A Lowell Resident’s View of Asia

KhmerPost USA – April 3, 2015 – By Richard P. Howe Jr.

ដោយ​ Richard P. Howe Jr.

ដោយ​ Richard P. Howe Jr.

Like most people who grew up in Lowell in the 1950s and 1960s, I knew very little about Asia and did not appreciate Asian culture the way I do today.  Because most of the immigrants who came to Lowell before the 1980s were from Europe and because of the city’s location on the East Coast of the United States, Lowell residents were naturally interested in Europe.

Unfortunately, international conflicts such as World War Two, the Korean War, the fall of China to the Communists and the Vietnam War combined to create a negative impression of Asia in the minds of many Americans.  It is natural to demonize your opponent in war but racism also contributed to this.  Americans held a much more negative view of the Japanese than they did of the Germans even though both had been our enemies.  Fifty thousand Americans died in the Vietnam War, including 19 from Lowell, yet the American Government failed to convince the American people that the objectives of that war were worth that sacrifice.

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Perceptions of Asia began to change soon after the Vietnam War ended.  Before that, products from Japan and other Asian countries were considered “cheap” meaning they were inexpensive and poorly made.  In 1974, however, there was a shortage of oil and gasoline due to an embargo against America by Arab nations.  Suddenly, small Japanese cars like the Toyota and the Datsun (today called Nissan) became popular because of their fuel efficiency and reliability.  Other Asian companies like Sony and Samsung began selling high quality products at affordable prices.

The first Southeast Asian people who came to Lowell attracted little notice but as their numbers grew, long-time Lowell residents began to notice.  Organizations like the Angkor Dance Troupe and the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association did much to promote Cambodian and Asian culture among non-Asian Lowell residents.  Everyday contacts in school, at businesses and restaurants and in the neighborhood have allowed many Lowell residents to learn much about Asian people and Asian culture.  This is another way that the Cambodian people who came to Lowell have helped make the city a better place for everyone.

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