English, spiced with allusions to Jonathan Swift, Charles Barkley and Cam’ron.
Joshua David Stein, “Chef Who Refuses To Be Defined By His Wok,” NYT.com 1/23/13
Hideous headline for otherwise interesting profile on chef Eddie Huang.