The Cost of Becoming White
September 9, 2014 9:02 PM   Subscribe

"The cost of becoming white is hard to measure. It is ethical rather than material. By passively accepting the privileges of whiteness, Asian-Americans become complicit in America’s present system of hierarchy, a system in which the nation’s institutions inflict ongoing injustices on a racial underclass. Highly paid Asian-American Google employees do not bear more responsibility to combat racial injustice than similarly positioned white people, but they don’t bear less either. Silence and inaction on the part of those receiving privilege only makes it harder for those who are not so lucky to change the status quo." The Complicity Cost of Racial Inclusion.
posted by sunset in snow country (69 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Some background on why I posted this: I'm not 100% convinced that Asian Americans are on their way to being considered white in America, but I find it a really interesting question, and the article makes some compelling points. For the growing number of mixed-race Asian Americans (of which I am one), balancing our white privilege with our Asianness is already a question that we grapple with, and I really like and relate to this take on it.
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:21 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


So just to be crystal clear, does everyone have a mutual understanding of the skin colour and countries of origin of said "Asian" employees?
posted by GuyZero at 9:43 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


And if you're an American who is fairly certain to be considered "white" by most other Americans, now is as good a time as any to consider becoming a race traitor. It's not a complete solution, but I think it's a good step.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:52 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Echoing GuyZero, this general argument overlooks the fact that Asians are a diverse group-- the US census goes so far as to lump Asians and Pacific Islanders under the same checkbox, but the groups that fall under that umbrella term are so diverse that it's laughable and unfair that this is even a thing. Immigrating to the US as a result of a brain drain versus landing in the US in a refugee camp-- is that really comparable?

But okay. I get that the article is referring mostly to the (relatively more privileged) East Asians and South Asians here. And I also get that this isn't so much a matter of privilege in terms of resource access, but rather privilege in terms of how individuals from that minority group are treated by other members of society.

To address this point:
Highly paid Asian-American Google employees do not bear more responsibility to combat racial injustice than similarly positioned white people, but they don’t bear less either. Silence and inaction on the part of those receiving privilege only makes it harder for those who are not so lucky to change the status quo.

You can't bear responsibility to enact change when the system doesn't give you any power to do so. Asians, while they may be "overrepresented" at high-paying tech firms and such, are often seen as being "invisible", and are thus overwhelmingly underrepresented in positions of leadership needed to enact initiatives against institutionalized racism. Just because Asians are often seen as being a "model" ("better"?) minority to be than other minorities doesn't mean that they are "white" or facilitating the existence of or perpetuating a racial hierarchy. The establishment of this so-called racial hierarchy originates from the ones who sit at the top of said hierarchy-- not the ones who are "fortunate enough" to be placed "higher" relative to their fellow underclassmen, whatever that even means.

I get that being race-profiled and even killed by police is devastating in a way that the existence of a bamboo ceiling cannot hold a candle to in some sense, but racism is racism, just like abuse is abuse, and lies are lies-- you don't rank and put these things on a scale-- they just are.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 10:14 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


I honestly don't disagree with the article, but I also don't know if it's showing the whole picture. I also don't know if it's supposed to. I'm pure-blooded Korean, but born and raised in America; to borrow from Amy Tan (Chinese), I drink more Coke than sorrow. I've spent most of my time in whiter areas, and most of my friends are white.

For the longest time, it was easy for me to be complicit in the system, and while I didn't exactly like the shit that was happening to people a shade or more darker than me, I didn't say nothin' because, well, what is there to say?

I don't know if I'm still complicit. I probably am, but it's not easy anymore. I don't know when I started seeing "whiteness" as the enemy. For as American/"white" as I might feel most of the time, for as privileged as I am to be very unlikely to get shot if I get stopped by a cop on a dark street, that even as a "model minority" that in some people's eyes, no matter how much they squint, I suspect they'd still see me as a foreigner, with all the negative stereotypes of the demure, passive-yet-misogynistic, dweebish-and-unattractive, neutered East Asian man.

And that feeling sucks. I hate that I now look askance at white people more than I ever did before. I hate that I feel like a foreigner in my own country because I don't know if I can feel at home in a place that assumes I am a foreigner. I hate that I fear that a significant portion of the white population wants an overt race war, and that I might be collateral damage.

I dunno. Race is just fucked up here in the States. What is there to say?
posted by qcubed at 10:25 PM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


I'm not 100% convinced that Asian Americans are on their way to being considered white in America, but I find it a really interesting question,

One thing I wonder is how much white people will stop *seeing* the asian-ness of asian people, when they join the white club. I've been shocked to find out how tenuously our racial identity is tied to how we physically look. I never felt or was perceived as other than white in America growing up, but in Asia, I get taken for Arab more than half the time, because I'm Jewish. Americans no longer have such a discerning eye for Jews, by and large. We really could lose the eye for Asians too.
posted by BinGregory at 10:31 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Hrm, yes, it's amazing that when groups work hard, educate themselves, and build social and financial capital -- that's being "inducted" into whiteness, as opposed to, say, actually just demonstrating the system has in it, apart from its flaws, real meritocratic elements.

It's so helpful how "whiteness" expands and contracts to be just the right-shaped bludgeon for victimization studies to use. It could look like Florida but they'd still call it a boot that's been inducted into circle-ness. Know what a theory is that can explains everything via ad hoc changes to its definitions? Nothing good.
posted by shivohum at 10:40 PM on September 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


...this general argument overlooks the fact that Asians are a diverse group...

From the article, "But even here, the porousness of the boundary between white and not white becomes evident, as not all Asian-Americans have access to the same privilege. Today Muslim South Asians may face discrimination that other Asian-Americans may not."

Since I moved to the west coast it's been impossible not to notice the Asian Inclusion. Coming from Oklahoma, Asian were/are heavily othered. Out here, not, but at the same time, the thing I've most been amazed by is how whites consciously/subconsciously break the group into acceptables.

Japanese, Koreans, Chinese... these are the folks I keep meeting and seeing in largely white groups. Those dark skinned, hill folk from Viet Nam? Vietnamese folks in general? Cambodians? Nope. Not really. Indians to a certain degree, and Pakistani folks as well.

I don't know what makes some groups of Asians cooler than others, but it's impossible to miss.
posted by artof.mulata at 10:41 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm loving these comments so far and I don't want to threadsit (going to bed after this), but one thing I do want to say:

I don't think the article is doing the Oppression Olympics thing and saying that police brutality is ranked higher on the oppression scale than the bamboo ceiling or hurtful media depictions of Asian American men. I think the main question--whether Asian Americans are complicit in America's racial hierarchy--hinges on whether or not Asians are now considered white, and if you don't believe that they are (and we're not, really, and whether we're going that way is open for debate), then the idea is absurd. The massive diversity of the category we call "Asian American" also throws a wrench in things, as people are rightly pointing out. So I speak only for myself here, but I've thought for a while that I'm basically as privileged as one can get and still be considered Asian. I am half Japanese and half white, middle class, female (which comes with its own set of problems but does sidestep all those awful stereotypes that Asian American men have to contend with). There are definitely still ways that a non-Asian white person is privileged relative to me, but I do have a few privileges that I consider part of white privilege. The privilege not to have to think about things like Ferguson is one, for example, and the advice usually given to white people who are struggling with the concept of having that privilege is to speak out, to not let it fade from the national consciousness, to call out racist remarks made by friends or family members. I think this is also good advice for Asians, at least the ones like me.

I don't have a citation for this but I believe that a majority of Japanese Americans my age or younger are actually mixed-race. So we're at this interesting point where some of us are kind of on the cusp of deciding whether to let ourselves be defined as white. (To be sure, no white person has ever thought of me as white, but I don't think the possibility is too far off.) To take another ethnicity that's often invoked in discussions of the shifting boundaries of whiteness, look at Irish Americans--for them, the process of becoming white is completed, and now they get to say "Well my people were discriminated against when we came to this country too so all you black people are just whiners!!!!" It pains me to think of my community becoming like that. (Actually, that's not hypothetical.) I reject it. If people who look like me are on their way to becoming white, I want no part of it. I guess what it comes down to is that the culture at large is trying to define me in a certain way, and I'm saying as loud as I can that they don't get to, that Yuri Kochiyama is my role model, that these guys are my spiritual forebears and I won't go quietly.
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:13 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not really sure what this article is trying to say. A TV show included a half-asian, half-white character who was mistaken for being completely white (haven't seen the show, and not sure what this says about the culture at large; biracial folk are often mistaken for one race or the other). Some visible minority groups are beginning to break into certain industries in certain places (again, so what, this does not mean that Asians are now considered 'white'). Minority groups that look identical to the majority, but were excluded due to cultural differences, are now part of the majority (well they're completely culturally assimilated at this point and have no distinguishing physical characteristics. The same can't be said about Asians, not all of them are half white). Asians should help other, more disadvantaged groups out.

They seem like disconnected and poorly supported facts. I have issue with the final statement; why on Earth would the relatively privileged yet still oppressed minority help out his less fortunate brethren? To protest the social order would risk the privilege he has worked so hard to accrue.
posted by sid at 11:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, does this mean we get to have a Stuff Asian People Like book?
posted by sid at 11:22 PM on September 9, 2014


sid...

The article is using 'white' in two different ways: looking like a white person (those Europeans you see everywhere) and being a 'white person' which is about modes of being. "You act so white," and that kind of thing.

What the article and sunset in snow country both say is that whiteness as a value system, as a mode of behavior, is being constantly thrown at all of us. Those who properly assimilate it are (sometimes) more acceptable to white-bodied people than others. This is obviously some onerous territory, but basically, there are particular groups of Asians who are considered acceptable/compatible to whites than others.

The reason why any minority group should 'risk' (whatever that means) losing their preferential status should be pretty obvious: anything given can be taken away. In other words if it's happening to them it could happen to you.
posted by artof.mulata at 11:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've been shocked to find out how tenuously our racial identity is tied to how we physically look.

I think that moment hit me when I learned as a kid that Irish folks weren't really considered white for a long time. You don't get much paler than that.
posted by Justinian at 11:38 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


why on Earth would the relatively privileged yet still oppressed minority help out his less fortunate brethren? To protest the social order would risk the privilege he has worked so hard to accrue.

Because, as the author notes, the person who is a member of a relatively privileged yet still oppressed minority is "desirous of a more just society". I'm a member of (arguably) the second most privileged group on earth, but I protest the social order a bunch, because I desire a more just society. (Although, in the interests of full disclosure, my father grew up working-class Italian-American at a time when Italians hadn't been fully "invited" into whiteness yet.)

shivohum: "Hrm, yes, it's amazing that when groups work hard, educate themselves, and build social and financial capital -- that's being "inducted" into whiteness, as opposed to, say, actually just demonstrating the system has in it, apart from its flaws, real meritocratic elements.

So you're saying that Black people, as an example of a group that is emphatically not being included in who's considered white, aren't working hard, educating themselves, and building social or financial capital, because if they had, they'd be reaping the benefits of the meritocracy? Just want to be sure I understand your argument.

It's so helpful how "whiteness" expands and contracts to be just the right-shaped bludgeon for victimization studies to use. It could look like Florida but they'd still call it a boot that's been inducted into circle-ness. Know what a theory is that can explains everything via ad hoc changes to its definitions? Nothing good.

What studies are you talking about here? This is a freelance opinion piece about a person's cultural experience of race.
posted by gingerest at 11:44 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hrm, yes, it's amazing that when groups work hard, educate themselves, and build social and financial capital -- that's being "inducted" into whiteness, as opposed to, say, actually just demonstrating the system has in it, apart from its flaws, real meritocratic elements.

Except that to explain why "merit" seems to be distributed primarily along ethno-cultural lines, you will end up falling back on some sort of explanation in which some ethnic identities/cultural formations within America have more "merit" than others. You also have to explain why some groups are demonstrably "white" and economically successful today when they were the victims of gross and obvious prejudice in the past. And you have to explain why a number of ostensibly meritocratic institutions have continued trying to "cap" Asian achievement and why there are so few Asian CEOs proportionate to both population and Asian's own disproportionate finacnial success.

In other words, whiteness - which was always about social construction and cultural perception -- is still about those two things. The "meritocratic elements" claim is the catchall, the ad hoc application, here: if a group succeeds, that's always somehow proof of meritocratic elements int he system; if it doesn't, that's either proof of a lack of merit or proof that "meritocratic elements" only apply in certain instances…which is, of course, the whole "whiteness extended to Asians" idea in a nutshell.
posted by kewb at 5:45 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wow, this article is not a good one. I had to get to the end to see any accounting of "cost." Turns out that the author is telling us that Asians are "costing" all of us in the greater society by succumbing to the pull of whiteness. OK, that's a heavy accusation. I'd be more sympathetic if the article did any work to show what that means or what the alternatives are.

The mechanism of sacrificing, say, familial bonds to "opportunity cost" is known. "Passing" is a topic. Jews have chewed on assimilation cost and shared that. If there is a new thesis for the opportunity cost being non-reflexive(?), that would be exciting but there's nothing going on.

Also, some proof would be good. The article is telling me that employment in the tech sector tells me something about what orientation that a race,tribe,whathaveyou has toward the rest of society. That's weak. Do each of these employees eschew their ancestral languages for being "foreign", did they shy away from their traditional worship in order to get these jobs? Do they all elope in Vegas rather than have traditional wedding ceremonies? Do we know that they don't spend their 10% time at Google helping their race,tribe,whathaveyou or other race,tribe,whathaveyous?

I don't dispute at all that the Chappelle-esque race-draft is a thing. My family saw a dramatic change within two generations in America. She is bang-on that Irish and Italians where not white when we first got here, and that a process took place. But if a person is claiming to write about race and cost, please do some work to flesh that out.

On edit: awesome thread though, so the FPP is good!
posted by drowsy at 5:46 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think that moment hit me when I learned as a kid that Irish folks weren't really considered white for a long time. You don't get much paler than that.

The UK still records White - Irish as a separate category on its employment forms. There is also a brilliant category of White - Other that I used while I was there.
posted by srboisvert at 6:00 AM on September 10, 2014


Just because Asians are often seen as being a "model" ("better"?) minority to be than other minorities doesn't mean that they are "white" or facilitating the existence of or perpetuating a racial hierarchy.

Right. Part of the reason we are "model" is because we will be your engineers and doctors, but we won't demand a proportional voice in the boardroom or ballot box, or even your elite schools.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:11 AM on September 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


Members of voluntary immigrant diasporas (in the broadest sense of voluntary) have a different historical experience of otherness than those brought forcibly as slaves or indentured workers (as is true for some Asians in the US) or indigenous people exposed to 500 years of race-based genocidal colonialism. Sometimes thinking of all "racism" as undifferentiated obscures the differences between the experiences of different racially othered "minority" communities. They have many things in common and racism knows no boundaries in America, but the differences do matter. Your class, educational capital, and prior experience of oppression (ancestrally or personally) affect how you move into American society and thrive or not within it.

Slavery of Africans (and some Asians and Indigenous people) and genocide of indigenous people are not exactly the same as "no Irish need apply" or a Jewish or Asian "quota" in the Ivy League or a brown skinned Tamil Google programmer who can't get a cab. Not saying any oppression should be minimized or that there is an Oppression Olympics Gold Medal to be won, but sometimes terminology obscures (actually that's right at the heart of American racism... The map becomes the territory in public debate).

All racism sucks. But history matters.
posted by spitbull at 6:20 AM on September 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


I don't know what makes some groups of Asians cooler than others, but it's impossible to miss.

Their pop culture. Manga, Korean and Japanese horror flicks, J-Pop and PSY, Jacki Chan and kung-fu movies. Japan, China and Korea have these things, or at least American kids are aware that they have these things, and they make those nationalities seem cool. Thai to a lesser extent, though mainly through action movies that are sort of like Hong Kong movies so it's just more of the same. Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, not so much.

I was sort of half kidding when I though of that, but I think it probably really is a big part of it. They've got something cool that we like. They're like us. Start out as an anime-obsessed teen and you're going to have a different concept of Japan than the WWII generation, say.
posted by Naberius at 6:26 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


So you're saying that Black people, as an example of a group that is emphatically not being included in who's considered white, aren't working hard, educating themselves, and building social or financial capital, because if they had, they'd be reaping the benefits of the meritocracy? Just want to be sure I understand your argument.

Yeah, not to speak for shivohum, but I'm pretty sure you're blatantly misunderstanding his argument. Are we really incapable of understanding that the world is neither perfectly fair nor completely arbitrary? When you ask your boss for a raise at work, do you really find it acceptable when he responds, "Why should I give you a raise for all your so-called effort and achievement? Do you know how many black men without high school degrees end up in jail? How dare you try to argue that merit has anything to do with anything!"

And you know, there are black doctors, engineers, executives, professors, Ivy League grads too, and a lot of them are also considered "white." This issue runs deep.
posted by leopard at 6:32 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


When you ask your boss for a raise at work, do you really find it acceptable when he responds, "Why should I give you a raise for all your so-called effort and achievement? Do you know how many black men without high school degrees end up in jail? How dare you try to argue that merit has anything to do with anything!"

Find me a boss who actually said this, please.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:34 AM on September 10, 2014


Oh good grief.
posted by leopard at 6:36 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


BinGregory: One thing I wonder is how much white people will stop *seeing* the asian-ness of asian people, when they join the white club.

This is a great point, that's key to the author's argument -- "whiteness" is only loosely related to skin color.

sid summarized that part of the article as, "Minority groups that look identical to the majority ... are now part of the majority." But it's not just people with pale skin who have gained "white" status. To pick a random example, Sylvester Stallone's skin isn't any paler than Jackie Chan's (exhibits A, B, C). But Stallone is identical to the majority and Chan isn't -- because at some point in the 20th century, the features that make Stallone different stopped being salient in determining his race, and became invisible. Not just metaphorically but on some visual-processing brain level -- we don't see the things that don't matter.

The article proposes that the same thing may be happening or about to happen with (some) Asian-descended people, and that there's a moral cost to joining that club. That's a really interesting argument, and I appreciate the discussion on it -- especially from people who feel they're facing a personal decision about which way to jump.
posted by jhc at 6:37 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh good grief.

It's a nonsensical example. There is no boss on earth who cares so much about the oppression of people of color that they withhold raises from their best workers. They have other, much less noble reasons to do that.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:46 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


If Asians have become white, it's only statistically in the numbers of workers at certain firms or companies. But out in public, we have to convince people we are, first of all, American before they could possibly start considering us "white," which seems like a stretch, to say the least. I don't want to spin a tale of "woe is me" too much here, but Asians are typically not white in the sense that we are individuals with meaningful emotions and ideas. We're hardworking, conformist drones who are considered assets in increasing productivity. But we're not thought of as leaders who disrupt the status quo and bring about meaningful change. If anything, we're somewhat at the place Jewish folks were in the early half of the 20th century - seen as more of an internal threat that needs to be dealt with and watched carefully than an assimilable, possible ally.

Steven Pinker corroborates this in a recent article about the Ivy League, which briefly mentions admissions policies towards Jews, formerly, and now Asians: "Jerome Karabel has unearthed a damning paper trail showing that in the first half of the twentieth century, holistic admissions were explicitly engineered to cap the number of Jewish students. Ron Unz, in an exposé even more scathing than Deresiewicz’s, has assembled impressive circumstantial evidence that the same thing is happening today with Asians."
posted by ChuckRamone at 6:54 AM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is no boss on earth who cares so much...

True, no such boss exists. But my point wasn't that such a boss exists, my point was that it is disingenuous to pretend that someone arguing that they deserve something is also arguing that everyone else in the world deserves what they get. You may have had to actually process the context around my comment to understand that though.
posted by leopard at 6:57 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


it is disingenuous to pretend that someone arguing that they deserve something is also arguing that everyone else in the world deserves what they get.

How did you get that from gingerest's comment?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:06 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Part of the reason we are "model" is because we will be your engineers and doctors, but we won't demand a proportional voice in the boardroom or ballot box, or even your elite schools.

Yep. And let's be real, the model minority stereotype is just a tool for white people to use Asians as pawns to bludgeon other POC groups: We’re quiet and submissive, not loud and mouthy like other POC, amirite?

Notice how the praise of Asians being hard-working only goes so far; the minute Asians start out-achieving white people academically, you hear the flipside: “Asians are soulless automatons! Tiger Moms! White people are more well-rounded!”
posted by imnotasquirrel at 7:06 AM on September 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


[Hey guys, maybe we can avoid getting tangled into an extended derail on a hypothetical boss, and try to stick more or less to the post topic? Racism is tough discussion, and it will help if folks take care to make themselves as clear as possible and avoid quicky zingers and similar. Thanks. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:07 AM on September 10, 2014


this general argument overlooks the fact that Asians are a diverse group-- the US census goes so far as to lump Asians and Pacific Islanders under the same checkbox, but the groups that fall under that umbrella term are so diverse that it's laughable and unfair that this is even a thing. Immigrating to the US as a result of a brain drain versus landing in the US in a refugee camp-- is that really comparable?

So thankfully my somewhat obscure comment was misinterpreted. I had trouble formulating my thought fully.

I think the essay is fine such as it is - as someone else said, it's an opinion piece, I don't think arguing whether it's right or wrong is really meaningful. My real complaint is that the racial construct of "Asian" used for these ethnic metrics is itself a weird historical construct that has changed over time. But unlike "white" which gets used as in place of "privileged" here I think "asian" is bordering on too big to a group to be meaningful. It doesn't really make a unified statement about either ethnicity or privilege.
posted by GuyZero at 7:08 AM on September 10, 2014


Yep. And let's be real, the model minority stereotype is just a tool for white people to use Asians as pawns to bludgeon other POC groups: We’re quiet and submissive, not loud and mouthy like other POC, amirite?

A good article on just that phenomenon:
A nearly 4000 word essay on Bill O’Reilly and his Asian American supporters regarding the Culture Canard might seem like much ado about nothing, but this pernicious myth demands analysis, if for no other reason than to point out how unfounded the Model Minority Myth is. But more tangibly, these words do not exist in a vacuum. They are only the latest salvo in America’s larger ongoing siege on Blackness — one that has real-world impact in the form of denying political investment in social services’ programs that would promote American class mobility, education, and uplift. When Bill O’Reilly demands “personal responsibility”, his goal is actually to absolve society of the responsibility of acknowleding our foundation in institutional racism. When Bill O’Reilly blames the racial hustlers, he shifts attention away from the mass incarceration state, educational segregation, economic violence, voter disenfranchisement, and the perpetual maintenance of Black America as a permanent social underclass.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:08 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


The article's a cop-out-- the author starts with an assumption that this racial equivalence exists, but glosses over why this one group of 'others' is treated differently. My guess: it's an absolute minefield -- a long list of ideas that can't be politely expressed coupled with complex considerations that explain/mitigate those ideas.

Unfortunately, if you're going to make conclusions on the impact of this assumption, you need to address the circumstances that led up to it. Lacking that, this article does nothing except push some nebulous shame.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:10 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Lacking that, this article does nothing except push some nebulous shame.

Exactly. I think it's a little early to start feeling guilty. It's like Asians have been given half the privileges but are expected in the near future to bear the full responsibility for whiteness. Whether this feeling is coming externally or is self-imposed, we're not at that point yet. Sorry, but Asians are not pack mules for society's racial burdens.
posted by ChuckRamone at 7:18 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


There is no White Race, but there is a White Caste. What this article does, imo, is thoughtfully muse on whether or not Asian people have been accepted into the White Caste. The answer appears to be "some, sort of, but not really".

All I hope is that those who find themselves in the White Caste, regardless of race, recognize it's insidiousness and inhumanity and work to bring about it's eventual end.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 7:39 AM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think we might be mistaking the ability of hapas to make a choice about their racial identification and the economic & cultural assimilation of some Asian American families with "becoming white." My boyfriend's an Asian adoptee with a lifetime worth of experiences - positive and negative - based solely on his appearance in white society, while being as assimilated as a person can possibly be. If anything, Latinos are in the front running to become white, if only because we're just now noticing that some of them were white the entire time.
posted by Selena777 at 8:17 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


What I was trying to say is that the article introduces a complex and highly nuanced topic in a clumsy way. The author's thesis is not clearly stated and the evidence she uses to support her points is problematic. For example, she says that 'Whiteness' is only marginally tied to skin colour, and uses previously excluded groups as examples of this. However, all the groups she mentions are physically identical to white people, which greatly weakens this claim.

Furthermore, one of her main points is that Asian people have some responsibility, as relative insiders, to help bring down the system. I find this also problematic:

1. Asians are not 'white'; they might be treated the same as white people in some very specific situations but they will always be identifiable as part of the 'other'. An Asian person might get an awesome job at Google but they still have to contend with random every day overt racism. They do not have the capability to change the dominant value system and behaviours of the majority group as they are not really part of it, and never can be part of a system that discriminates based on physical attributes.

2. If Asians were to attempt to challenge the system in any meaningful way, they could very easily lose the little privilege they have gained, because, as mentioned previously, they're not actually part of the power group. While I certainly believe that everyone should do what they can to evolve towards a more just society, it is completely unjust to push a disadvantaged group to challenge the status quo as they could very easily face retribution from the power group.
posted by sid at 8:21 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


"And you know, there are black doctors, engineers, executives, professors, Ivy League grads too, and a lot of them are also considered "white." This issue runs deep."

No - just no. Their names - when obvious - get passed over when submitted with their resumes, they get disproportionately targeted by police, they are subject to housing discrimination, they have incomes that are not equal to their white peers with equal education, they are perceived as threatening usurpers in the workplace, etc. In upper class black homes, children are told to keep their noses extra clean, because the second chance bus may not stop for them. You're mistaking "inside baseball" class conflict rhetoric in the black community with real life, where we're all black at the end of the day, even our Ivy League professor president.
posted by Selena777 at 8:28 AM on September 10, 2014 [12 favorites]


People telling people a) how much privilege they have, and b) how that privilege ought to be used, amounts to being a total busybody asshole.

I await the day when I no longer hear or read the word 'privilege'.
posted by gsh at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Selena777: sorry, I didn't mean to imply downplay the racism that all black people face. I do think that even outside the black community, there are notions that some black people are "whiter" than others. But you're right that no black people are left untouched by anti-black racism.
posted by leopard at 8:43 AM on September 10, 2014


People telling people a) how much privilege they have, and b) how that privilege ought to be used, amounts to being a total busybody asshole.

I'm Asian American with a post-graduate STEM background. That makes me a member of the targeted audience of the article. I do not find this author a total busybody asshole, quite the opposite.
posted by polymodus at 8:55 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Their pop culture. Manga, Korean and Japanese horror flicks, J-Pop and PSY, Jacki Chan and kung-fu movies. Japan, China and Korea have these things, or at least American kids are aware that they have these things, and they make those nationalities seem cool. Thai to a lesser extent, though mainly through action movies that are sort of like Hong Kong movies so it's just more of the same. Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, not so much.

I don't think it's that simple. Even within this thread, it's pointed out that black people are at the bottom rung in the racial hierarchy (at least in the U.S.), yet many black cultural products are spectacularly dominant on a world scale, not just the U.S. - hip-hop and rap have taken over the world. People aspire to the 'black cool' to such a degree that a phenomenon like 'wiggers' can exist. In Japan we have teenagers who try to express black cultural identity ("B-Stylers"). And of course the tradition of the black entertainer has deep roots that goes back a long time. Similarly with pop - Michael Jackson is loved and practically worshipped all over the world, as Hendrix was back in the day, and what about Motown? Jazz is acknowledged as one of the major developments in music - and there's been a long string of widely admired figures, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Ellington, Monk, Fitzgerald, Vaughn, Holiday, Franklin - the list is endless, and goes back a long time, even before Armstrong and in a non-jazz context, Robeson. Then there are the sports heros etc..

Black has been 'cool' for a long, long time, certainly longer than manga, horror flicks (don't forget blaxploitation cool), J-pop etc.. 'Cool' is not enough to get the whole ethnic group out of the bottom rung. So I don't think it can be just 'cool'.

There is something else at play, and that is power. Not an individual power of a single person, no matter how dominant in their field - after all, black cultural heroes were subject to base racism not just in the Jim Crow South (headlining an act, but sleeping and eating at separate facilities from whites), but in the most culturally vibrant cities in the North, while actually in the midst of performing the cultural activity that made them famous (Miles Davis beaten up in New York in front of the club where he was performing).

That power is not the power of the individual. It is the power of a whole state behind it. Japanese culture won grudging - and then not so grudging - respect, because Japan became an economic superpower, behind only the U.S., and its cultural products gained currency. Yes, sushi restaurants have taken over the world, but so have Chinese earlier, but all that Chinese cuisine didn't bring ordinary Chinese people more respect (nor did "soul food" do it for blacks). Yes, all those films from Japan are great, but it is the fact that there is a country behind them that mattered - Kurosawa didn't exist outside of Japan.

And really, this goes back to similar history with the former "lesser whites" - we all loved our Italian food, but so what? We sang Italian operas, and we consumed Italian culture by the truckload. Italy became one of the 10 most developed countries, and Italian Americans had somewhere else to go, and be proud of their country of ancestry. And now they're 'one of us'. Power.

Japan. Korea and the Korean economic miracle. Now China and the growth of the Chinese economy. And as noted, Thailand only to a lesser degree, but Cambodia and Laos and Vietnam - not so much.

Cultural dominance follows economic dominance, and economic power. The power and wealth have a way of easing discrimination. When it is profitable to be non-racist, people suddenly forget that you are 'the other' - all money (in the U.S.) has the same color, and it is power.

That of course is not the whole story, but it's a very important element. Note, there are no 'black' countries perceived to be successful and wealthy and dominant as yet, although that process is slowly starting with countries like Nigeria. And as Nigeria becomes known for more than the 419 scams, as it fills with young entrepreneurs who shape technology and as wealth and power follow, so will come a measure of respect and acceptance on more than an individual level - something that's more permanent than just the memory of a Fela Kuti.
posted by VikingSword at 9:16 AM on September 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


I might just be seeing what I want to see here, but I don't believe that the author of the article intended to point the finger at Asian Americans and blame them for being complicit in America's racial hierarchy--I think she's talking to other Asian Americans like herself, like me, who sense that they have some kind of privilege relative to other people of color and are uncomfortable with the idea, who maybe are looking at having kids with a white partner who will then be considered white by society at large, and wondering how to deal with that. (I am conflating whiteness by racial mixing with whiteness by assignation here, a bit, but like I said, I think it might be something that mixed-race Asians are having to deal with a little earlier than monoracial Asians.) I know that not a lot of Asian Americans belong to the Asian American studies, activist, yellow power, Blue Scholars-loving, Third World Liberation Front set, but the people I know who do fit that description loved this article because we sense this slide (perhaps into whiteness, perhaps just into the same old model-minority bullshit) and it gives us a roadmap for how to react.
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:30 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


As a person married to an Asian person, and with kids who are both "Asian" and "White", god I hate this sort of bullshit.
posted by Nevin at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I await the day when I no longer hear or read the word 'privilege'."

I'm preeeettty sure that there are people out there who eagerly await the day when they don't have shittier lives because they lack it.
posted by qcubed at 9:56 AM on September 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


So, I thought the article's usage of the term "White" was a complete distraction. However, the main point was worthwhile: that Asian Americans have relatively more privilege than other minorities, and it's always valuable to encourage those who do have that power, however incomplete, to speak up for those who have less.

Earlier this year, I was waiting for an airport shuttle at the Denver airport. There was a younger black kid, male, probably college age, also waiting with me, wearing the standard college outfit of a hoodie and jeans - skinny kid, not physically imposing at all. It was 11pm, so late enough that you just want to keep to yourself, get on the van, and get some shut eye for the length of the trip. The van arrived, and the driver stepped out and surveyed the scene. The kid was literally next to the van door, yet the driver took one glance at him, walked past him and came straight to help me with my luggage (which I did not need). I ended up getting on the van first. The kid followed and slumped down into a seat, with a clear sense of resignation, "well, that's how life is."

And I will always feel like an asshole for not saying anything, either to the driver or the kid. I just sat down, saw things go down and thought to myself "well, shit, that wasn't right at all."

That was an example, albeit a minor one, relatively speaking, that I think the author was talking about. Yes, I still face issues with being an Asian: stared at, disrespected, etc. But that doesn't excuse me or other Asian Americans when injustices occur to others and you have the power to speak up.
posted by comradechu at 10:45 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I await the day when I no longer hear or read the word 'privilege'

It's a useful concept in sociology, one of the ways to examine the establishment and persistence of power structures.

It's a terrible concept in standard discourse, where it's used primarily to preach to choirs, scold or as shorthand for the condescending "I'm right, but you don't want to hear it."

Using the concept of privilege as an agent for social change is actually pretty funny inasmuch as the very use of the term denotes having it-- people with the most severe disadvantages are rather unlikely to be familiar with the term. So remember that and smile the next time you see it instead of letting it grate.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:53 AM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


This FFP means a lot to me, and is something I've been thinking about for a while.

I am East Asian-American, and in the Bay Area, am considered white, as Asian-Americans no longer count as minority. I recognize my white privilege, but again it's been conferred upon me for complex reasons.

I volunteer at the local high school. Almost all of the volunteers are white or (East) Asian-American, while we tutor Latino-Americans or African-Americans. My whole life (I'm in my 40's) I identified with the other, as I grew up in the wealthy white suburbs, and felt any POC was my ally. But here in the Bay Area, the Latino- and African-American kids don't see me as a POC. That frustrates and hurts, but also negates one of the reasons why I wanted to volunteer: I wanted to be a POC the kids could identify with, POC helping out other POC.
posted by Pocahontas at 10:58 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


That's interesting, Pocahontas, it reminds me of when my friend visited from Atlantic Canada. She's half-Chinese and half-white and remarked that she felt like for the first time she didn't always feel like people were looking at her while walking down the street.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:09 AM on September 10, 2014


Good point--I think living in the Bay Area is a BIG factor both in why I don't feel othered by society, and in why I feel so strongly about activism and preserving the history and integrity of the community. (Whereas someone of my exact background living in Kansas, or even Folsom, California where I spent a few unfortunate years, might experience the exact opposite.) The diversity of the Asian American experience at work, again.
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:15 AM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I read this in context with contemporary issues affecting Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, especially Affirmative Action (AA). This division is particularly evident in the Asian American subreddit that I frequent and it's the cause of a lot of heated discussion.

I know Fox News and others have teen trying to get on the bandwagon of trying to appeal to AAPIs, whether through stats or through the Reagan-era model minority rhetoric, because of the AA pressure point separating traditionally left-leaning AAPIs from the pack.

And the problem is, I think everybody's right. There are tons of issues with AA that select against poorer AAPIs whose parents don't have relatively high educational attainment and there are studies that show that AAPIs are subjected to much higher admissions standards. Every single time any of us in that sub get into a discussion about AA, it basically turns into a fucking flamewar between people who understand systemic racism and its disproportionate effects on black populations ranging anywhere from birth outcomes to quality of life and AAPIs who have actually been affected by asshole white hegemonists and just want a better life for themselves. It's to call the people who want a better life out on the 'gimme mine' because a lot of them were immigrants or a lot of their parents were immigrants and the language and cultural barriers that were crossed really do seem to lend some kind credence to the idea of meritocracy beyond culture, at least when it comes to education. Or at least it elides the Piketty idea of intergenerational wealth though educational attainment probably accounts for some of that in this scenario.

Anyway, the discussion in that sub about Ferguson, MO exposed a lot of this rift, too. Because, surprise surprise, us AAPIs can get pretty political too. While activists and progressives here tended to get along across racial boundaries (/r/blackladies and /r/AsianAmerican had some moments of solidarity throughout the riots the led to some cross-commentingon Ferguson), there were a lot of voices that expressed either apathy or willful distaste against the protest movement. There were invocations of the Rodney King race riots that targeted Koreatown and anecdata recalling racist slurs by 'urban youth'. You can see some of this here in the hidden comments.

That's the rift in AAPI communities now. It's progressive vs conservative and it's a growing if not already entrenched issue that's being swung around, back and forth, by different ideologically motivated sides. This op-ed fits into this narrative as a plot point for the progressive side. And, as much as I might have personally enjoyed it, this article didn't much to resolve that rift .

In conclusion, AAPIs are a land of contrasts. It's a very confusing time to be an AAPI because it does feel like liberal establishment politicians are taking us for granted while, at the same time, conservatives are gunning for AAPI votes and appealing to our worst sensibilities. And in the midst of all this, we have a split community that really wasn't ever much of a homogeonized community in the first place but for the activists. And the activists are the ones calling for solidarity even though they know solidarity does come with some unresolved baggage and absolutely no insurance w/r/t benefits for poorer AAPIs without an educational advantage.

In any case, there's little that I wouldn't give for a comprehensive historical overview of liberal vs conservative policies and their effects on AAPI communities. But, then again, I don't know what to really expect from that and I'm sure my personal biases are showing.
posted by saucy_knave at 11:29 AM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


While the article does a pretty good job capturing that particular author's experience, it doesn't seem to have very much resonance outside of that one person's life.

San Francisco's 49 square miles are probably among the nation's more racially and economically diverse. Even there, the private school crowd in the Mission (Hispanics or hipsters, depending on the block) considered Jewish and Asian students to be diversity candidates. I've had school administrators from these "diverse" schools describe the class pictures from schools in the Marina or Seacliff as Children of the Corn due to the almost exclusively towheaded kids - as in, maybe one class gets the half-Asian kid, and the other class gets the brunette white kid. I'm not kidding about any of this.

Other people have made the point, but while there's a huge difference between the Asian-American experience today and the reality of horrific truths like driving while black, even in a show like OITNB (which does amazing things with black and Hispanic characters) you've got the barely fluent in English, old Asian woman with facial hair, and the pretty hapa girl - and....that's it. At least those two make the cast - evidently there are no women from the Middle East or South Asia in prison - or more broadly, anywhere else on television or pop culture, in general. And that's the women - with very, very few exceptions, men from the part of the world stretching from maybe around Egypt to Samoa effectively do not exist in media.

tl;dr - you can still be othered even with a job at Google. Maybe even especially if you have a job at Google.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:33 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


BinGregory: One thing I wonder is how much white people will stop *seeing* the asian-ness of asian people, when they join the white club.

jhc: This is a great point, that's key to the author's argument -- "whiteness" is only loosely related to skin color.

I can't help but be reminded of Aziz Ansari's bit about going with a white friend to an R. Kelly concert, and his friend says to him, "Hey Aziz, you and me are the only two white people at this concert."

That's the Aziz Ansari who looks like this, and whose name is Aziz Ansari.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 12:06 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]



I can't help but be reminded of Aziz Ansari's bit about going with a white friend to an R. Kelly concert, and his friend says to him, "Hey Aziz, you and me are the only two white people at this concert."

That's the Aziz Ansari who looks like this, and whose name is Aziz Ansari.


I am also Indian American and have had people make comments like that to me. Or say, "oh, you don't count as a minority." It's a thing.

I think she's talking to other Asian Americans like herself, like me, who sense that they have some kind of privilege relative to other people of color and are uncomfortable with the idea, who maybe are looking at having kids with a white partner who will then be considered white by society at large, and wondering how to deal with that.


I agree with this. I think there's a sense of "opting out" that middle class and up Asian Americans can have wrt to race, and it's almost like if you "opt in" to race discussions it's like you're not allowed to. I've had people (white and Asian) tell me I "shouldn't complain" because Indian Americans make more money on average than white people even or something.

Also all kinds of microaggressions against Asians just get handwaved away because a lot of things are fundamentally worse for poor blacks/Hispanics, so it's like I can't talk about that.

But then when white people talk about their privilege, that gets a lot of enthusiastic approval. If I talk about my privilege, I'm "bragging."
posted by sweetkid at 12:26 PM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think that moment hit me when I learned as a kid that Irish folks weren't really considered white for a long time. You don't get much paler than that.

I am so ANNOYED at the guy who coined the idea that the Irish "became white". The Irish were always white.

I'm an early modern historian (aka c1450-1850). I don't study Irish history and race, but I have read the academic publications of those who do. In the Middle Ages, the English considered the Irish to be foreign, but not less than them - just another culture like the French. During the colonial period in Ireland, however (starting in the 16th-17th centuries), English elites started to conceive of the Irish as being less evolved than the English (or fashionable continentals like the French).

But the Irish, though seen as backwards and unevolved, were never seen as non-white. Intermarriage between working class English & working class Irish was never banned; there were no anti-miscegenation laws, as there would be for Euro- and African-American couples. Marriage between the Irish upper class & English upper class happened frequently - what mattered was not the ethnic origin (Gael vs Norman vs English), but the religion. The second daughter of the 18th century Duke of Richmond married the 20th Earl of Kildare - who was descended from Gaelic nobility - and that was widely approved of; her sister had to elope to marry the very English but decidedly middle class Henry Fox.

Irish people were discriminated against in early modern Britain and in North America - well, Catholic Irish people were. I've never heard of any evidence of discrimination against Protestant Irish. But that discrimination was like that against other, definitely white but not as good as us people, like the French in large parts of Canada, or the Scots in the UK. They were never discriminated against as badly as non-whites.

Racism is complicated and layered. 19th century racism was especially layered - we had been practicing long enough to make an artform of prejudice. 19th century Anglo-Americans had a whole heirarchy of ethnicities and races: Anglos at the top, maybe then the Germans and the French (but not in Anglo Canada, where French could be lower than Irish), then (well below) the Irish, Italians and other "less evolved" Europeans, then other Caucasians (like Indians or Turks), then East Asians, and way, way at the bottom, sub-Saharan African people and their American descendants. (I don't know where native North Americans would fit in; I think Maori were put above Africans, while Aboriginal Australians were considered to be below).
posted by jb at 1:40 PM on September 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


I am so ANNOYED at the guy who coined the idea that the Irish "became white".

Noel Ignatiev?
posted by Justinian at 1:47 PM on September 10, 2014


History lesson over, and onto today: having most of my life in what Americans would call "majority-minority" communities, I have long thought about race, ethnicity, assimilation, etc.

What I have observed is that assimilation into white North American culture is mediated by physical appearance. Minorities who are distinguished from the Anglophone, white, protestant elite only by language (eg Swedes, 19th century Germans) assimilated in North America very quickly, as the next generation really was only distinguishable by name. Members of stigmatized religions take longer to assimilate, and their acceptance has followed the acceptance of their religion.

But people who don't look white (unlike most Italians and Jews) are still othered by the white majority. Sometimes the stereotypes are positive. But it doesn't change the fact that someone whose family has been in Canada for five generations may be still seen as "other" if that family is black or Asian, as opposed to white (Italian, Ukrainian, or Irish). Even when they have no accent, their primary culture is that of where they are from (in North America).

We're all far from colour (or feature) blind.
posted by jb at 1:53 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am so ANNOYED at the guy who coined the idea that the Irish "became white".

Noel Ignatiev?


Marxist? Check. Maoist? Check. SDS? Check. Anti-Zionist Jew? Check. White guilt? Check. Leftist academic? Check. Holy shit, Noel Ignatiev is a walking '60s cliche. All he needs is a ponytail...
posted by MikeMc at 4:06 PM on September 10, 2014


Hi - I'm going to weigh in with an entirely subjective comment about how I perceive race. After reading this thread and thinking about it, for every "race" except African Americans, I see middle class and assimilation = white. Apparently that is my blind spot. (Background, whitebread from one of the whitest states in the country. I mean, unless you count the freckly Irish as formerly not white.)

For example, I have a couple of times thought that my neighborhood is white, white, white. But then I go house by house and actually, not so much. Three Asian American/white couples I basically see as white, including their kids. One Pakistani/white couple, white; their daughter too, even though she bears a remarkable resemblance to Dora the Explorer. Dad is completely Americanized and secular, which I think makes a difference. My Indian next door neighbors who visit India every summer but don't wear a sari - white too. Americanized 12 year old who slouches to the bus stop every day while watched (like a hawk!) by his Chinese mother. White too. Honestly, there are all white households, but not that high a percentage compared to my rapid mental assessment (i.e, implicit bias). But no Africans or African Americans.

Now, if the same people were not middle class, I'd most likely see them as non-white. I realize this is a big blind spot and its embarrassing to reveal, but I suspect I'm not atypical. Money + assimilation = white. Or as someone said above "white caste", or not other. I am braced for the attack.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 4:44 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Measured: do you actually see them as white? Or is it just that you perceive them as middle-class American (as, indeed, they are), and there is this weird thing where, for Americans, white is conflated with middle class (thus Stuff White people like, which is very class specific).

This was a difficulty for me, when I lived in the US, as I was not raised middle class, but on welfare and in public housing. I also tutored low income students - and yes, where I was, the tutors were almost entirely white, while the students were primarily black and Hispanic. At the tutoring centre, the staff assumed that I didn't know what subsidized housing was like, or had never been to a majority low income school. A lot of people kept making assumptions about my background that were uncomfortable. Obviously, I was still of a foreign culture to the students, being a white Canadian, but I was also foreign to the staff, being low-income (and Canadian, of course, so much more foreign than I ever imagined).
posted by jb at 6:06 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Asians may appear to be "white" from an outsider's point of view, in terms of economic status, but you have to be Asian to experience the little things that remind you every day you're not really "one of them."

Of course we might regard our Asian friends or neighbors or coworkers as white for all intents and purposes, because we know them personally. That's just Bob, he's not some FOB, he grew up here and speaks perfect English. But random Asian people on the street are more often than not perceived of as foreigners. I know because I do it, and I'm Asian. Sometimes I see Asian people on the street and then think "wow...what if they're actually American like me?" And it takes a moment for my mind to really process that possibility. Sometimes I see my own reflection at a weird angle and think it's "some Asian guy" before realizing that it's me.
posted by pravit at 6:15 PM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]



Measured: do you actually see them as white? Or is it just that you perceive them as middle-class American (as, indeed, they are), and there is this weird thing where, for Americans, white is conflated with middle class (thus Stuff White people like, which is very class specific).


Good question. I think I subconsciously conflate the two, despite having grown up with a large number of "whites" who would not pass as middle class. I think money/class is more important than we Americans like to admit.

Asians may appear to be "white" from an outsider's point of view, in terms of economic status, but you have to be Asian to experience the little things that remind you every day you're not really "one of them."

I do not doubt that, and have read a number of (to me shocking) things on Metaflter like the "but where are you really from". I was just musing on my subconscious, because I have no illusions that I am some kind of wild free thinker, so the race class conflation is probably relatively common.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 6:42 PM on September 10, 2014


In Brazil - where concepts of race are way more complicated and finely-grained than our "one-drop rule" mentality - they have a saying: "Money whitens."
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 7:09 PM on September 10, 2014


It wouldn't be so simple as to lump Asians with whites in dating- OkTrends: "Race and Attraction, 2009-2014"
posted by Apocryphon at 8:13 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


It may seem obvious that particular group, like the Irish, the Italians, or Jews "looks white" from our contemporary American perspective, in an era in which these groups are considered ethnic whites, and incomprehensible that they were ever considered anything else. But what we perceive is strongly shaped by racial ideologies, as these eugenic illustrations of the Irish and Jewish physiognomies make clear.

I'm the Jewish parent of a hapa kid, and I think about the irony of the fact that in few places is she seen as less white than at shul, given this history.
posted by DrMew at 8:28 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


DrMew: yes, the Irish were considered less than Anglos/Germans - but in the spectrum of hatred, they were above Asians and well above African Americans. My point was that they were lesser whites, and (outside of Eugenics pamphlets, which didn't necessarily reflect popular opinion), discrimination focused heavily on their religion (Catholic). Thus the questions about Kennedy's run for the presidency weren't about his Irish heritage, but whether a Catholic could be POTUS.

I do find the picture a bit ironic: the "Irish face" looks quite English to me.
posted by jb at 9:37 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Asia is a big place. I love how we are all lumped together despite obvious differences.

For example, a way to begin to differentiate Asian-Americans into categories is to ask whether they were worried about being lynched or assaulted in the USA in the days following 9/11.
posted by Renoroc at 7:45 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]



For example, a way to begin to differentiate Asian-Americans into categories is to ask whether they were worried about being lynched or assaulted in the USA in the days following 9/11.


Yes, and that is a way to lump all South Asian Americans together, who are also diverse.
posted by sweetkid at 7:58 AM on September 11, 2014


I know this thread has cooled down, but wanted to pop in to post this article from the Asian American Writer's Workshop: Are we Trayvon Martin?
posted by gemutlichkeit at 4:38 PM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


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