Narasaki: Asian American growth has social impact

by Mitch Yashiro | 4/12/99 5:00am

In the second lecture of the Senior Symposium series, Karen Narasaki, Director of an Asian Pacific Americans legal lobbying group, addressed the social impacts that Asian Americans have on the United States Saturday in Rockefeller Center.

Narasaki said because Asian population in the U.S. has more than tripled in the past 25 years, it will have a large social impact on American society, in the speech titled, "Reinventing Social Landscapes."

"What kind of society are we going to be living in the coming century?" Narasaki asked. "What will our social landscape look like? Will we unite as one America? Or will we continue to struggle along, never being quite willing to take the real risk of transforming our society?"

Narasaki said while many Asian immigrants are struggling with economic survival, the majority are prospering. While the first generation may be looking eastward at the home countries' politics, the "1.5 generation," who immigrated to the United States as children, and the second generation born in the U.S. are directing their attention here.

"I, like many of you in the audience, feel very fortunate to be an American," Narasaki said. "It's a country that holds high ideals, however it's a country that continues to struggle to live up to those."

Narasaki said that Asian Americans still face hate crimes and have to battle against a corporate glass ceiling. For instance Asian American lawyers find limited practice areas or are rejected from partnership and management and the only Asian American partners are the ones who specialize in international business, Narasaki said.

"It's still true that while we make great progress, it's also true that we still haven't completed our journey," Narasaki said. "I know that reality is that the landscape will change whether we want it or not," she added. "Even if we stop all immigration today, racial demographics are going to change."

The only question for us is what will that landscape look like, she said. "Will we, in fact, be an integrated society with tolerance and using and valuing our differences? Or will we be a society where we continue to fear and continue to be susceptible to those who come along and exploit them for their own political gain?"

Narasaki is the Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to advance legal and civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans through litigation, advocacy, public education and public policy development.

She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights as the Chairperson of its Compliance/Enforcement Committee and is Chairperson of the National Network Against Anti-Asian Violence.