An Asian American Sanctuary
Following a new wave of Asian American immigraiton to the U.S. after 1965, several communities developed in states like California where there was a substantial Asian American presence. With subsequent generations and a larger group Asian American youth who struggled between the forkroad of "Asianness" or "Americanness", a subculture emerged. The Import Scene created a space with an allure of common identity for young Asian Americans who were seeking people they could relate to. The emphasis on modifying Japanese cars and borrowing trends from the racing scene in Japan was therefore not an accident, as it was a way of reflecting "Asian pride."
The Import Scene extends beyond the walls of a car show venue or the race tracks. many fast food restaurants, movie theaters, cafes, and parking lots are so-called "import hangouts" by those who are in the scene. The import culture can be seen as more of a lifestyle than as a practice for these young urban Asian Americans.
Breaking the Model Minority Mold
"Asians are so obedient and studious, they would never get into any trouble," is the usual commentary on Asian Americans from someone who doesn't know any better. Perhaps it's the way the media portrays them, and perhaps in some ways individuals do perpetuate these stereotypes. It's easy to fit the mold, and it's safe to act in accordance to someone's expectations rather than against them, right? Not for these kids. The Asian Americans in the import scene are undefined; that is, they resist the placement into a presumptuous category of what is considered "so Asian." Racing cars is far from aceing a Calculus exam, yet being a racer doesn't make someone a juvenile delinquent either (so hold that thought of a repressed Asian American rebel). Admittedly, many young Asian Americans become swept into the aura of the glamorous import scene against more wholesome after school activities, but it would be unfair (and incorrect) to assume that they partake in it just to prove a point. The import scene is a rather creative space that is marketed as being Asian American, barring stereotypes. This subculture allows young Asian Americans to define and portray themselves on their own terms, and contest the representation created by the media and dominant white society.
Many critics of the import scene contest that it promotes materialism in Asian American youth. The import scene market targets the consumption of fancy cars and expensive fashions to impress those of the opposite sex. The over-sexed images of women and the "gangster" look that many of the males portray creates an unwanted influence in more impressionable teens who try to mimic them.
Being involved in the import scene can be quite an expensive activity. Not only does one have to purchase a car but also the parts to modify them. This has been a major criticism amongst the Asian Amercan community, and pins the stereotype that the teens involved are lazy, rich, and spoiled. The Import Car Scene in the Asian American community has been shifting towards the modification of luxury vehicles such as Mercedes Benz's and BMW's, which perpetuates the stereotype that only rich and spoiled Asian Americans can afford to get involved.