The Breakdown of Asian Gangs in America
The stereotypes of gangs have always been within the demographics of Latinos and African-Americans, but other races, which include Caucasians and Asians, also have small number of gang members within their communities.
With gang members only accounting for about 1%, give or take, of any racial group’s total population, Asian gangs in America have had little notoriety compared to other groups. Many of the old traditional Asian gangs were once focused on financing themselves through gambling, prostitution, extortion, and at times narcotics, but today’s activity has slowed down for many.
Modern day Asian gangs, in which have had heavy American influence, originally formed throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s to establish protection for themselves from other demographic groups who would often harass newly arrived foreigners.
Asian Gangs: California
Asian gangs for years have flown under the radar within popular culture, while having little to no media attention. But in many cities of California the gang lifestyles of Asians have been well documented.
To begin, the city of San Francisco once led the infamous conflict between American born Chinese and foreign-born Chinese, known as Hock Sair Woey. The main players in San Francisco were the Wah Ching, Hop Sing Tong, Wo Hop To, and the Joe Boys, in which their activity led to dozens of homicides in the Bay Area throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The conflict between the rivals in San Francisco led to one of the worst mass killings of California, the Golden Dragon massacre where five bystanders were murder together with multiple others being injured. While many San Francisco gangs had some sort of ties to the Triads, or are more traditional Chinese gangs, many of California’s Asian gangs have adopted American cultures, like the Bloods and Crips.
In cities like Long Beach, San Diego, Stockton, and Sacramento, Asian gang members, whose family originated from Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, have identified and adopted their own alliances of gangs. From Southern California to California’s Central Valley, Asian gangs formed into the likes of the Asian Boyz, Oriental Crips, Viet Pride Crips, Tiny Rascals Gang, Asian Street Walkers, and numerous others, while Chinese gangs like the Wah Ching are still active in places like San Gabriel Valley.
Asian Gangs: New York
Asian gangs have been in New York City since the late 1800s, with two of the original being the On Leong Tong and the Hip Sing Tong. These Asian gangs were involved in an intense battle over the control of New York City’s Chinatown, which lasted until the 1930s as the Great Depression, conflict in their native country of China, law enforcement crackdowns, and many Asians relocating outside of Chinatown helped bring the war to an end.
Crime in today’s Chinatown, or in other New York Asian communities like Sunset Park of Brooklyn or Flushing of Queens, is almost non-existence as Asian gangs have become a rarity. Currently, being part of a gang or any criminal enterprise has become less and less profitable from previous eras.
The heroin trade that originated from Asia’s golden triangle has now become defeated by the Mexican cartels. Another lucrative outlet was gambling, which has also become not as successful, mainly due to the access to more legal and upscale gambling establishments.
The more modern day and up-to-date gangs of New York City, at least long after the 1930s, were the likes of Ghost Shadows, Flying Dragons, Tung On, White Tigers, and the Fuk Ching.
Asian Gangs: Philadelphia, Minnesota, Wisconsin, & Seattle
Located in South Philly is one of the largest Southeast Asian populated neighborhoods, a community of primarily Cambodians and Vietnamese. Asians of South Philly are in several sections, a neighborhood known as Little Cambodia, 7th and 6th streets, and scattered in several sections west of Broad Street like 15th Street. Starting during the 1990s, and continuing into the 2000s, there has been a presence of Asian gangs, like the Red Scorpions and Tiny Rascals.
In other regions of the country, like states Minnesota and Wisconsin, Hmong refugees from Southeastern Asian countries of Thailand and Laos have also created their own identities. Identities in the form of the Crazy Bloods, Menace of Destruction, Oroville Mono Boys, TKB, the Asian Crips, Oriental Ruthless Boys, and many more.
The reputation of Asian gangs in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and even smaller cities like La Crosse, Wisconsin have become well documented, with rival Asian gangs often having had disputes with each other, terrorizing themselves and their community.
In the Seattle-Tacoma region, Loko Asian Boyz and other Asian gangs formed after years of mistreatment by other races upon their arrival from places like Cambodia. Many lived in low-income areas and experienced constant harassment because of their race. Due to the harassment, gangs were formed for the simple reason of protection and the sense of belonging.
Breakdown of Asians in America
Around 6% of America’s population is Asian, with most of Asian-Americans living on the West Coast and in certain cities on the East Coast. From California to New York City, and cities like Houston and Philadelphia in between, there are many communities who have a considerable population of Asians.
In the state of California, a state that has close to 40 million residents, Asians equal 15% of the total population. The third largest after Latinos and Caucasians, there are large numbers of Asians in specific sections of Los Angeles County, San Diego County, the Bay Area, and specific regions of Central Valley.
While in the large cities like Dallas, Portland, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Houston, Asians account for an average of 7% of the population, but in places like St. Paul, Seattle, and New York City the percentage of Asians range from 13% to 18%.
History of Asians in America
Asians have been migrating into the United States since the mid-1800s, with the Chinese being the first Asian immigrants to arrive in America. Usually working as laborers and fishermen in California. Like the chant “Make America Great Again,” due to the fear of Mexican and Central American immigrants taken employment opportunities, many Asians were not too welcomed as they first arrived.
This led to laws being passed during the late 1800s that limited the number of Chinese immigrants that could occupy the United States. Into the early 1900s, the trend continued of creating laws that banned mostly all Asian immigrants from migrating into the United States.
Due to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, immigration laws became more lenient, which would later help a large influx of Asian immigrants to migrate back to the United States. During the 1970s, refugees from Southeast Asia began relocating into American cities across the United States, like Long Beach, California or St. Paul, Minnesota. Often fleeing their native country for an attempt at a more peaceful and affluent life in America.
Asian Gangs Related Topics:
Further Reading and Sources:
“Asian Americans Then and Now”. AsiaSociety.org. https://asiasociety.org/education/asian-americans-then-and-now
Brown, Curt. “April 21, 2003: Asian gangs: A rise in influence, the fall of a young man”. StarTribune, 14 March, 2013. http://www.startribune.com/april-21-2003-asian-gangs-a-rise-in-influence-the-fall-of-a-young-man/196778381/
Dobson, Christopher. “Last Major Chinatown Gang Broken” South China Morning Post, 27 Nov. 1994 https://www.scmp.com/article/97469/last-major-chinatown-gang-broken
Ferranti, Seth. “The Chinese American Gang Wars That Rocked New York.” Vice.com, 6 Jul. 2006. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/4w5yej/chinese-american-gangs-tong-wars-new-york-chinatown-money-murder
Kamiya, Gary. “Chinatown gang feud ignited one of SF’s worst mass homicides”. San Francisco Chronicle, 8 Jul. 2016. https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Chinatown-gang-feud-ignited-one-of-SF-s-worst-8348992.php
Lee, Danny. “Years of the Dragon”. New York Times, 11 May 2003. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/11/nyregion/years-of-the-dragons.html
Rhapsody, Bill Lee. Wallace, Bill. “Remembering Life Inside a Chinatown Gang”. SFGate, 2 May 1999. https://www.sfgate.com/books/article/Remembering-Life-Inside-a-Chinatown-Gang-2933149.php
Sontag, Deborah. “In a Homeland Far From Home”. New York Times, 16 Nov. 2003. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/16/magazine/in-a-homeland-far-from-home.html
*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.