Monday, November 15, 2010

The necessity of common spaces to talk about race

So I just got back tonight from leading a workshop on Asian Americans and the politics of racialization at a college that I'll call Private U. I was invited by one of Private U's Asian American groups, and I was really awed by how many students showed up. What followed in the hour and a half of the workshop was a really wonderful conversation about race and Asian Americans. At least I tried to make it or intended it to be a conversation. Yet I confess that the professor in me tended to be a bit long-winded in my answers and because it was only meant to be an hour-long workshop, I also talked at folks more than I wanted to--because there were key points I really wanted to get to, like the fact that race is a social construct but that just because it's not linked to genes or blood doesn't mean it's not "real"--it's as real as money, and we ALL know how real money is (and what I mean by that is that the dollar bill in your wallet is a piece of paper but we have all agreed to believe that the piece of paper has a value linked to a worldwide monetary system--but at the end of the day, it's a piece of paper--just ask folks who have lived through a revolution and total upheaval of their way of life).

Anyway, what I wanted to do in this blogspace is to share some of the questions that students wrote down on notecards--my idea was that I wanted the students to drive the conversation and that they should write down topics that they wanted to talk about and we would discuss these. But because of time constraints, we only got to address a single question: Is the model minority stereotype ultimately beneficial to Asian Americans?

So regular readers of Mixed Race America, I beg your patience and invite your participation. I'm going to be posting the questions that I got below and in the following few days, I'll be attempting to answer some of these question or more specifically, to create a dialogue and invite conversation around these questions. Hopefully some of Private U's students will chime in--the ones who went to the workshop. But of course I welcome everyone in the blogosphere to weigh in--so long as they follow the guidelines on the right hand side bar.

And for any Private U. students, please note that while you know my full identity, on this blog I'm pseudononymous, so if you can edit your remarks to refer to your college as "Private U" and to not mention my full name and my university affiliation, I'd appreciate that!

OK, here are the questions [and please note, I am not editing them--I am quoting them in full and staying true to the punctuation/phrasing]:

*How are mixed race Asians classified--socially, internally, personally: white/Asian American, black/Asian American, Hispanic/Asian American?

*Did pan-Asian political/social movement launch the first articulation of "Asian American" as a race, or did other earlier factors/influence cause it?

*Why do colleges have a ceiling/quota on us? Why was the SAT's emphasis on math decreased and English increased?

*Given that each "Asian American" group is so distinct is it accurate to classify them all into one group? Is that group too heterogeneous?

*How is having "Asian" become another overachieving racial group, like white, different from "Latino/Hispanic" or "Black? being so?

*We're in this racial middle as Asian Americans, what do you see as the future for Asian/Americans in the U.S. (politically & socially)?

*How do Asian Americans solve the "perpetual foreigner" problem?

*What is the relationship between the established Asian-American community and the wave of post-racialism? How are the young people participating in and rejecting the notion of racial identity?


healthygrl said...

I had the pleasure of attending the workshop and I really enjoyed the conversation on isms; that when one is addressed they all most be examined and I know I speak for more than myself when I saw our minds "were blown", to quote my friend, when you said race does not create racism but racism creates race.

As a student at Private U I can't help but feel the green-eyed monster of jealousy that students at Southern U have you as a professor. Wish we had more Asian Americanists here (so far I count two)...

Jennifer said...


Thank you so much for your very kind remarks! I was very invigorated by the workshop and the discussion with all of you--and I certainly hope we can have more discussions in the future!

Jennifer said...

One more thing, I appreciate the comment about feeling like your mind was blown about racism creating race (rather than the way we typically think of race causing racism) but it was MY mind that was blown when I read Paul Gilroy's POSTCOLONIAL MELANCHOLIA--and there's a blog post that I dedicated to this very moment--it's called "Getting Rid of Race" and it's on the right side-bar under the heading, "Anti-racism activism and education"--here's the link: