Pawan Dhingra on Asian Americans and New Conceptions of Race

Pawan Dhingra on Asian Americans and New Conceptions of Race


SPEAKER 1: All right. So as scholars formulate race
beyond a black-white binary, the category of
honorary whites has been both informative and elusive. Sociologist Eduardo
Bonilla-Silva posits three main racial categories for
the contemporary US– whites, honorary whites,
and the collective black. Whites and collective blacks
represent the binary poles of race and racism. We kind of know that. The collective black in
this formulation that he has refers to African-Americans,
dark-skinned Latinos, Native Americans,
struggling Asian Americans for instance, Hmong Americans,
and dark-skinned African immigrants. Honorary whites include
Chinese, Indian, Korean, Japanese Americans,
light-skinned Latinos and Middle Eastern Americans. They are minorities
who approximate or even surpass whites in terms
of their adaptation, in terms of major
categories that we measure for how well an immigrant
group is adapting to the United States. That is, for instance,
median incomes, levels of educational
attainment, residential integration,
health care outcomes, and even identification
with whites, more so than with
other minorities. Bonilla-Silva says that
they can experience racism, these honorary
whites, such as Arab American discrimination post 9/11. He goes on to say that
they help maintain– basically they’re tools
for white supremacy for they exist between
blacks and whites, and help buffer racial conflict. But what relevance
race has for those classified as honorary
whites is unclear given their significant
integration. It’s an assertion that he makes
that such minorities affirm white supremacy and
are racially maligned rather than an agreed upon fact. When I’m using the term
honorary whites today, I’m referring to his
typology specifically. How should we understand the
meaning and relevance of race for minorities who
approach or even surpass whites along key
measures of mobility seemingly far removed from
any substantial notions of racial disfranchisement? Are they a sign of the
continued white supremacy as suggested by Bonilla-Silva
and other critical race scholars? Or is their social cultural
economic integration a sign of blurred boundaries and
assimilation with whites as others contend? We cannot fully understand
how race works overall without understanding the experiences
of this growing segment of minorities. I invoke and elaborate on the
concept of honorary whiteness in order to offer a more
comprehensive approach to understanding such groups. To elucidate how to think
of the meaning and relevance of the race for this
category, I focused mostly on Asian-Americans today whose
class backgrounds give them economic privileges alongside
middle class whites. I’m talking about a particular
niche of Asian-Americans. And I’m going to connect this
notion of honorary whiteness to the racialization
of Asian-Americans. Before elaborating on the
concept of honorary whiteness, I want to briefly explain why I
am privileging his formulation of race and racial categories. Other formulations
offer many key insights of racial inequality, but
less so for minorities that are quite integrated. For instance,
Evelyn Nakano Glenn has argued for a
conception of race that recognizes
settler colonialism alongside racialization of
African-Americans and others. She highlights how
displacement and dispossession shape racial injustices. Yet how contemporary integrated
minorities– for instance, Chinese-Americans, affluent
Chinese-Americans which she references in passing
in the article– experienced race is
not really addressed. Similarly, Julian Go
argues effectively that post-colonialism adds
to our understanding of US racial inequality
for it provides an historical formulation of
race as an imperial project. Here again, the ideal type
of a racial minority group is one that experiences
clear inequalities, relative to whites
in the nation, which his honorary white
category does not fit. Other frameworks
offer definitions of race that allow
integrated minorities to be a racialized minority group
for integrating [INAUDIBLE].. But their examples
of how racism works does not encompass
their experiences. Again, for people whose incomes
or educational attainments or other measures
not necessarily are on par with whites but
even surpass white medians. Omi and Winant
offered an approach to understanding race that is
expansive, not limited to one kind of racial inequality. But as others have argued
they talk more about how race is constructed than
about racism and its relevance for different kinds of groups. None conceptualize a minority
category fitting for those who approximate or
even surpass whites on key social categories. I’m not dismissing
these formulations. I will draw upon them. But they do not approximate
honorary whiteness as sufficient. And yet the conception
of honorary whiteness remains undertheorized
with attention mostly to those on the
collective black scale of the binary. In what ways and how does
race matter for these groups? It’s not a
self-evident question. Bonilla-Silva’s discussion of
honorary whites paints them as practically beyond
racism for it paints– for it spends most of it’s time
documenting their achievements. As I mentioned before he
cites anti-Arab American discrimination, hate crimes
and the like post 9/11 as evidence of how honorary
whites are not beyond race. But how such anti-Arab
discrimination can sit alongside their
elevated educational status, socioeconomic status
is not explained. Rather than focus on
the significance of race for honorary whites,
research on the concept has instead studied
whether groups classified as honorary whites have
racial attitudes more similar to whites then
to blacks and such. I’m not going to speak on that,
because it doesn’t really– it’s not a controversial– And it basically
argues that this notion of honorary whiteness exists. But even with consensus,
the so-called honorary white minority are distinct
from other minorities. The more fundamental question
of the relevance and meaning of race for them is unanswered. For instance,
Asian-Americans are racialized as foreigners but
also the “outwhite whites,” quote, unquote. And how this could
happen simultaneously is not explained. In other words, research
has not explained the conundrum of
simultaneous white supremacy and the achievements of
integrated minorities. Instead, literature
responds to this paradox by concentrating
on, for instance, Asian Americans’ experiences
with either discrimination or integration. The tendency has been a debate
between two opposing sides– one arguing for the significance
of Orientalism and race, and the other side
arguing for the lack of any kind of meaningful
racialized experience. As Lee and Kye put it
for Asian Americans in a review article
of the literature on Asia-America
sociology, “Ultimately we argue that it’s time for
theoretical perspectives on Asian Americans
to move past binary frameworks of assimilation
or racialization as mutually exclusive outcomes. Instead, the evidence
we have reviewed suggests the possibility
and indeed the likelihood that processes of
assimilation and racialization are occurring simultaneously for
Asian American groups today.” So it’s not just me
telling you this, this amazing review article
tells you the same thing. Today, I take up this challenge
moving past binary frameworks. I want to briefly review
this binary notion in order to demonstrate how
race is currently framed for these groups. Then I spend the bulk of
this presentation explaining the concept of honorary
whiteness, once properly fleshed out, could help
reconcile the seeming binary. So one side of this debate– excuse me– of Asian
Americans and race aligns them with the
collective black. Now, they experience
a clear racialization as minorities at the hands
of whites in the nation making them connected
to the collective black even as they experience
race differently. Such literature explains that
they are unlike and unequal to whites despite their seeming
socioeconomic integration achievements. For instance, the model
minority stereotype marginalizes Asian Americans
and African-Americans. Beyond its racist
implications, the stereotype hides the heterogeneity
of the race. For instance, many
Asian Americans experience high poverty rates. Ethnographic accounts of the
so-called model minority reveal constant questions of their
belonging to the nation– questions like, where
are you really from, assumptions about robotic
personalities and concerns about a glass ceiling. So behind these broad
statistical measures of their integration, you
see the real experiences of being seen as
constant foreigners. The model minority transforms
into the Orientalist yellow peril when Asian
Americans become too successful and threaten white privilege. The notion that Asian
Americans experience racism as [INAUDIBLE] have
been well documented. For instance, they may have
residential integration with whites but are made
to feel like they did not belong culturally,
as they [INAUDIBLE] the physical and linguistic
landscapes of suburbs. Hate crimes against Asian
Americans as foreigners are not uncommon. There’s multiple
instances of this. And we’re seeing different
versions of this currently. The micro and macro levels of– acts of discrimination
against Asian-Americans affirm the fact
that the US is not a welcoming nation but an
imperial one with Asians that migrate and work
within rather than enjoy the false notions
of citizenship. Minorities might move
up the racial hierarchy by committing to
whitening themselves and distancing themselves
from African-Americans, but racism still pervades
their experiences. Real equality
necessitates solidarities between honorary whites
and African-Americans which are more common
than normally assumed. So one side of this binary
of the relevance of race for integrated
minorities contends that they are less economically
successful then we assume, less socially
integrated and accepted then we assume,
and they’re mostly treated as non-whites through
the lens of Orientalism. They are distinct
from but connected to the collective
black as people of color within a white
supremacist nation. That’s one argument, one side
of this quote, unquote “debate.” The other side of the debate
contends that Asian Americans are blurring the boundaries
with whites, so much so that assimilation, if not
a foregone conclusion, at least would
not be surprising. To support this claim scholars
point to major elements of integration. Asian Americans and
other immigrants experience more
residential integration, interracial marriages
with whites, economic mobility, and
identification with whites the more time they spend
in the United States. In other words, the
challenges they face are a function of
their immigration rather than a function of race. But honorary whites
live in neighborhoods with a large concentration of
coethnics mostly by choice, rather than a lack
of opportunities. There are few if any
barriers according to this side of the argument
to their socioeconomic equality with whites. A glass ceiling
or bamboo ceiling is a very contested notion. There’s a lot of evidence
suggests that it’s not there. So if race and racism are
so meaningful to their lives you wouldn’t see such
major indicators. Such arguments do not
contend that there is no racism against
Asian Americans but that such acts are not
institutionalized nor impactful at the group level– that they ease over time. It’s a crueler version maybe of
the anachronistic and hopefully harmless stereotype
of the Irish drunk. It exists and it’s
unfortunate but doesn’t really bear on their livelihoods. Under such assimilation
formulations, blacks still suffer from racism. Many honorary whites
are very close to if not part of whiteness. How much race matters to
them could be quite little. So we are left with the question
of how much race and racism matter for integrated
minorities like honorary whites. To get past this debate
of whether race matters or not for many
Asian Americans we must adopt a fuller
approach to conceptualizing the relevance of race. Honorary whiteness is a useful
category to explain this, but it needs to be
properly formulated. For it is not clear what
the status really means. I hope to accomplish two
interconnected goals. The first is to conceptualize
the relevance of race for honorary whites, that
is this paper explains honorary whites
within a racial system beyond questioning their
individual experiences with racism or other
forms of marginalization as normally performed
by race scholars. Specifically, I’m
going to explain how honorary whites encounter
the social structure in a way that undermines
the collective blacks and lets them
approximate whiteness while still upholding a white
supremacy that keeps them apart. This conception of how
race matters for integrated minorities differs from
a critical race approach which argues, as I mentioned
earlier, the relevance of race by demonstrating how integrated
minorities are clearly disenfranchised
relative to whites. In my conception,
finding honorary whites to be on par with
whites makes sense. The second goal is to use
this expanded conception of honorary whiteness to
explain how many Asian Americans experience
race and in so doing reconcile the aforementioned
binary debate. Race matters for Asian
Americans when their practices and experiences contribute
to their disenfranchisement of collective blacks and
maintain white supremacy, which will entail proximity to whites,
but not complete equality. I’m going to draw from
existing literature and also offer some
data that I’ve collected on integrated minorities. I contend that the concept
of honorary whiteness can help us explain this binary. I argue that Asian Americans
fit within a racial ideologies and structure in ways that
allow for their socioeconomic achievements and mark
them as foreigners with the effects of
perpetuating anti-black racism and upholding white supremacy. In contrast the research
on racialization of Asian Americans,
it should not be surprising to
find ample evidence of their economic, social,
and cultural integration that supports anti-black racism
and maintains the foundations of white supremacy. So the proximity
to whites does not signal the declining
significance of race or their assimilation. I’ll show this first
through attention to their place within
racial ideologies, and then their place within
social institutions, mainly the labor market and education. So I’m now going to move from
this broader formulations to giving you actual evidence of
their place in a racial system. I look first at
racial ideologies. The goal of this
section is to explain how the cultural stereotypes
of Asian Americans support ideologies that
perpetuate anti-blackness and white supremacy. Asian Americans are
framed along two main– sorry– two dimensions–
superior, inferior, and insider outsider. Through the model
minority stereotype, they are valorized
as superior to blacks and comparable to whites. They are presumed to
be academically minded, hardworking, unlikely
to commit crimes. These are all notions you
are probably familiar with. Beyond being a misleading
descriptor of Asian Americans, the stereotype also
reinforces the subjugation of the collective
black and perpetuates colorblind ideology. The United States has
passed its racist history, and is treating people as
individuals rather than as subordinate groups. As such, the stereotype
disciplines blacks. It’s no coincidence
that the stereotype arose during the time of
the Civil Rights Movement for instance. Asian Americans as
the model minority will not be conflated
with blacks. So we see that it
makes sense for them to be seen as relative to
whites within a system that oppresses other minorities. The yellow peril notion
kicks in when Asian Americans appear to be too successful and
to threaten white supremacy. The cultural stereotype
upholds white supremacy and keeps honorary whites
separate and unequal. As Andrew Smith
argues, it does so by being based on
Orientalist assumptions that the West is
morally intellectually and technologically
superior to the East. The West must engage
in war in order to protect itself from
conquest by the East and to spread its
enlightened status to these backwards others. Orientalism frames
Asian Americans as non-whites, while
doing so allows the US to exercise military,
economic, and cultural power over foreign groups, including
when those foreign groups are US citizens. As such, the yellow peril
upholds whiteness as natural. The forever
foreigner designation not only supports Orientalism
but also racialized capitalism, and within that
the ideology of nationalism. Asian Americans are utilized
for their labor and to help capitalism, but are maligned
as foreigners, so uphold the nation as a white entity. That is, they resolve
the contradiction between capitalism
and nationalism. So such a cultural
framing supports white nationalist ideology. The whites are the true
owners of the nation and true patriots. The yellow peril
stereotype never goes away, but it becomes more evident when
white Americans feel threatened by Asian Americans Drawing off
sociologist Herbert Bloomer, we would expect the
dominant stereotype– I’m sorry, this
dormant stereotype to become activated when
whites [? thought ?] their group’s status
is under threat. And multiple historical
examples confirm this. These include but
are not limited to Chinese Exclusion
laws, the long scale interment of
Japanese-Americans, in contrast to how German and Italian
Americans were treated. You’re having a talk
here in a couple of days about
Japanese-American internment. The murder of Vincent
Chin, post 9/11 hate crimes and surveillance,
H1 visa curtailments, the proposed Muslim ban,
et cetera, et cetera. So what’s the point? The cultural stereotype
apply to Asian Americans and make sense within
a racial system that uses Asian Americans to
uphold white supremacy and to subjugate the
collective black. Asian Americans can be socially
and culturally accepted if they demonstrate
themselves to be patriotic and non-threatening,
which remains something to be proved rather than assumed. Moving onto racial institutions. I’ll be talking about the labor
market and then education. Again, the goal here
is to demonstrate how Asian Americans fit in
within these institutions makes sense once understood
within a racial system– as opposed to arguing
that they are or are not experiencing racism per se. Race takes place
across institutions that we take for granted as
part of our day-to-day lives. I’ll focus on labor
market and education, and within those a few cases. Within the labor
market, honorary whites should accrue resources at the
expense of African-Americans and others. Just like the model
minority stereotype gives them praise at the
expense of African-Americans and other minorities. At the same time,
they should not threaten white
supremacy or white-run capitalism without significant
pushback from whites. Their practices will uphold
whites’ privileged status within institutions which
they will be reminded of through racist rhetoric and
practices when they threaten whites’ privileged statuses. I explicate what it means but
honorary white in labor market through analysis of Asian
Americans as small business owners, and then within
white collar professions– physicians and
H1-B visa workers. In the process, a
seemingly contradictory– economic achievements
on the one hand, and racial situations on the
other hand, are explained. Integrated minorities
or honorary whites as small business owners
should run businesses often at the expense of
blacks and should not threaten white supremacy
or white-run capitalism. Asian Americans’ frequent
status as middlemen minorities fits this positionality. They run businesses that
depend on poor, often minority clientele while benefiting
white-run capitalism within a racial hierarchy. Middlemen minority
businesses arise in areas with entrenched
racial hierarchies where minority groups
lack many retail options. A prime example of
this historically has been Korean-Americans. They’ve held a variety
of family-run businesses such as grocery stores,
liquor stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, and more. Within some urban inner cities
they took over businesses from other immigrants that serve
primarily African-Americans and Latinos. White suppliers benefit
from such small scale stores so they can reach markets
they otherwise would not. While often exaggerated
in the media, racial tensions
between black customers and Korean-American
store owners have ensued as store owners
were seen as capitalizing on the marginal conditions
of African-Americans. Such resentment between
minorities and white business– between minorities benefits
white business owners and politicians. So the position of integrated
minorities as middlemen minorities make sense. Because that fits their role
within the racial system in the labor market. Some entrepreneurs have
made significant progress through small
business ownership. Their achievements
and challenges also make sense once
viewed through the lens of honorary whiteness. Indian American motel owners
began within a middleman minority situation. In the 1940s and ’50s,
these Indian American owners started in the industry
serving poor customers with extended stay hotels in
rundown areas of San Francisco and other major cities. Over time, these
Indian Americans came to dominate the lower
to mid-hospitality market. Even if owners have
uneven financial returns, for the most part
they can afford to put their kids
through college, thereby facilitating
financial security for the next generation. It’s no surprise that the
media, corporate leaders, and politicians applaud them as
the American dream incarnate. So, again, it’s not
surprising that we see honorary whites doing
quite well, because they’re doing so often at the
expense of other minorities within a system that
is racially stratified. So the achievements
differentiate them from the collective black,
but still reinforce then threaten aspects
of white supremacy. These Indian
American motel owners uphold white-led
corporations that depend on the willingness
of Indian immigrants to open and expand
their businesses. Indian owners complain that
they are taken advantage of by these corporations
as immigrants with few other
professional options. For the most part,
these Indian owners have remained in
the lower market sector, marked by
lower [INAUDIBLE] and stiff competition. When they seem to pressure
the privileged group status of white owners,
a pushback follows. White owners argue that
they are unprofessional, weakening the
industry and the like. White owners install American
owned and operated signs in order to demonstrate
that their hotels are not Indian owned. Importantly, while
racial incidents reinforce the white stature both
as competitors and as ruling capitalists, it does not mean
that individual owners will complain about
racism or experience impediments of their mobility. As they serve corporate
and government entities, they will be rewarded. They’re blurring boundaries
with whites given their success but without– because they’re
helping developers– but without overcoming
a marginalized status. There’s an example of what an
American owned and operated sign looks like. So, again, you’ll experience
this kind of pushback, even as they move up with
the racial hierarchy. I want to turn to a different
form of labor market– white collar professionals. I’ll be looking at physicians,
and how their experiences also makes sense within our
racial system’s perspective. Physicians were encouraged
to immigrate to the US in order to serve communities
neglected within the health care system, namely blacks
and whites in urban centers and in rural stretches– a trend that continues today. Rather than invest in
education and training of African-Americans and
others in the collective black category, immigrants
were brought in as a solution to a shortage. In the process, they
benefited white physicians. The immigrants took
residences and positions that most white
physicians did not want. And they became privileged for
higher paying and higher status options. They also entered peripheral
specializations left open by whites. So the growth of
the immigrant doctor reinforces the
positionality of both– the dependent collective
black and the entitled credentialed white. Immigrants generally have found
success under this system. It’s not surprising
that many physicians blur the boundaries of whiteness
with financial and social statuses afforded them. If they perform well and earn
the respect of more established white colleagues, they might be
able to move up to better jobs. And yet when such
immigrants seem to threaten the privileged
status of whites, they receive pushback
as inferior foreigners with significant, but not
complete effectiveness. Such pushback happens
discursively for instance. For decades,
immigrant physicians were referred to as FMGs,
foreign medical graduates, a term used for any
immigrant physician, even if educated partly
in the United States. And not were used to refer to US
born and raised physicians who attended medical school abroad. Immigrant physicians
encountered clear discrimination the 1980s and ’90s as
arguably still today. For instance, they had
to take stricter exams then the US trained doctors. And it became a
widely held belief that they provided poorer care
despite any physical evidence of that. The American Medical
Association lobbied US Congress to limit the number
of immigrant doctors which it did in 1976 despite
some major cities still lacking sufficient numbers. In these ways, the
key institutions around the occupation work to
affirm this racial status quo. Rather than frame immigrant
physicians as somewhat successful and somewhat
discriminated against, we learn more by framing
them within a racial system. Individual immigrant physicians
enjoy relatively high status and incomes, residential
integration, and ensuing provisions within
the health care system premised on
racial inequalities for the collective black. But they work within
a physician system that supported their white
peers and try to keep them within a secondary status. Some might move up while
many others do not. For the sake of time,
I’m going to skip over this next description
of H1-B visa workers and get to the
section on education, the last institution. This is really great stuff. You’re really missing out. You’re really missing out. The final example of how
honorary whiteness explains groups experiences within
its social institutions involves education. Asian Americans are known
for their general not uniform educational attainment. The model minority
stereotype finds popular support because of
certain Asian Americans’ scholastic achievements
relative to other minorities even as achievements often stem
from their class advantages. Importantly for the concept
of honorary whiteness, this success is not
just in contrast to many African-Americans but
is framed as in resistance to them. For instance, Min
Zhou and Carl Bankston argue that Vietnamese
Americans in New Orleans who avoid the cultural
norms of local blacks and stay within their own ethnic
group succeed more in school. This is part of a
more expansive trend– this argument is part of
a more expansive trend to interpret urban
African-Americans as oppositional toward school. I’m drawing– thinking of the
work of John Ogbu and others, who have made this argument. This value-based argument
has been well challenged even as we still see differences
in scholastic performance between Asian Americans
and blacks in schools. In addition to unequal
cultural framings, honorary whites accrue
resources at the expense of other minorities. That’s how they fit
within a racial system. For instance, Asian Americans
enjoy a stereotype promise that is assumed
to be academically committed and adept,
especially in STEM fields. Conversely,
African-Americans suffer from a stereotype threat, that
is a self perception influenced by educators that they
are inferior academically. These varying
images influence how teachers treat students
who have major impacts on their academic performance. Asian Americans are given
more academic opportunities than blacks and Latinos. This happens as they have
access to small classes, advanced classes, higher level
tracking, and the benefit of doubt in their assignments. Within a zero sum
of school budgets, resources to such
Asian Americans happen at the expense
of the collective black. Asian Americans’ achievements
blur the boundary with whites it could be read
as a sign of their equity with whites. Whites applaud their
successes even more so when they can benefit from them. For instance, white
families looking to advance their
children’s education turn to Asian immigrant spaces. You’ll see this in– Asian Americans may start this
cram school they’re called. And you’ll see
some white families take advantage of that. If honorary whiteness
is a useful lens to interpret such Asian
Americans’ experiences in school, we would predict for
them to encounter resistance from whites if they
threaten whites’ sense of entitled status within
schools and that’s what we see. It is one thing
for Asian Americans to do well relative
to other minorities. That’s applauded as proving
a colorblind ideology. But when scholastic achievements
come at the expense of whites it represents a foreign
invasion of corrupt morals. For instance, the image
of the Asian whiz kid has been replaced by that
of the mean tiger mom. White families complain
when educational norms in their neighborhood change as
a result of Asian immigration. And we’re seeing
this, for instance, in suburbs of San Francisco
and New Jersey and elsewhere. Families and school
districts frame Asian immigrant children
as studious but unable to assimilate. There is a new white flight
happening from neighborhoods with too many Asian Americans. I have conducted research
on affluent Asian Americans families who pursue what
I call hyper education for their young kids. That is, their pre-school
to middle age children take part in after school
education, like spelling bee competitions, math
classes, math competitions, even though they are
already excelling in school, and they’re in
well-resourced public schools or private schools. There’s no meaningful reason
to pursue more education, yet these families are doing so. That’s the population
I’ve been studying. Teachers and administrators of
these affluent high-performing school districts in
the Boston suburbs where I did my research, where
whites and Asian Americans are their largest
demographic groups, spoke of the problems that
ensued from Asian Americans prioritizing academics so much. They’re blamed for stress
and insecurity among whites. One administrator
explained it this way. You have a confluence of things
happening in this country. People coming into the country. Some of them for the
education specifically. Coming with their
cultural perspective of what they think
is appropriate and how things should be putting
pressure onto school districts. You also have the
kindergarten to college route that is also in place. And that’s getting more
and more selective. Here, the pressure
that white middle class and upper middle class families
face in regards to education is blamed primarily on the
culture of Asian Americans and only secondly
on major changes in higher education
and labor market. Self-assured that their
parenting styles are normative, educators feel emboldened
to criticize to the students the cultural influence
of their parents. There was a preventative
specialist [INAUDIBLE]—- someone whose job it is to help
teach children in the school district how to make healthy
choices when faced with stress or the opportunity for drinking
and drugs or whatever else it might be. She said, “I had a
student who was Indian in my office every day,
anxious about going home and facing his father,
worried about college. I saw him over four years. I saw the toll that
it took on him. I was on him all the time. I’m not your mother,
but I am your mother. He skipped over
pieces of a childhood that no child should have to do. I had the opportunity
to get to know kids. I can tell them messages. They ask, am I nuts? And I say no. You’re not nuts. Everyone else is around here.” With her good
intentions in mind, she refers herself is a type
of mother to the student who wants to get at the source
of the foreign contagion that is hurting all of the
children in this school– the home parenting. She aims gave students
a version of childhood she deems appropriate,
one denied to them by over-pressuring parents
who are ridiculed as nuts. White professional
families do not always demonstrate
restraint and concern around strong
investment in academics. In schools with mostly
blacks and white students, white parents often
advocate for their children to receive academic resources. They argue for their kids
to be in advanced tracks, for admission to honors or
AP classes, for extra support from teachers and the like. But when Asian Americans do the
same at the expense of whites it’s a cause of concern. A white, US-born mother in an
affluent Boston area district with many Asian
American said, “But we do know Asian-American parents
who are calling the schools and saying my kid is more
advanced than you realize. And he’s going to be advanced. And he’s going to be
starting this year– whatever advanced class it is. Then they find
out or we find out that they got their private
tutors over the summer. And they had them take online
classes over the summer. It seems unfair
that Asian Americans should get in advanced classes
if they’re doing coursework over the summer.” Indicative of the
power white families have on local school
districts, administrators are responding to
their concerns. This is an example
from New Jersey– Princeton, New Jersey area
within the past couple of years. Districts are siding
with white families and are cutting
back on homework, instilling relaxation days,
doing yoga and the like. They’re changing
school work policies to suit the preferences
of white parents and much to the chagrin of
Asian American parents. So it’s fitting
honorary white status– getting back to this concept– Asian Americans are
applauded when their success pulls a colorblind ideology. And a few concerns
are raised for those marginalized as a result. They receive the benefits
of a stereotyped promise and earn a national reputation. But when their achievement
comes at the expense of well-networked whites and
their sense of group position– what they think where they
should be in the status hierarchy– it is read as a
foreign invasion. And efforts are
mobilized to contain it through surrogate parenting
and calling other parents nuts, through school districts. Administrators critique
the parenting styles, and districts crack
down on the competition. Honorary whites make continue to
out-white whites in education. But the system
changes to curtail the benefits of doing so. Conclusion– our current
theorization of race and racism has been defined most broadly
within a binary framework. By this binary
framework I do not mean that we do not
distinguish between varying types of racism. We do. We know that Asian
Americans are racialized as Orientalist foreigners. African-Americans, Latinos,
are racialized differently– Native Americans differently. The binary I’m referring
to is in thinking of whether race is active or
not– that binary question. Race is supposedly active
when minorities are clearly unequal from whites
along median income, in terms of education,
residential integration, health care outcomes, et
cetera, acceptance within local communities. With this in mind,
race and racism are active for
integrated minorities when they are negatively
distinguished from whites. And we refer to the declining
significance of race– that popular phrase– when they approximate
whites, when they have no glass ceiling,
when there’s no hate crimes. With such a formulation
in mind, the debate has been to what degree Asian
Americans experienced racism relative to whites, and to
what degree are they integrated with them as that binary
reference mentioned. The concept of
honorary whiteness could provide a
formulation of race that interprets
group’s experiences within a racial system. And it was passed as
either/or framing that still dominates the literature. The concept has been neglected. It’s of little
theoretical value, which I hope I have made
more relevant here today. The analytical questions
for Asian Americans and other groups should
not be to what degree they fit into whiteness or the
nation or excluded from them. Equality with whites along
social, cultural, and economic measures does not mean a
declining significance of race. Instead analyses of
the racialization of integrated minorities
should focus on how their role within racial
ideologies and institutions maintain the disfranchisement of
minorities and white supremacy, even when members reach
some parity with whites. The enforcement of
white supremacy is not in contradiction
to their mobility, but often goes hand-in-hand– that is, a proper framework must
analyze integrated minorities within a racial system
relative to blacks, whites, and the nation
rather than assessing their degree of individual level
disfranchisement or equality with whites. Honorary whiteness
is a useful category. The notion that it exists within
a racial hierarchy with whites and blacks misrepresents
how race works. The term racial
hierarchy privileges the white-black
binary and asks where on linear hierarchy of
whiteness to blackness an ethnic group resides. Asian Americans and other groups
experience race differently, as I’ve already explained
and as you probably know, and play a distinct
role in the maintenance of white supremacy. Future research
should concentrate on those members of the
supposed honorary whites who don’t enjoy the
privileges I’ve assumed here. For instance, almost 17%
of Chinese immigrants live in poverty. That’s above the national
rate of 15% as of 2015. The number of Chinese,
Korean, and Indian Americans who are undocumented
has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. How well they fit a category
of honorary whiteness is an open question. Finally, how women and men
experience race differs with more and more attention should
be placed on the specific racialization of Asian American
women– for instance, nurses– relative to Asian American men–
for instance, as physicians– and how gender complicates
any clear understanding of honorary whiteness. Thank you very much.

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