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In its original meaning, an Amerasian is a person born in Asia, to a U.S. military father and an Asian mother. Colloquially, the term has sometimes been considered synonymous with Asian American, or to describe a person in the United States of mixed Asian and non-Asian ancestry, regardless of the circumstances.

Several countries have significant populations of Amerasians, including the islands that dot the Pacific Ocean. These countries include Japan (Okinawa), Thailand (Phuket and Pattaya Beach), South Korea, the former South Vietnam, and most notably, the Philippines (Angeles, Olongapo, and La Union), where the biggest U.S. air and naval bases outside the U.S. mainland were situated.

Definitions

The term was coined by writer Pearl S. Buck and was formalized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Many people were born to Asian women and U.S. servicemen during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The official definition of Amerasian came about as a result of Public Law 97-359, enacted by the 97th Congress of the United States on October 22, 1982.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), an Amerasian is: "[A]n alien who was born in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, or Thailand after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, and was fathered by a U.S. citizen."[1] The Amerasian Foundation (AF) and Amerasian Family Finder (AFF) define an Amerasian as: "Any person who was fathered by a citizen of the United States (an American servicemen, American expatriate, or U.S. Government Employee (Regular or Contract)) and whose mother is, or was, an Asian National Asian."[2]

The term is commonly applied to half Japanese children fathered by a U.S. serviceman in Japan on the island of Okinawa, as well as half-Korean children fathered by veterans of the Korean War, most notably[citation needed] seen on the 1960s soap opera Love is a Many Splendored Thing. The term is also applied to children of Filipinos and American rulers during the U.S. colonial period of the Philippines (but is still used until today) and children of Thais and U.S. soldiers during World War II and the Vietnam War (the reference to Thailand stems from the U.S. military stationing their military bases during the Vietnam War). Since there are large Overseas Chinese minorities in Southeast Asia, an Amerasian could be a child born to American and ethnic Chinese parents. Children born to mainland U.S. and native Pacific Islander parents in U.S.-controlled Pacific Islands are also sometimes considered Amerasian.

Although the term Amerasian is originally referred to children fathered by white Americans, it should not be interpreted as a fixed racial term relating to a specific mixture of races (such as Mestizo, Mulatto, Eurasian or Afro-Asian). The racial strain of the American parent of one Amerasian may be different from that of another Amerasian; it may be White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, or even Asian. In the latter case, it is conceivable that the Amerasian could be fathered by a person who shares the same racial background but not the same nationality.

During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, many of the unions between American fathers and Asian mothers happened through client-prostitute relationships. Mixed blood children, whatever the reality of the occupations of their parents, have inherited this social stigma. In poor countries where impoverished women have little choice but to consider prostitution as a means of survival, the resulting sense of disempowerment among men and women alike can bring seething resentment. Additional resentment may be fueled by the common knowledge that many servicemen fathers made promises to support the children, and simply left for the U.S., never to be seen again.

In April 1975, Operation Babylift was initiated in South Vietnam, to relocate Vietnamese children, many orphans and those of mixed American-Vietnamese parentage (mostly American serviceman father and Vietnamese mother), to the United States and adopting American families who would take them in.

It is estimated that more than two million Amerasians have been born since the first American troops landed in Asia during Spanish-American War (1898).[3]

Amerasians in the Philippines

Since 1898, when the U.S. first colonized the Philippines, there have been as many as 21 U.S. bases and 100,000 U.S. military personnel stationed there. The bases closed in 1992 leaving behind thousands of Amerasian children.[4] Pearl S. Buck International foundation estimates there are 52,000 Amerasians scattered throughout the Philippines with 5,000 in the Clark area of Angeles. "The majority of the children have been abandoned by their American fathers," said Jocelyn Bonilla, the manager of the Pearl S. Buck center in Angeles City. [5] Unlike their counterparts in other countries, American-Asians, or Amerasians, in the Philippines remain impoverished and neglected. A study made by the University of the Philippines' Center for Women Studies further disclosed startling facts affirming that many Amerasians have experienced some form of abuse and even domestic violence. The findings cited cases of racial, gender and class discrimination that Amerasian children and youth suffer from strangers, peers, classmates and teachers. The study also said black Amerasians seem to suffer more from racial and class discrimination than their white counterparts. White female Amerasians are highly vulnerable to sexual harassment, the study noted. [6] Two-thirds are raised by single mothers; others by relatives and non-relatives; 6% live on their own or in institutions. 90% are born "out of wedlock." [4] It was reported in 1993, that prostitutes are increasingly Amerasian, children of prostitutes caught in a cycle which transcends generations.[7]

Legal action

A class action suit was filed in 1993 on their behalf in the International Court of Complaints in Washington, DC, to establish Filipino American children’s rights to assistance. The court denied the claim, ruling that the children were the products of unmarried women who provided sexual services to US service personnel in Olongapo, Subic Bay and Angeles City and were therefore engaged in illicit acts of prostitution. Such illegal activity could not be the basis for any legal claim.[8]

In popular culture

  • In the M*A*S*H episode "Yessir, That's Our Baby," the staff of the 4077th find an abandoned Amerasian baby and attempted to help her after Father Mulcahy warns that she will be mistreated at the orphanage. Although the staff initially decline his advice about leaving her with a reclusive monastic order, their own efforts to solicit aid from various organizations were bluntly rebuffed with frustrating regularity. This included a confrontation with a South Korean representative who pointed out the mortifying fact to the U.S. officers that their own government ignores the issue as well. Eventually, the staff leave the baby with the monks.
  • The Chuck Norris film Braddock: Missing in Action III (1988) depicted Amerasian children trapped in Vietnam; in the film, Norris is the father to an Amerasian child believing that his Vietnamese wife died during the Fall of Saigon.
  • In the television show King of the Hill, it is revealed in an episode that the protagonist Hank has an Amerasian half-brother named Junichiro, the result of an affair between Hank's father and a nurse during his stay in post-World War II Japan.
  • Daughter from Đà Nẵng is a 2002 award-winning documentary film about an Amerasian woman who returns to visit her biological family in Đà Nẵng, Vietnam after 22 years of separation and living in the United States.
  • In the graphic novel and movie The Watchmen, The Comedian Edward Blake kills the mother of his unborn Amerasian child in a bar as the war is ending.

Amerasian Organizations

Several organizations still serve the Amerasian, and Adoptee, populations in Asia, Australia, US and Europe.

Footnotes

Further reading

See also

External links








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