Every step we take forward counts, even if we stub our toes. We can’t change the past, but we can fight for a better future by grooming the present.
Asian Americans are considered the ‘Model Minority’ yet our ways of life is neglected and often misunderstood. Others describe the people as wonderful cooks, studious and hard workers. These are very flattering portrayals of us and we don’t deny it, but these things barely scratch the surface and are not true to many people of that same racial background.
There are many groups within the Asian community. I am a Cambodian American, and my story differs tremendously from other oriental groups. Cambodians barely fit the ‘Model Minority’ bill, because our social and economic standards don’t meet those of Japanese, Korean or Chinese ancestry.
Japanese, Korean and Chinese immigrants arrived in the United States around the 1850s. They have had about 150 years to settle and stabilize their families. These groups are generally more educated. For instance, over 50% of Japanese, Korean and Chinese Americans have a degree from college and an 85% high school graduation rate. Education is a big factor that drives their success in America. As a result, they are better off financially. As a matter of fact, the median income per household is about $75,000. Unfortunately, the success rate proves to be false among other groups.
Cambodian immigrants, on the other hand, are a prime example of one of those groups. It was not until late 1970s that Cambodians started to immigrate to the US. These past 50 years have been tough and it has been a struggle for many.
According the 2010 census, there are about 300,000 Cambodians living in the US. Of the total Cambodian American population, only 9.2% have a bachelor degree and only 30% have a high school diploma. Numbers don’t lie; the low rate of college and high school graduation reflects upon their low median income. In comparison to the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese Americans, an average Cambodian American household earns less than half of the average of the other group, which amounts to be about $35,000 a year. As a direct result of inadequate education a quarter of the population live below poverty level and survive on public assistance income.
This article is not about me complaining about the situation that my people are facing in the US; it’s about shaping your own destiny. Sure, these facts scream failure, but I chose not to believe it. Every situation is different, and every person is not the same. I am the horse of my own chariot; as long as I continue to pull the farther I’ll go. This was and is the mentality that I carry with me as I continue to pave my own path into the future. It’s never been about the naysayer or those facts that label me a failure; it’s about my choices and me.
Played some college ball...
and some more.
Graduated from college...now working on the next thing.
It’s a bit out dated, but this is where I found some of the statistics… http://www.hmongstudies.org/CambodianAmericanCensusData.html