Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Race and Racial Groups

South Asian and "Model Minority"

 

Tayyab Mahmud

excerpted from: Tayyab Mahmud, Genealogy of a State-engineered "Model Minority": "Not Quite/ Not White" South Asian Americans , 78 Denver University Law Review 657-686, 673-677 (2001) REVIEW ESSAY: VIJAY PRASHAD, THE KARMA OF BROWN FOLK (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2000. Pp. xv, 253)(148 Footnotes)

In the U.S., reinforcement of the composite "Indian" identity issued through interpellation by the primary American structure of recognition, racial difference assigned on grounds of visible physiological (phenotype) features. This suturing of bodies with their place of origin was further accomplished by American immigration regimes, operating as "one of the central disciplinary arms of the U.S. state." Prashad picks up the story at the turn of the nineteenth century when South Asians started coming to the U.S. in any appreciable numbers. During the hay day of Indian indentured presence in the Caribbean, between late 1800s and early 1900s, a few thousand Indians, mostly Sikhs from the Punjab, came to the West Coast and were engaged as farm labor. Confronted with anti-miscegenational legal frameworks and social conventions aimed at "protecting" white women from nonwhites, many married Mexican women, adding another hue to the mosaic of South Asian presence in the U.S. Their attempts to normalize this presence were thwarted by a racist social milieu and legal regimes aimed at stemming the perceived "tide of Asiatics." In response to the arrival of the Punjabi immigrants, the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League changed its name to the Asiatic Exclusion League. The rise of Asian exclusionary forces fostered the first anti South Asian riots, first in Washington (1907) and then in California (1910). The victims of these riots were overwhelmingly those immigrants who had the entered the agricultural labor force or were engaged in lumberyards and railroad construction. The few South Asian professionals and businessmen did not confront similar hostility. This was an early example of the intersection of race and class in the lives of South Asians in the U.S., which was to have profound implications for the fashioning of the "model minority" discourse in the twentieth century. Far from being a model for anything, at this point, as Prashad reports, California Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded that "the Hindu has no morals. . . . (H)e is the most undesirable immigrant in the state. His lack of personal cleanliness, his low morals and his blind adherence to theories and teachings, so entirely repugnant to American principles, make him unfit for association with American people."

Public policy mirrored the racist and nativist tenor of the society. The Alien Land Act of 1913, the National Origin Act of 1914, and the "Pacific Barred Zone" of the 1917 Immigration Act combined to effectively shut the door on immigration from South Asia. In response to the Ozawa Case, where the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Japanese native was not eligible for citizenship because he was not "Caucasian" and therefore not "white," some South Asians claimed eligibility on account of being Caucasians; a claim resting on pronouncements of Arian race theorists. The Supreme Court, speaking through Justice Sutherland, held in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, that "in accordance with the understanding of the common man from whose vocabulary they were taken," the words "white persons" meant Caucasians from Northwestern Europe. Consequently, immigration from South Asia was reduced to a trickle, and, until the mid-1960s, the very small South Asian presence in America remained marginal and largely invisible.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, ushered in the second phase of South Asian immigration to the U.S. Prashad shows how this new immigration regime formed part of the American response to Soviet launch of the Sputnik space rockets and a perceived "science gap." Besides, this regime sought to meet the demand for medical personnel to staff the Medicaid and Medicare programs recently put in place. Over the next twenty-five years, the new regime, designed primarily to attract skilled labor from around the world, resulted in a substantial migration of highly skilled South Asians, particularly in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine. For example, between 1966 and 1977, 20,000 scientists with Ph.D.s, 40,000 engineers, and 25,000 doctors came from India alone.

Prashad shows how broader global developments informed immigration to the U.S. during this phase. American need for skilled workers was met, on the one hand, by Indian investment in scientific education and, on the other hand, by Britain's increasing restrictions on immigration for South Asia. This contributed significantly in making highly skilled South Asian labor available for the American economy. The progeny of the marriage between American "state engineering through immigration controls and . . . the beneficence of more socialized systems of education in South Asia" was a substantial influx of highly educated, highly paid, professionals from South Asia. They became increasingly visible within their professional and class milieus. This phase came to an end by the late 1980s, as a combination of prolonged recessions and rising anti-immigrant sentiment resulted in restrictive immigration policies.

The Immigrations and Nationality Act Amendments of 1976, the Health Professionals Education Assistance Act of 1976, and the Immigration Act of 1990, erected stringent barriers to immigrants' entry into the labor pool. The immigration of highly educated professionals continued but at a greatly reduced rate. Recently, rising demand for skilled labor in the information technology sector has prompted some temporary modifications in the immigration control regime. By virtue of these modifications, a sizable number of information technology professionals from South Asia came to the U.S. But, by virtue of their mode of immigration and positioning in the economy, they are best seen as part of the second phase migration.

The third, and current, phase found its opening in the family reunification provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. As the skilled immigrants of the second phase secured a footing, the family reunification regime facilitated immigration of their extended families. Just as the immigration of highly skilled labor steadily decreased, immigration of less educated and economically vulnerable South Asians increased. For example, in 1996, of the 65,599 immigrants from South Asia, only 12,315 entered under employer preference provisions, while 47,091 entered under family preference provisions. The third phase also witnessed an influx of political and economic refugees. Expulsion of South Asians from East Asia and dwindling demand for labor in the oil-producing region around the Persian Gulf combined with increased economic transformations and political instability in South Asia to furnish the push factor of this migration. Other than professionals, the third-phase South Asian immigrants, at best, occupied working class jobs. Running cheap motels, small neighborhood stores, marginal gas stations, and taxi-driving came to define their existence. Their socio-economic vulnerabilities started to become visible. For example, among the immigrants from India between 1987 and 1990, eighty percent only had a high school education, nine percent were unemployed, and twenty percent lived below the poverty line. Adding to the South Asian presence is a new generation, mostly children of the second-phase immigrants who are born and raised in America. They have become an increasingly visible presence in schools and colleges across the land.

[1]. Professor of Law, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University. I want to thank the dynamic and ever-expanding LatCrit community for creating a space where critical legal scholarship can flourish and friends at South Asian Network (SAN) in Los Angeles, who are fighting the good fight, for providing sustaining inspiration.

 

The Failure of the Pan-Asian Coalition


 Susan Taing

excerpted from: Susan Taing, Lost in the Shuffle: The Failure of the Pan-Asian Coalition to Advance the Interests of Southeast Asian Americans, 16 Berkeley La Raza Law Journal 23- 51 (Spring 2005) (252 Footnotes)

 

In the summer of 2003, members of the academic community breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Supreme Court announced in the landmark decision, Grutter v. Bollinger, that educational diversity was indeed a compelling state interest. The Court upheld the University of Michigan Law School's (hereinafter Law School) race-conscious admission policy, which professed the Law School's commitment to enrolling a diverse student body. The Law School's admission policy considered factors that contribute to a diverse student body such as having lived or traveled abroad, an extensive record of community service, or an unusual intellectual accomplishment. However, it gave special consideration to race in the case of African American, Latino American, and Native American students. The Grutter decision affirmed the Law School's commitment to racial diversity as constitutionally permissible and held that the Law School could give special consideration to certain racial groups.

The Law School's commitment to enrolling students from racial minority groups is peculiar because of the absence of Asian Americans. The Law School acknowledged that it omitted Asians from the admission policy because a significant number of Asian students were already being admitted to the Law School.

Parties on both sides of Grutter hotly debated whether Asian Americans were hurt by the Law School's admission policy. The Petitioner's brief to the Court argued that the Law School's race-conscious admission policy subjected Asian Americans to reverse discrimination. In contrast, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC) argued in its amicus curiae brief that Asian Pacific American (APA) applicants are not harmed by affirmative action. NAPALC advanced three arguments: First, like all other students, Asian Americans benefit from a more racially diverse learning environment. Second, the Law School's policy does not only consider racial diversity but other types of diversity, e.g., types based on education, experience, etc., which APA applicants can highlight. Third, empirical evidence demonstrates that the prohibition of affirmative action programs in California did not correlate with higher enrollments of Asian Pacific Americans in state law schools.

The error committed by the Law School, the petitioner, NAPALC, and the other APA groups that joined NAPALC as amici curiae is all too common. Asian Pacific Americans, as a political identity group, are comprised of various member-groups that descend from countries in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia as well Hawaii and other Pacific Islands. The Law School blatantly omitted Asian Pacific Americans from the dialogue. All parties and amici curiae tacitly agreed that Asian Pacific Americans are already adequately represented in the Law School and that they do not need the Law School to make a special commitment to them in order to be enrolled in significant numbers. Underlying this belief is the stereotype of Asian Americans as the model minority and the related erroneous assumption that Asian Pacific Americans are a uniform group. In reality, several Asian American groups are struggling to improve their socioeconomic status. These groups are usually not enrolled in higher education in significant numbers. Yet, despite the minimal representation of these groups, colleges and graduate schools nevertheless frequently categorically exclude APAs from race-conscious programs such as the one employed by the Law School.

This Comment will focus on one such group, Cambodian Americans. I will illustrate the shortfalls of the Asian American pan-ethnic identity, and suggest that marginalized groups such as Cambodian Americans must assert their own identity in order to assure that issues pertinent to their own group are heard and addressed. My goal in writing is twofold. First, I encourage marginalized groups to assert their own interests. Secondarily, I hope to voice the message to universities that there are significant Asian American populations that would benefit greatly from inclusion in affirmative action programs.

Part I discusses the Supreme Court's decision in Grutter, analyzing the opinion's implication for universities' admissions policies. Part II discusses the pan-ethnic movement that began in the 1960s with the goal of uniting Asian descended minority groups under an umbrella coalition--Asian American. The pan-ethnic coalition was meant to unify Asian Americans and to create a mass base so that people identifying with this ethnic group could mobilize to combat discrimination and violence against Asians. This Part also briefly critiques the Model Minority Myth. Part III discusses Cambodian Americans' history, traditional culture, socioeconomic status, and the familial factors that led to this group's marginalized socioeconomic status. Part IV briefly discusses the shortcomings of the pan-Asian coalition, its failure to advance the interests of its more marginalized constituents, and the reasons for this failure. Finally Part V asks, "Why not identity?" and proposes that Cambodian Americans build their own distinctive political consciousness in order to form a coalition that is not based solely on ethnic lines, but also upon socio-economic and political issues.

African-Americans, Latinos, and the Construction of Race

 George A. Martinez

excerpted from:  George A. Martinez, African-Americans, Latinos, and the Construction of Race: Toward an Epistemic Coalition, 19 Chicano-Latino Law Review 213-222 , 214-216 (Spring 1998) (54 Footnotes)

I want to focus on the example of Mexican-Americans. Mexican-Americans have been legally classified as white. That legal classification impacts the relationship between African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. It creates a barrier to coalitions with African-Americans and other non-white minorities.

An example from Dallas, Texas is instructive. In the City of Dallas, there are currently major battles between African-Americans and Mexican-Americans over the direction of the Dallas School District. In connection with this conflict, African-Americans have recently expressed resentment toward Mexican- Americans. The resentment is expressed as follows: Mexican-Americans have been free riders. African-Americans fight for civil rights; Mexican-Americans ride their coat tails and share in the benefits.

This resentment has been significantly linked to the legal construction of Mexican-Americans as white. Recently, some African-American leaders in Dallas have argued that Mexican-Americans should not share in the benefits or gains achieved by African-Americans because Mexican-Americans have been legally classified as white. Thus, the relationship between African-Americans and Mexican-Americans is impacted by the construction of race. The legal designation of Mexican-Americans as white raises a barrier to coalition building between African-Americans and Mexican-Americans.

In order to help build a coalition between African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, it makes sense for Mexican-Americans to reject their legal designation as white. Although white identity has been a traditional source of privilege and protection, Mexican-Americans did not receive the usual benefits of whiteness. Mexican-Americans experienced segregation in schools and neighborhoods. Mexican-Americans have been discriminated against in employment. Moreover, in non-legal discourse, Mexican-Americans have been categorized as irreducibly Other and non-white. For example, one commentator described how Anglo- Americans drew a clear racial distinction between themselves and Mexican- Americans:

Racial Myths about Mexicans appeared as soon as Mexicans began to meet Anglo American settlers in the early nineteenth century. The differences in attitudes, temperament and behavior were supposed to be genetic. It is hard now to imagine the normal Mexican mixture of Spanish and Indian as constituting a distinct 'race,' but the Anglo Americans of the Southwest defined it as such.

Given all of this, it does not make sense for Mexican-Americans to retain the legal designation of white. If Mexican-Americans embraced a non-white legal identity, then Mexican-Americans and African-Americans would be able to build a better relationship.

It is pointless for Latinos and African-Americans to divide themselves over the issue of Latino "whiteness." Indeed, to preserve the current racial hierarchy, mainstream white society often attempts to create divisions among minority groups. Given this, Latinos and African-Americans must work together as a coalition in order to dismantle racial subordination. By rejecting the legal designation of white, Latinos would be taking a step toward building such a coalition.

[d1]. Associate Professor of Law, Southern Methodist University. B.A., Arizona State University; M.A., 1979, The University of Michigan; J.D., 1985, Harvard Law School.

 

Subcategories

Defining Racial Groups
Article Count:
52
American Indian and Inuits
Article Count:
8
Hispanic/Latino Americans
Article Count:
8
White (European) American
Article Count:
16
Biracial and Multiracial
Article Count:
0
Other Racial Groups
Article Count:
1
What is Race?
Article Count:
14

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