Sunday, May 11, 2008

Yellow Power, Yellow Pride--APA History Month

I have been a bit remiss about noting this, but May is Asian Pacific American history month. Now, as I said when I wrote a post about African American history month, I have some mixed-feelings about celebrating or designating a particular month to learning about certain racial/ethnic/cultural/gender groups in the U.S. My reservation/hesitations are with some folks thinking that every February you roll out the lesson plan about Martin Luther King Jr. and George Washington Carver and Sojourner Truth. And the other 11 months, black contributions to American life are either forgotten or invisible. Same thing with Asian American history--except in some ways, Asian American contributions to American life are even more marginalized/invisible than African Americans.

So, in honor of Asian Pacific American history (and really, I promise to dedicate a future blog post to the differences between Asian American/Asian Pacific American/Asian Pacific Islander American tags) I'm going to devote posts this entire week to various Asian Pacific American factoids and historical events, ones that may not be as commonly known (which means I won't be talking about how Chinese built the railroad or the Japanese American internment--although those are certainly two worthy historical events in APA history).

Let me now just leave you with a video that the Asia Society did for APA history month on why "Asians rock":


Brown Girl said...

I really enjoyed the video. It was very interesting. Thank you very much.

I don't know if you have covered this already in your posts, but perhaps you could also dedicate a post about appropriating the entrenched but undeniably racist practice of attaching colours to ethnicities e.g. white, black, yellow, red, when advancing intelligent and accurate discussions of identity?

How for example, does yellow power, yellow pride encompass South Asian's who like most Africans are mostly varying shades of brown?

This question (I'm referring to the practice of naming with colours) is very perplexing to me because I see it as inaccurate and confusing. I understand why racists started doing it, but I don't understand why people interested in advancing the discourse around ethnic identities continue to use their language.


Jennifer said...

Brown girl,
Thanks for the comment and suggestion for future post--the issue of colors tied to race is definitely something I cover in my class--but I think the larger issue you raise is about language/terminology and the ways in which replicating certain types of language/terminology may reinforce the very ideas that we wish to undermine.

It's sort've like the Audrey Lorde quote: "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house" (hope I'm getting that right--it might be my own paraphrase).

Anyway, I'll definitely devote a future post to this!

Jennifer said...

Oh, one more thing about your point regarding South Asians and "yellow" and Asian Americans or Asian Pacific Islander Americans.

I would argue that "yellow" is an inaccurate "color" to designate anyone from Asia--whether they are East, Central, West, or South Asian.

My own complexion is closer to a type of toffee or light caramel than to anything canary or lemon.

But I think, if I may, that your larger point may be that if Asian American is largely thought of as East Asian ethnic groups (Japanese/Chinese/Korean) than how do other groups (in particular, perhaps, South Asian) fit in? And, again, that's an excellent question and something that has been debated and discussed in various APA groups/studies/organizations/academic sightings.

I guess I would love to know what you think--is the issue about "color" or about "region" for you and/or would you prefer for South Asians to not be regarded under a larger racial rubric like Asian American or, perhaps, to have a separate rubric?

Or, perhaps, is the larger problem that we are trying to have racial rubrics in the first place and they will always be imprecise?

Brian Hunt said...

Thanks for sharing that video. It was pretty neat. I'm looking forward to your post this week.

The Constructivist said...

Side note: you don't have to be South Asian to be brown and Asian. Take Jero, for instance.

Jennifer said...

Glad you liked this post Brian and thanks for the Jero link Constructivist--although I don't think I'll become a fan of "enka" I do like the way that Jero has been embraced, although part of me also wonders about the "novelty" factor of having an "American" sing a very "Japanese" musical form.

Wén Qonhiüng said...

'Asian' is far too large of a group to say anything meaningful about. At least divide the group into Indospheric (brown?) and Sinospheric (yellow?) groups... This is the least arbitrary way to make broad divisions, since China and India were the two great civilisations of Asia that forever influenced all their neighbours (not including the near-east). Asia is a massive continent with an insanely high diversity of ethnic groups, cultures, and languages...