Are Asian Americans White, Black, or neither? How does affirmative action reinforce the ambiguity of the Asian American community? But first, what IS affirmative action?

 

By: Elsa Calzada

Affirmative action is a term referring to “various government policies that aim to increase the proportion of African-Americans, women, and other minorities in jobs and educational institutions historically dominated by white men” (Dictionary, 2005). The “other minorities” include Asian Americans, although they are often left out of the advantages of political conversations. Instead, Asian Americans are merely manipulated by both the Right and Left political agenda to push their own plans. This results from the ambiguity that Asian Americans hold on the black and white spectrum in society. According to Omi and Takagi, “unlike ‘black’ and ‘white’ as racial categories, there is a greater fluidity to ‘Asian American’ that can be manipulated in particular ways to suit particular positions” (Omi & Takagi, 1996).

The Right political discourse uses Asian American victimization to defend themselves from critics who see their opposition to affirmative action as a mere façade to maintain white skin privilege. This representation of Asian Americans is a disadvantage to the AAPI community because it portrays Asian Americans as “friends” of Whites and “foes” of African Americans (Omi & Takagi, 1996). The Left political discourse simply leaves Asian Americans out of the conversation when fighting for affirmative action. Unfairly, Asian Americans “are often the objects of resentment by other groups” who believe Asian American secure social advantages when associated with whiteness. Therefore, politicians often take advantage of the uncertainty of whether Asian Americans enjoy the same privileges as Whites or if they’re a white minority who still succeeds regardless, another misconception that is more complex.

Neither the Right or the Left political agendas benefit the Asian American community. They are placed in an awkward position because AAPI’s are neither from there or from here. So I leave you with this question, who is advocating for the Asian American community then?

 

Citations

“Affirmative Action.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, 2005. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.

Omi, Michael, and Dana Y. Takagi. “Situating Asian Americans in the Political Discourse on Affirmative Action.” Representations, no. 55, 1996, pp. 155–162.

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