Who is an Asian American? "Asian American” can mean different things to different people. At the most basic level, an Asian American is an American who is of Asiatic descent. The term is so broad though that to make further assumptions about an Asian American would be folly. Within this racial category are many distinctions, like ethnicity, class, and place of origin, that overlap and intersect as they define Asian American identity. The "Asian American” identity is a like a melting pot for people of Asian descent. As time goes by, increasingly ethnic identity, though still strong, is being subordinated to the pan-ethnic identification of "Asian American.” .
Without looking at the more specific aspects of Asian American identity, one can gather almost no information from the term "Asian American.” Ethnicity is an important aspect of Asian American identity and looking at ethnicity reveals significant information about what the category means. The various ethnicities of Asian America are not absolutely agreed upon by everybody. As Linda Trinh Võ says, "The Asian American or Asian Pacific American label is a contentious one with ongoing debates over which groups actually 'belong' in this racialized category” (Võ 26). Some Asian Americans look down on the Vietnamese "boat people”, while others believe South Asians, Filipinos, and Pacific Islanders should not be considered Asian Americans (Võ 27). As a measure of how much change there has been regarding the ethnicities of Asian America, forty years ago the only ethnicities considered Asian American were Chinese and Japanese, and perhaps Filipinos. Between then and now, the category has become much more inclusive, reflecting the diversification of the Asian American population that took place.
Obviously, such a diversification cannot come without some change in the meaning of Asian American identity. There have been several reactions to the influx of Asian immigrants that have changed the ethnic balance of Asian America.