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Asian American Identities: Racial and Ethnic Identity Issues in the Twenty-First ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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Asian American Identities:

Chapter 1

Introduction

When looking back on the history of the United States, one can find a plethora of examples of diverse groups and individuals who bring with them different customs and traditions, thus, reshaping “American” culture. With the onset of immigration, the process of incorporating cultures and people has become an integral part of the American societal fabric. With the exception of the early Native American (Indian) settlers, a common misconception is that there is one racial or ethnic group that is indigenous to the United States. Historian Oscar Handlin discussed this theme in his history of American immigration in The Uprooted, when he wrote, “Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history” (Handlin, 1951, as cited in Ford, 2004).

Indeed, as time has progressed, the United States has become a much more diverse society with increased immigration from a number of countries after 1965. The Immigration Act of 1965, which was written during the height of the Civil Rights movement, abolished discriminatory quotas and allowed record numbers of immigrants from Asia and Latin America into the United States (Ford, 2004). As a result of this legislation, the ways in which individuals, particularly Asian Americans, have begun to define themselves, and develop their own social identities, has been transformed through the changing demographics of American society since the 1960s.