Monday, April 21, 2008

Where Are The Asians In America?

Well, it seems I struck a nerve in at least one person. Fusen-san, thank you for commenting on my last post about Asian Americans disappearing from the current presidential candidates' sight. Although Fusen's comments can be read by clicking at the bottom of that last post, I'll re-type it here because, gosh darn it, I think it's important. (I've slightly edited for grammar and punctuation.)

"Konban-wa, Yayoi-san. I had this very discussion with a couple of friends a few nights ago. When they stated that Obama is representing (from the onset of his campaign) his biracial heritage (speaking about his mother who is white, but did he actually say he is running on a biracial platform or even claiming that identity?), hence he is able to be fair and can speak and understand the specific situations and conditions of people of color in the U.S. (and maybe abroad). To that I said, "What year is this again? It's 2008 and we are still talking ONLY about black and white? What happened to the Asians and other people of color?" Is he really positioning himself as a biracial candidate? Really? I would love for him to win, yes I do, but let's keep it honest. Give credits where they're due, and leave grandiosity and dementia to psychiatry, shall we?"

Back to Yayoi:

To recap, I wondered in my last post whether Asian Americans even exist anymore. Other than a solitary article I read in Time magazine online speculating whether Obama had "an Asian problem", there's been nothing else addressing the issue of politicians courting this ethnic group. Or, as I put it, is there such a thing as the Asian vote in America? Or, even more ominous, have Asians disappeared into honorary white-ness? Have Asians been so successful at assimilation that they are no longer considered a race separate from whites?

It's true that the out-marriage rate for Asian Americans is higher than for any other group so perhaps in a few generations there'll be no more Asians in America. The presidential candidates seem to think so in the way they've virtually ignored them in their rush to garner the black, white and Latino votes. By their lack of addressing Asian Americans and their issues, the candidates seem to be saying that Asians simply don't count.

While it's true that their count may be low (the most recent population breakdown stats I read indicate that Caucasians make up 66% of the country with 15% Latino, 12% black and 4% Asian), it's still important to include everyone. Four percent may not seem like much, but that's still a lot of people, and everyone should matter.

And yes, Fusen-san, I agree with your remarks about Obama never really declaring his biracial heritage. From what I've read, he considers himself to be a black man. However (see my past comments on the One Drop Rule), even if he wanted to claim his white heritage there is the problem that he is simply too dark-skinned to be embraced by Caucasians as one of theirs. Seriously, I have asked and have never received an answer (from the New York Times op ed editors among others) why Halle Berry is always referred to as black while Mariah Carey is not. Both have white mothers and black fathers, but one is blonde and light-skinned while the other is a little more tawny. Could it be that having skin several shades darker than another makes one officially black instead of biracial? Nah. It couldn't be. Like Fusen says, this is 2008.

One thing is clear, though, Americans still like their Asians to be, well, Asian. Witness how much box office Jackie Chan and Jet Li did over the weekend. That would never happen with, say, Margaret Cho, or even an Asian American with genuine talent--like Ming Na.

Anyway, let's hear from some Asian Americans. Are you out there? Or, have you disappeared into acceptance by the dominant majority?

Talk to me.

The photo is of a Federal Building somewhere in the U.S. If you guess the city correctly, you win the plant that's on the desk.

Your Hip Hapa,

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