The experiences of these Japanese or Korean picture brides as well as
Chinese paper sons reflect the importance of community development as a
way to survive in spite of exclusion.
A more recent example of the theme of community-building is the
secondary migration of Southeast Asian refugees after their initial
resettlement in the United States. During the late 1970s and early
1980s, federal policy mandated the dispersal of refugees from Vietnam,
Cambodia, and Laos across all fifty states in order to promote rapid
assimilation and to discourage the formation of ethnic concentrations.
Not surprisingly, after their initial resettlement, Southeast Asians
moved to areas like Texas and Southern California where they found the
warmer climates, to which they were accustomed, and longstanding Asian
communities. Many Cambodians settled in Lowell, Massachusetts during
the 1980s, for example, because of job opportunities, availability of
human services, and the presence of a Cambodian Buddhist temple.
Despite the federal policy of dispersal, Southeast Asian refugees moved
on their own to create new communities which enhanced their survival,
security, and adjustment to American society.
By focusing on the theme of building community in the curriculum,
students can see beyond the often distorted, stereotypic images of
Asian communities as evil, mysterious, exotic places filled with
gangsters, warlords and prostitutes, which Hollywood movies and network
television so often portray. Furthermore, students learn to appreciate
the value of ethnic communities because of the important roles they
play in enabling people to survive. In contrast, dispersal and forced
assimilation lead to isolation and failure.
As extensions, students can form their own Asian American or other
community clubs in school and/or develop relationships with existing
community organizations. Lessons on the community theme can also be
easily developed in terms of immigrant history and literature using
such historical novels as Yoshiko Ushida’s Picture Bride
and videos such as The New Puritans: The Sikhs of Yuba City
Geography and mathematics lessons can be developed using population
figures for various locations to show changes over time, involving
students as neighborhood and community researchers.