Breaking the Black-White Binary

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-05-11 04:11Z by Steven

Breaking the Black-White Binary

Fathom: the source for online learning
Columbia University

Gary Okihiro, Professor of International and Public Affairs
Columbia University

Where do Asians fall in the American construct of race? According to Gary Okihiro, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Race and Ethnicity, the position of Asians has had to be invented and reinvented over the past two centuries to fit into a binary, black-white national racial definition

Gary Okihiro: In the US, the racial formation is a binary of black and white. In fact, there is actually mainly black. White is frequently not seen as a racial category; it is simply the normative. Blackness is race. And when today we deploy the term “minority,” for example, we mean basically African-Americans. I think binaries are simpleminded ways of categorizing not just people but also things, objects other than oneself. Binaries provide a kind of coherence. They allow for a simple and straightforward explanation of who one is and who one is not. And so this binary of who one is, which is whiteness, and who one is not, which is blackness, in this case affords a kind of self-definition and also a privilege that authorizes one to define the other.

Now, Asians and Latinos and other racialized minorities who do not fit into that black-white binary pose a problem for that kind of racialized thinking. The binary itself, by the way, is very functional. Obviously it is an invention, first of all. Who is white, for example, is an invention, and the category “white” is an elastic one. It includes different peoples at different times; for example, at some point Irish people were not included within the category “white” within the United States. Similarly, the category “black” is an invented category and is also an elastic one…

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: ,

Addressing Issues of Biracial Asian Americans

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Chapter, Media Archive, Social Science, Teaching Resources, United States on 2010-10-31 18:38Z by Steven

Addressing Issues of Biracial Asian Americans

Reflections on Shattered Windows: Promises and Prospects for Asian American Studies
Washington State University Press
Chapter 15, pages 111-116

Edited by: G. Y. Okihiro, S. Hune, A. A. Hansen, and J. M. Liu

Stephen L. Murphy-Shigematsu

Revising the Asian American Studies curriculum

One of the more dramatic changes in the post-World War II Asian American population is the increase in those of biracial ancestry. Over the past forty years large numbers of Asian women have married Americans and come to the United States. [n 1] During this period, too, thousands of Asian American men and women have married outside their ethnic group. [n 2] The burgeoning population of biracial youth that has resulted from these developments, represents a significant change in the face of Asian America.

In the light of the above situation, one of the challenges confronting Asian American Studies is to adapt and revise a curriculum created in the early 1970s that was designed primarily for American born Chinese and Japanese. It has become necessary to redesign courses to better accommodate the needs, interests, and backgrounds of the more diverse group of Asian Americans who are presently underrepresented in the curriculum, and increasingly in Asian American Studies classes and in the general population. Those of biracial ancestry are one emerging group whose experiences and needs must be addressed in curriculum development…

Read the entire chapter here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,