Asian American Ghosts
For over a century, Americans of Asian descent have occupied an in-between space on the country’s racial spectrum — eluding simple definition in a society conditioned to viewing race in Black and white terms. This ambiguity came into stark relief in 2020. In the early spring, during the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asians across the United States reported a disturbing rise in racist harassment and violent attacks. The Black Lives Matter protest movement that triggered a nationwide discussion of race led Asian Americans to reckon with who they are — and why they’re here in America.
Jia Lynn Yang takes this topic head on in “Asian American Ghosts,” an article recently published in Asia Society Magazine, a new publication from Asia Society. She argues that this identity crisis faced by Asian Americans is an unintended consequence of the 1965 Immigration and Nationalization Act, a law that facilitated the arrival of millions of Asians to the United States — an outcome its sponsors did not intend.
Yang, a deputy national editor at The New York Times, is the author of One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965, which was published in May 2020. In this episode of Asia In-Depth, she spoke with Asia Society Museum Director Michelle Yun Mapplethorpe, herself a contributor to Asia Society Magazine.