Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Are Asians Becoming Whiter?

The Diversity Paradox.

I recently finished a book called "The Diversity Paradox" written by couple of sociologists (I believe) that collates information taken from the most recent census and extrapolates on the changing face of America's ethnic make-up and the way in which this is changing America's view of race and race relations. The study asks how, or if, the increasing numbers of immigrants from Latin America and Asia are changing white America's relationships and attitudes towards its ethnic minorities and suggests that high inter-marriage between Asians or Latinos with whites might be creating a new ethnic line of demarcation in which whites, Asians, and Latinos fall on one side of the barrier, and a disadvantaged black group on the other.

Overall, I thought that the book was very thoroughly researched but I found myself noticing that many of the suggested conclusions of the study defied my observations and presented an overly optimistic (and, even unrealistic) view of the nature of race-relations in America, both in the present and for the future, and seemed to overlook some vital aspects of the Asian-American experience that might have cast doubt on the book's conclusions.

For instance, having spent almost the entire book exploring the idea that high out-marriage rates of Asian-Americans (women, that is) might indicate a blurring of the boundary between white and Asian groups and be leading to greater integration and assimilation (and hence, I presume, greater tolerance), the authors add a half paragraph disclaimer at the back of the book that "there are gender differences (in out-marriage rates) that require further study". Uh-huh. That, to me, renders the conclusions of the previous chapters somewhat inconclusive. But more about this later.

To cover this book, I've focused on two conclusions the study makes, one of which I thought was contentious the other was simply worthy of comment, so I'm not claiming this to be a comprehensive critique.

The first point that the book makes and with which I agree, is the observation that immigrants choose to align with whiteness as opposed to blackness. This is interesting because at the time of early Asian immigration, although blacks were classified as citizens, Asians argued for citizenship based on the idea that they were white and thus eligible even though they could have just have easily (and who knows, perhaps more successfully) argued that they were eligible based on being "black".

So, almost built into the process of acceptance into the privileged class (particularly for a visible minority like Asians) involved an implicit acknowledgement, and perhaps even acquiescence to the notion of an inevitable inferior social status of the black under-class. Interestingly, even since the early days of non-European immigration America's racism created a perceived need for separation amongst its visible minorities as one of the means to maintain the racial hierarchy.  In recent years, there has been a blurring of this phenomenon, in the sense that aligning with blacks culturally has become fashionable, although it has to be said that white Americans seem as likely to do this as are immigrant groups.

It is also interesting to note that for Asian-Americans in the culture business, this process of aligning with whiteness has become the most likely avenue of success for those aspiring to mainstream recognition. Hence, much creative work produced by Asian-Americans involves an exaggerated depiction of Asian cultural and human backwardness, an obsequious deference to an imagined concept of white cultural perfection, as well as an almost universal absence of non-white and non-Asian characters, and even perhaps a deliberate blindness to wider social issues that might highlight negative aspects of the white culture that is being aspired to.

The next point of interest is the suggestion that inter-marriage indicates blurring of racial and social boundaries and even, perhaps, acceptance into mainstream society and can be seen as the final step to full assimilation. According to sociologists inter-marriage is the final boundary that is overcome by immigrant groups leading to full integration or assimilation. Recalling the experiences of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe, it had been noted that inter-marriage seemed to be an indication of society's acceptance of these groups as true Americans and led (or coincided) with increased prosperity and social empowerment. Yet, I cannot help but feel as though applying this reasoning to Asian-Americans ignores huge aspects of the Asian experience that were not faced by these earlier Caucasian immigrants, and which continue to be a barrier to Asian-Americans in the present.

Because Asian-Americans grow up in a society that routinely denigrates them, their race, racial characteristics, and their cultures, many of them develope negative attitudes towards themselves and others who look like them. This attitude is often and routinely expressed by Asian-Americans from internet forums and online communities, to works of literature and film but the fact is that Asian children in America learn one thing from American culture and that is to feel shame and embarrassment about themselves. It is a constant stream of exposure to the ubiquitous portrayals and images of Asian deficiencies that proliferate throughout American culture that is the basis upon which many Asians form their ideas about themselves and their identities - naturally they tend not to hold their cultures, race, or even themselves, in high esteem.

This can only place doubt on the conclusion that inter-marriage with Asian-Americans somehow diminishes negative attitudes, or increases tolerance towards Asians because, quite simply, many Asians themselves adopt these negative attitudes. So even though at this point I couldn't state categorically that Asian high out-marriage rates do not increase tolerance, I think it is reasonable to say that cultural denigration of Asians creates a sense of shame and a desire for distance from their culture of origin and ethnicity. Anecdotally, I (and I'm sure many of you) have encountered a good number of Asian-Americans (both who out-date/marry or do not) who, at best, have few positive things to say about Asians, or at worst, are almost vehement in their hostility to their own race or culture. And, no, it's not just date-only-white-guys-Asian women who do this!

Of course, for the Asian minority, high out-marriage rates occur predominantly between Asian women and white men, whilst out-marriage rates for Asian men are relatively low. This should cast some degree of doubt on the conclusion of it being an indicator of improved attitudes because, historically, anti-miscegenation laws and attitudes were primarily designed to prevent white women from marrying or having relationships with minority men, whilst at the same time, white men were routinely engaging in miscegenation with black or Asian women. Because anti-miscegenation had traditionally focused on preventing Asian men from assimilating into mainstream culture it would seem more reasonable to take out-marriage rates for Asian men as a more accurate gauge of a general decrease in negative attitudes.

These out-marriage differences within the Asian community suggests that, at best, it might be more accurate to say that in addition to racial lines that are being re-drawn, for the Asian community there is also a gender line being drawn within the community, with Asian women having smoother access to, and therefore falling on, the "white" side of the divide and Asian men outside of it. The gender imbalance in out-marriage rates for Asian men and women only indicates that it is, perhaps, Asian women who are being "promoted" into whiteness and that the gender differences that are perfunctorily acknowledged at the end of the book is actually indicative of an increasingly profound social separation between Asian men and women. You can think of this as a kind of model minority within a model minority.

Consider also that it has been estimated that between 1945 and 1965 there was something in the region of 100,000 marriages between American G.Is and Asian "war brides", yet, during that period and the subsequent twenty years, attitudes towards Asians didn't really improve and it could be argued that anti-Asianism increased beginning around the late 1970's and continuing, perhaps to this day. So altogether I think it is a dubious claim that inter-marriage carries with it an implicit and inevitable decrease in negative attitudes towards Asians - if high out-marriage rates of Asian women in the 1950's and 60's didn't decrease racism, why should we reasonably believe that it is having this effect now?.

Finally, the biggest obstacle to the Asian minority becoming fully accepted and assimilated (and which is not addressed in the book) lies in the unique political and historical relationship between the US and various Asian countries. Historically, America's attitude towards Asia is founded on its past colonial aspirations. Because America has historically seen itself in civilizational conflict with Asian nations, its attitudes towards Asian people has been and remains, combative, uncompromising, xenophobic, hostile, and intolerant. This is evident to this day - political rhetoric often exhibits these types of qualities and, as I often point out, American culture is suffused with a sadistic violence in its portrayals of Asian men. In fact, recent studies that show Asian children experience high levels of racial harassment from peers and that in the workplace Asians are harassed for any reason, would also indicate that the high inter-marriage rates have so far done little to promote tolerance.

Because immigrants from Europe have never had to overcome this type of civilizational antagonism they have not had to endure the protracted xenophobic stereotyping, political combativeness, and uncompromising hostility that characterizes the Asian experience. I would suggest that anti-Asian attitudes are as common and widely-held now as they were at the time of the Exclusion Acts and the Second World War. It is because Asian children are exposed to hateful images and stereotypes that many of them adopt these same attitudes making it highly plausible that marrying an Asian-American is unlikely to contribute to an increase tolerance or positive attitudes towards Asian people.

17 comments:

  1. too cerebral. you got to make it so the youtube kids can understand:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDy472JCXJY

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    1. I didn't realize the average youtuber knew about Maxine Hong Kingston.

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    2. I remember when I was about 13 years old, I was at a (Vietnamese) hair salon getting my hair cut. At the waiting area, there was a young woman with her two kids and her mother. It was the first time in my life seeing (Vietnamese) HAPA kids. Their grandmother was trying to play with her kids, but she didn't speak any English so she was speaking to them in Vietnamese with the mother encouraging them to play with her. They didn't understand a word she was saying and tried to avoid her the entire time, giving her looks like "Who the hell are you?"

      In a perfect world, self-hating Asian women will have male HAPA kids that will look Asian enough to be bullied, and they will relay their pain to their mothers, whom will then realize that they helped fuel the hate that was echoed onto their kids. Or maybe that's just bitter wishful thinking.

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  2. Tommy...

    That's an awful story! Like I said in the post, Asians can't hide their ethnicity like European immigrants so at some point racism will always rear its head.

    Anon....

    Well to be fair, the book that I was writing about was somewhat academic in scope and tone, so my criticism followed in the same vein.

    I disagree with you because racism has already dumbed down our dialogue - that video was hilarious because it was so true, there are plenty of Asians (yes including some guys) who exhibit the same kind of childlike thinking that the two female characters exhibited in the video.

    So, even though it makes for a good quasi-satire (quasi because there are some Asians who actually do believe and say those things to Asian guys) we don't need more of it because to invest too much in that type of dialogue actually gives a voice and a platform for the stupid people who behave that way.

    By the way, that was a hilarious video - I might post it!

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    1. I think academics are doing a good job bringing up awareness of historical facts and social issues that most are not aware of.

      However, I think most of the time it's the language that gets in the way of their ideas.

      I can read it without any problems, but then I wonder why do I force myself to? And that's the issue I have.


      Also, can you believe they actually spent money on that study of how TV watching affects self-esteem for whites and blacks? Where are the Asians? And as if that's not obvious already...


      I'm glad you liked the video. I'm just trying to summarize the online flame wars regarding "IR." Please post and comment about it.

      Give me a thumbs up while you're at it; there's already a hater. ^_^




      Personally, I'm tired of the complaints. I hope that yomyomf initiative will create some good AM portrayals.

      For me, next up is going to be a Star Wars fan film with an AM as the main protagonist... Stay tuned, as I might have to beg for crowd-sourced money.

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    2. Well, I'll just say that I think that there are some ideas that require a particular type of language and form of argumentation. Personally, I try to analyze a subject from as many angles as I possibly can so that I can present an argument or idea that is as close to what I perceive to be an objective truth as I can get. Plus, I think Asian-Americans need to develope a culture of argumentation and debate, which can only come about by using language potently.

      So, are you telling me that you are the guy who made that video? If so welcome bin2oct8dec10hex16, and I'm looking forward to some more of your work. Plus, when you comment in the future please use a moniker so I know who you are!

      Oh, and I gave the video a thumbs up!

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    3. Hi, Ben. Thanks for the thumbs up. =]

      I'm Mack (mwei) on other forums. And I have plans for a Star Wars fan film my friends and I are trying to get off the ground - it's got an AM protagonist, and will have a good story. I'm definitely going to be hitting up the internets for money later on. lol


      I agree there's a time for academic discussions and the language should be precise to reflect the ideas. However, because of the language it's mostly just academic and not more widely circulated as the ideas should be.

      It's kind of sad there's a dumbing down process in mainstream culture, but I think accessibility is one of the reasons. Make the language too hard to read and the youtube kiddies will tune off anything longer than 5 minutes.

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  3. Oops...let me try this again.

    Ben,

    Great post. I agree. Colorism never existed among white immigrants in America, so it's entirely different when it's another race.

    Anon: That was a great video! I'm going to post it too!

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    1. Hi, bWW. I should've sent it to you before, but I've been busy with other stuff and haven't thought of it it until just now. lol


      I'll definitely hit you up again, because I'm going to be begging for crowdsourcing funds in the future for a Star Wars fan film. ~_^


      Thanks for your support. =]

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    2. I knew it was you, mwei!!! I remember you saying that. Is that you in the video? (Am I allowed to ask publicly?) Thanks!!!

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    3. I KNEW the dialogue sounded like something from bWW's discussions....

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  4. Respect for asians in general has not improved, despite - from whites' point of view - the high interracial marriage rate with asian women - is because they are not entering a relationship of equals. It is mostly of the "me love you long time" type, where the subservient asian wife is clearly serving the white man. He is using the citizenship/money and his whiteness - you know, the race that many asian women see as "the best" - to assert authority over her. Thus these marriages mean nothing, just telling us that white men are dominating asian women enough to deprive asian men of their own... who could respect that?

    This ties in with the open, casual racism that is afforded to asians that would nearly always be (rightly) mowed down if directed towards other groups... the general lack of respect. A lot of this is to do with asians' non-conflict stance towards... well, everything. It's a dog eat dog world out there, and you notice with minority groups they quickly descend into tribalism - getting into similar racial groups and having turf wars. The asians who do not do this - coupled with their relative lack of numbers - mean they are easy targets.

    I notice that in Britain, the first interracial relationships between asians and whites were not the type you see now, but asian men (sailors who worked for the Royal Navy during WW2) and their white British wives. Guess what happened to them? All deported. Now the tide has truly reversed, do we see the same thing happening with these asian women who - let's be fair - are parasitical, leeching off a white's income and having non white kids? Of course not.

    Why is this... because the white governments have seen an opportunity. East Asians are suffering a racial demographic crisis - way more men than women, and an ageing population. Common sense would be to send asian men to other nations so they do not go without families, at the same time balancing out the m-f ratio. Instead the opposite is happening - I read a study where in most african and asian (south) countries, the university students they send for study abroad are always mostly male - EXCEPT the east asian nations, where 65% of those they send from China to Britain are female. Most of these will find a white man there, pop a baby and oh look - they are now British. More importantly, they have deprived a chinese man of their own family - this despite the sex imbalance. Meanwhile, these white men aren't the sort who are the desirable ones back home - most likely they would be childless and forgotten - but noticing this asian female mentality of white fever - have made asian men the ones childless and forgotten. Then of course you have the old white men with previous families, thus ensuring a pure white family to continue AND spreading his seed to another race - whilst poor asian man can't even have his own family.

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    1. China is trying to limit their population growth (rightly or wrongly) and I doubt they care too much about women leaving - I dare say they encourage it even.


      the best thing is to focus on changing the things in your life that makes you unhappy - get rid of toxic relationships; and forget about the things you can't control.

      There's too much injustice and suffering in the world and you can't let it get to you.

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    2. What a defeatist attitude, and PRECISELY why we have this scenario of white men - even the old, disabled, poor, deformed ones - bagging decent and attractive asian girls.

      We only have a limited lifespan in our life, thus each one of us needs to make as significant impact as we can. The Chinese government may not care, but a hell of a lot of Chinese men do. I would not like a future where millions upon millions of Chinese men die alone without descendants to call their own, all because of the reluctance and apathy of ethnic Chinese governments (and to be fair, lots of east asian ones) AND the people of "letting things be". Because whilst most Chinese are concentrating on their lot, others (whites) certainly aren't... thus leaving us vulnerable to be walked over, which the men (and women) are in this case.

      There is indeed too much injustice and suffering in this world.... which is why we need to focus on the issues that matter to us - the Chinese people - present and future. Your attitude is just baffling, following your logic there would be no charities, no causes, no protest groups and lobbyists... because we'd all "forget about the things we can't control".

      A single person can make a difference. You would do well to remember that.

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    3. Call me cynical, but charities only have to spend 10% of their funds for whatever agenda they want to push.


      And there are issues with the APA organizations that haven't done anything to promote APA progress. There are some small changes happening, but overall the organizations haven't done anything.


      I've been constantly shut down and told to be kept quiet and not rock the boat by lots of APA groups and people in my time.


      To me, I can only do whatever I have to do to survive and keep on going and do things that make me happy...


      Now if you have an idea on how to actually get true APA progressives into positions of power to actually make some changes then I'm always game to help you out.


      (If you're in LA, then I'm down with generating positive AM media images.)


      Otherwise, from a practical point of view people can only be expected to focus on their own immediate sphere of influence.


      With that said, get the word out to boycott media that shows AM in negative portrayals.

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