No, they DON'T all look alike.
If you're one of those minorities whose ancestors hailed from the eastern hemisphere, figuring out what box to check in the "race/ethnicity" section of any form is a stressful experience requiring a quick soul-searching session. Now, though, the University of California hopes to ease that existential burden for UC applicants, raising the number of Asian/Pacific Islander categories from eight to 23. From The Daily Californian:
...the University of California will increase threefold the number of subgroups under the Asian and Pacific Islander categories on its admission application, officials announced Friday. [...]
Asian American categories will include Chinese, Taiwanese, Asian Indian, Japanese, Pakistani, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, Hmong, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Bangladeshi, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Malaysian and “other Asian.”
The Pacific Islander category, previously under one heading, will now include Native Hawaiian, Guamanian/Chamorro, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian and “other Pacific Islander.”
And no, this is not about being PC. Or at least, not just about that. In between the Asian supernerd stereotype and the fact that Asians now outnumber whites across the UC system, many Asian minorities fall through the cracks.
It's kind of the reverse of the way whites assimilated: Asians are now being officially subcategorized in finer detail, while whites have blended from very distinctive communities — German, Italian, Polish and others — into this monochromatic mash. Part of that has to do with intermarriage: Many people know where their parents and grandparents came from, it's just that none of them came from the same place. That's generally still not the case for Asian Americans.
Not that this ethnic differentiation is a new phenomenon. Go to any number of California colleges and you'll see the unsanctioned version: Pakistani students sit at one club table and the Pilipino students man their own. (Some Korean-Christian groups, however, do have a tendency to proselytize to unsuspecting freshmen.) Self-contained social networks spring out of those isolated groups, and it's debatable whether that's a good thing -- even if the alternative is the monstrously huge Asian American Association.
Oddly enough, Asian Americans aren't the only ones experiencing diversity/fragmentation issues. A recent Pew poll found that 37% of African Americans surveyed no longer saw blacks as a unified race. The question is, how exactly would they break blacks down by ethnicity? Is it region, or dialect, or country of origin?