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GOLDSEA | IDENTITY

ASIAN DIXIE
Asians in search of wide-open opportunities have become the New South's fastest-growing population segment.
by Tom Burkett

Page 1 of 8

lan country, the region that assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Kennedy. A place where white trash yearn to return to plantations where they whiled away sultry afternoons sipping Kentucky bourbon and mint juleps on the verandah swing while slave labor toiled in the cotton fields.
"In the five years since those figures were published many Southern cities have seen their Asian populations double."
     Maybe such images prevail among Asian Americans living on the West and East coasts, but not among those living in the South. The half million Asians who settled there during the last decade see the region not as "Dixie" but as the Sunbelt. The image they have of their new home isn't the antebellum plantation but airconditioned skyscrapers, hi-tech industrial parks and shopping areas bustling with cosmopolitan energy. This updated view is amply supported by statistics. Today southern capitals like Houston, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham and Miami enjoy the nation's most vigorously expanding economies which, in turn, have begun attracting more than their fair share of Asian Americans in search of wide-open opportunities.
     During the past decade Southerners have seen the Asian populations of their cities explode, some by as much as 600%. They shop side by side with Asians in city centers, banter with Asians in downtown night spots, mingle with Asians at suburban PTA meetings, buy goods from Asian American companies and even, on occasion, vote for Asian American politicians. Southerners from Arlington to Miami, Dallas to Durham, are watching in quiet astonishment as they see their energetic new Asian neighbors go about the work of reshaping their cities for the 21st century.
     In many southern cities Asians are the fastest growing population segment, in proportionate terms even faster than the booming Hispanic population. Since 1980 Atlanta's Asian population mushroom by 593%. Today it numbers 150,000, mostly Chinese and Koreans. The 350,000 Asians who live in Houston make up 11% of the city's population. What is amazing is that 85% of these people arrived after 1975. Vietnamese and Chinese constitute the largest Asian groups, at 100,000 and 80,000 respectively. Miami's Asian community leaders estimate their numbers to top 60,000, with 60% having settled there in only the last five years! The state of North Carolina has seen its Asian population swell to 60,000, with 30,000 in the Durham-Raleigh-Chapel Hill area.




     The 1990 U.S. Census, Asian community leaders contend, undercounted the Asian populations of their cities by as much as 50%. What's more, in the five years since those figures were published many Southern cities have seen their Asian populations double. Page 2

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