American Turban

The experiences of Asian American males in California

"Widening the Lens on Boys and Men of Color." (Source: Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy)

“Widening the Lens on Boys and Men of Color.” (Source: Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy)

The website Colorlines summarizes seven findings of a study entitled “Widening the Lens on Boys and Men of Color” by the organization Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP). The seven findings presented by Colorlines about boys and men in the Californian Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (what the study abbreviates as “AMEMSA”) communities debunk the “model minority” myth that is often used to describe Asian Americans. One such conclusion discusses the experiences of Sikh boys, particularly around bullying:

The rates of bullying are higher for turbaned boys. For South Asian boys who wear turbans, nearly three-quarters, or 74 percent, report facing some religious or racial bullying. It’s common for turbaned youth to be called terrorists.

The high rate of bullying of South Asian boys who wear turbans (in other words, Sikh boys) is especially glaring considering only about a third of children of other ethnicities report being bullied, according to the study. Organizations such as the Sikh Coalition and SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund) have reported high rates of bullying experienced by Sikh children in California.

It is unfortunate that the experiences of girls and women from the AAPI and AMEMSA communities are not addressed in this study, especially since (as the study indicates) assertions of patriarchy and male-dominated power exist within these communities. Still, AAPIP’s research (which involved focus groups, interviews and literature reviews), provides insight into the challenges faced by Asian American males. In addition to the findings about bullying, some of the conclusions presented in the study about boys and men in the AMEMSA community include:

  • Issues around poverty and educational attainment, especially for refugee and undocumented immigrant populations.
  • Mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly within refugee families who have escaped violence.
  • Reconciling conflicting definitions of patriarchy between different cultures, and the gender expectations towards heterosexual forms of masculinity.
  • National security-level racial profiling, particularly of AMEMSA men.
  • Issues with school curriculum and climate that disengage AAPI and AMEMSA youth.

The report also offers recommendations to address these issues, and provides a feature about the efforts of Jakara Movement’s Bhujangi Youth Academy to engage at-risk Sikh youth in California.

Read the full AAPIP study “Widening the Lens on Boys and Men of Color” here.

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