Washington County proclaims Asian Heritage Month
Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month has new meaning in Washington County, home to Oregon's largest group of people from the world's most populous continent.
As the county board approved the proclamation May 7, 11 to 12 percent of the county's 610,000 people trace their origins to Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam. (There are other nations.)
"It helps all of us better appreciate the marvelous diversity that we have here in our community so that we can continue to thrive together and support one another," Board Chairwoman Kathryn Harrington said.
Although smaller in total number, the rate of growth by Asians and Pacific Islanders is greater than for other minority groups in Oregon.
But two who spoke at a presentation before the board action say it's easy to generalize, despite the diversity of nations and peoples that make up Asia and the Pacific Islands.
See Eun Kim of Hillsboro, a candidate for the school board in the May 21 election, was born in South Korea and moved to the United States when she was 4.
"I grew up in a constant tension between embracing my Korean heritage while adapting to the American way of life," she said.
"It wasn't until later, in my adolescent years, that I faced what we now know as the 'model minority' myth.
"It is an overgeneralization of stereotypes that are typically applied to Asian Americans … and clumps them into an overstated success story. This creates an illusion that all Asian communities are performing well, when in reality, Asian communities are diverse and vary in need."
Lillian Tsai has lived in Washington County for three decades — Aloha, Raleigh Hills and now Hillsboro — and owns her own communications business. When she emigrated from Malaysia, she said, Hillsboro had half the 100,000-plus people it has now.
While many Asians and Pacific Islanders are professionals, she said, "for every Asian coming here for a high-wage job, two are coming here for low-wage jobs, which dispels the myth that all Asians and Pacific Islanders are engineers and doctors."
Tsai is secretary of the Human Rights Council of Washington County, founded in 2004, which promotes understanding of diverse peoples and cultures.
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