To speak about Asian Pacific Americans without the double hyphen--one after the "Asian" and another after the "Pacific" is to imagine America in a different light. America here is meant the United States and not the more generic North America to include other nation-states geographically included in the northern American continent.
We start with the basics: (a) the US is a nation of immigrants; (b) the US is a nation among nations; (c) the US will rely on the skills of professionals who are coming to the country to work; and (d) the US will need to replenish its human resources and its manpower with the retirement from the labor force of the baby boomers.
In the coming years--with the immigration reform making a headway for the immigrants to have a fair share of the goods of the American earth--it is now becoming more urgent for this group of immigrants to find their voice and discover the possibilities and promises of that voice.
The need is urgent--and it is grounded on the fact that the United States is a nation formed out of the need to address head-on the requisites of justice, fairness, and equality. It grew out of a war--a civil war that was necessary to purge itself of its murky romance with that which was not humanly productive because its social institutions stifled the growth of peoples, communities, and sensibilities.
There are questions that need revisiting here vis-a-vis the issues of Asian Pacific American identity/ties. The concept of identity is as fluid as one can get and we can only come up with tentative paradigms and models to account the variety of Asian Pacific American experience/s.
At best, there is not a single account by which we can get to understand who the Asian Pacific American is. There are a variety of cultural assumptions and baggage that we need to account in order to make tentative and exploratory understanding of what is it in the Samoan that is also, say, in the East Timorese.
Even with Asian Pacific Americans gaining entry in the corridors of power from the city council seats to kitchen power in the White House, so much has yet to be done. The US as an adoptive country must now be seen as such by the APA immigrants as an adoptive country.
The generous act to adopt comes from the one adopting and not from the one being adopted. The only thing the APA immigrant can do is open up his heart and speak out of his desire to be part of the demographic landscape in this immigrant nation.
As in the case of an adoption relationship, much is expected from the one adopting but so much more is expected from the one being adopted. In the family set-up, the one being adopted adapts to the house rules, at least, initially. And to the system of relationships.
In the adoptive land, there are pre-set ways of doing things; there are pre-set ways of thinking about things; and there are pre-set ways of figuring out the world.
At the start of the relationship, the adopted finds his way to the world of adoption relationship through trial-and-error.
Through this difficult road to knowing all those things that are pre-set, the adopted APA starts out with the surprises and terrors of life lived in a strange and unfamiliar environment.
The adopted APA may try out what is the best mix of everything.
The groping in the dark is expected. Nevertheless, he is expected to identify those that bring about a healthy relationship with the adoptive land. Moreover, he is expected to learn from the experience of endless adjustment of the everyday requisites of a life lived in a new land, in a new home, in a different set of circumstances.
The paradigm that says the US is the immigrant's adopted country is not tenable in the sense that the choice--if there is a choice at all--for coming over these parts is not that of the destination country of the immigrant.
It is possible that the APA immigrant came to a new land because of the idea of hope and the vast promises of possibilities that he could not see nor think of nor find in the home county.
Immigration, we note here, always begins with the idea of a dream of the possible, of the dream of the better life.
Immigration begins with the play of the imagination, a kind of an enticement of the idea of an El Dorado.
It is very rare that the adoptive country starts out with a carrot dangled before the prospective immigrant. Perhaps it used to be. The reality today is the opposite, with all the rules and restrictions that go with immigration, with getting that visa to permit one to visit the prospective adoptive country and then to discover the means to staying put and then scratch out a life from the fringes before you get the chance to mainstream your life. The APA immigrant leaves home to found and find another home elsewhere.
Recognizing this reality issues out a moral obligation on the part of the APA immigrant. Once in the adoptive land, he has to find and found home, find his voice, discover his inner strengths, gather his hopes, gather his hopes together with the other immigrants like him.
Many times, he has to fight it out.
Many times he has to struggle in order for that voice to gain merit and urgency--and for the power holders to take notice, stop, and listen.
It is still a long way before the Asian Pacific American goes mainstream in the national life of his adoptive land. The dropping of the hyphen is still a linguistic token to inaugurate his coming into an awareness of what he ought to do, what he should do, what he must do.
Something has to be done beyond the dropping of the hyphen. It is high time the APA immigrant voice is heard in the august chambers of power in this land.
Pub, V1N25, Dec 2005