Chinese-American Women and Their Experiences With Discrimination Term Paper

Pages: 45 (12463 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

Chinese-American Women and Their Experiences With Discrimination in the Workplace

Case Summary, Methodology, and Literature Review

The Case of Chinese-American Women and Their Experiences with Discrimination in the Workplace: Persevering in the Face of Adversity and Its Price

Analysis using theoretical constructs from the literature review

This analysis concerns the experiences of a professional Chinese-American young woman, "Sue," employed at "Flexco," discussed further below. For the purpose of analysis, I address this question: "What types of experiences did Sue encounter at Flexco that suggested she was being discriminated against as an Asian-American in general and a Chinese woman in particular and are these practices widespread in the American workplace today?

Background and Overview.

The positive manner in which the vast majority of Asian-Americans are treated and viewed by mainstream Americans today is the result of their reputations for hard work, scholarliness, and devotion to their families, as well as federal legislation that eliminated many of the former discriminatory policies that had adversely affected their ability to assimilate effectively into U.S. society. Unfortunately, there are also some lingering negative stereotypes and perceptions concerning Asian-Americans in general and Chinese-Americans in particular that appear to continue to adversely affect the ability of this segment of American society to succeed in many ways. These issues have assumed some new relevance and importance in the 21st century as America becomes an increasingly multicultural society, and this study involves the experiences of a Chinese-American women, "Sue," who finds herself confronted with some baffling episodes at work that cannot be easily dismissed without considering discrimination. To this end, analysis of the case is offered using theoretical constructs identified in the peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning the incidence and causes of discrimination in general and its impact on Asian-Americans and Chinese-American women in particular. Three potential alternative solutions to the dilemma identified in the case are presented.

Impact of Discrimination on Asian-Americans.

The extent to which one race has experienced the impact of discrimination in the workplace has largely depended on the extent to which they were perceived by mainstream America as being "others." In this regard, the history of migration for the groups of Asians living in the United States clearly differs by the major periods and conditions of their entry; all of the immigrants that arrived before 1965, though, share a common history of overt racial and ethnic discrimination in the application of immigration and citizenship laws, as well and social and economic practices (Conway, Lien, & Wong, 2004). There have been some steps in the past to address these discriminatory practices on a national level. For example, before the repeal of discriminatory immigration and naturalization laws in 1943, only the U.S.-born generation, the majority of whom were under the voting age, and a very small number of citizens naturalized primarily before the 1882 Exclusion Act, were eligible to vote in U.S. elections (Lien, 2003). According to Conway and his colleagues (2004), "Some of the most blatant forms of exclusion for Asian-Americans were lifted when Congress replaced the racist national origin quota with the hemispheric quota system and created new immigrant preference categories in 1965" (Conway et al., 2004, p. 4).

Following the lifting of these immigration quotas, the explosive growth in the population of Asian-Americans and others seems to have been one of causes for the continuation of past discriminatory practices. In this regard, Wing (2005) points out that, "The U.S. immigration reform of 1965 produced a tremendous influx of immigrants and refugees from Asia and Latin America that has dramatically altered U.S. race relations" (p. 1). Likewise, Chandras, Eddy and Spaulding (1999) report that, "The greatest increase in Asian immigration began with the lifting of restrictive quotas on Asians after the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. It is estimated that there were no fewer than 8.5 million Asian and Pacific Islanders residing in the United States in 1994" (p. 239). These rates were twice the number experienced in 1980 and these authors emphasize that Asian and Pacific Islander populations will continue as the fastest growing ethnic group from 9 million in 1992 to a projected 40 million in 2050 (Chandras et al., 1999).

Today, the largest Asian groups in America are: (a) Chinese; (b) Filipinos; - Japanese; (d) Asian Indians, (e) Koreans; and (f) Vietnamese (Chandras et al., 1999). Given these trends, it is reasonable to assume that any perception among mainstream Americans concerning the threat represented by unfettered immigration policies will simply be exacerbated in the years to come. As the war on terrorism grinds its bloody way through the nation's consciousness, mainstream Americans are going to become increasingly wary of "others" among them, and these issues are discussed further below.

This influx of Asian-Americans, particularly in the past few decades, has been regarded as significant today because it created an atmosphere of "we" and "them" among many mainstream American citizens that continues to this day. For example, Wing reports that:

It [immigration of Asian-Americans] was precedent-setting in the racialization of nationality and the incorporation of nationality into U.S. race relations. The racial formation of Asian-Americans was a key moment in defining the color line among immigrants, extending whiteness to European immigrants, and targeting non-white immigrants for racial oppression. Thus nativism was largely overshadowed by white nativism, and it became an important new form of racism.

p. 2)

Likewise, as Takagi (1992) emphasizes, "Race has become a ubiquitous social fact of American life. Issues of race -- racial identity, race relations, and racism -- permeate politics, culture, and even the language with which we speak, read, and write. Traditionally, race relations has been governed by a language of 'us' and 'them'" (p. 1). Furthermore, there are some unique aspects to the manner in which Asian-Americans are perceived by mainstream American society that also sets them apart from other minorities today. For example, as Kim (1998) emphasizes:

In many ways, Asian-Americans are positioned on the in-between - on the cusp, at the interstice, in the buffer zone - of Asia and America, between black and white, between old-timer and newcomer, between mainstreamed and marginalized. Yet the in-between is a precarious and dangerous position to occupy if we are not fully cognizant of where we are and what our position means in the larger picture. (p. 3)

Indeed, this point is also made by Wu (2002) who reports that, "More than anything else that unifies us, everyone with an Asian face who lives in America is afflicted by the perpetual foreigner's syndrome. We are figuratively and even literally returned to Asia and ejected from America" (p. 14).

Today, while high levels of schooling and occupational achievement suggest that Asian-Americans have truly succeeded in American society, this erroneous image as a "model minority" group tends to camouflage both the diversity and the discrimination they continue to encounter on a daily basis in the United States (Kim & Lewis, 1994). These authors suggest that current trends in employment and compensation of Asian-Americans relative to nonminorities clearly demonstrate discrimination and there appears to be a so-called "glass ceiling" firmly in place that keeps Asian-Americans out of the top levels of the public and private sector service, "perhaps by channeling them into professional occupations and away from supervisory authority" (Kim & Lewis, 1994, p. 285). Likewise, Daniel (1997) reports that Asian-Americans routinely experience discrimination within the federal service and suggest that the problem is pervasive and serious. According to Daniel (1997), Asian-Americans comprise 2.6% of the civilian workforce in the United States; however, they constitute less than 1% of municipal officials (Daniel, 1997). Moreover, this author emphasizes that, "There are almost no Asian-American mayors or city/county managers. Only.9% of [executives are] Asian, while 3.5% of the federal workforce and 4.3% of the postal service are Asian. Twenty-seven percent of white men serving the federal government are supervisors, but only 15% of Asian-American men hold such positions. Twelve percent of white women in the federal service hold supervisory positions, compared to only 7% of Asian women" (Daniel, 1997, p. 264).

Notwithstanding the legislative initiatives that have provided a more equitable playing field for Asian-Americans in recent years, the powerful effects of racism and discrimination are not so easily swept aside from the mainstream consciousness. For example, according to Wing (2005):

In recent years it has become a progressive mantra that racial categories are 'socially constructed,' but it is often forgotten that they only achieve full structural and systemic power when they are legally defined and enforced by state power. In the United States, the plethora of both European and African nationalities very early on was subsumed by a legally defined and state sanctioned system of racial categories. (p. 2)

The current percentages of Asian-Americans relative to others in the United States today are illustrated in Table 1 and Figure 1 below.

Table 1.

Demographic composition of the United States (2003 estimate).

Category Percent

White 81.7%

Black 12.9%

Asian 4.2%

Amerindian & Alaska native 1%

Native Hawaiian & Pac. Isl. 0.2%

Source: U.S. Government: CIA World Factbook,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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