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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

October 19, 2006

Written by C.N.

Experiencing Race in the U.S.

It’s not likely that all groups of color share similar political and social views. But just how different are these views between Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans? A new study by researchers at Northwestern University tries to shed light on this question and finds some interesting patterns:

Affluent Asian Americans are significantly more opposed to affirmative action than poorer Asian Americans. More than half of Asian Americans studied were in the upper-income group. Affluent Asian Americans reported significantly fewer incidents of personal discrimination than poorer Asian Americans. But Asian Americans regardless of income said opportunities are open to them.

Affluent Latinos saw more opportunity and reported few discrimination encounters. But affluent Black people were more likely to support affirmative action, feeling their fate was tied to the fate of lower-income Black people. Black people across incomes agreed that “group opportunities and social conditions remain poor despite individual examples of success.”

“When African Americans achieve higher economic status, they continue to experience discrimination and to evaluate their life prospects in racial terms.” In fact middle-class Black people report more personal discrimination than poor Black people. Maybe partly because poor Black folk aren’t going to fancy restaurants and mixing it up in offices. And if someone treats you like you’re broke and you are, it may not register as discrimination.

In short, for Latinos and Asian Americans, social class seems to have a large influence on one’s political and social views, as the richer you are, the less likely you are to support group-based policies such as affirmative action. However, for Blacks, there seems to be much more uniformity across social classes in terms of their political and social views.

As a sociologist, I also wonder whether the differences between Asians and Latinos on the one hand and Blacks on the other are because there is much more ethnic diversity among Asians and Latinos compared to Blacks and combined with the fact that Blacks share the common ancestral legacy of surviving slavery, that there just isn’t a single uniting historical legacy that unites virtually all Asians or Latinos.

In other words, Chinese Americans may share the historical legacy of systematic exclusion, Japanese Americans may share the legacy of internment, Cubans may share the legacy of the Cuban Revolution, etc. but no single historical episode seems to unite all Asians or all Latinos in the same way that slavery united the histories of Blacks. Perhaps that is why there seems to be less cohesion in terms of political and social views for Asians and Latinos.

As an Asian American scholar, I can attest that this lack of cohesion is one of the main challenges I and others like me face in trying to promote a pan-Asian American identity that would transcend this myriad of ethnic, economic, and historical differences that exist between Asian Americans.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Experiencing Race in the U.S." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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