February 4, 2007
Written by C.N.
As I’ve written about before, Toyota is preparing to compete in NASCAR’s premier series, the Sprint Nextel Cup. This year, as a reflection of the recent success of Japanese automakers and the difficulties of U.S. automakers in general, Toyota also expects to surpass General Motors to become the #1 global automaker in sales. Within this context, as the New York Times reports, the chorus of anti-Toyota critics is rising:
While Toyota scrambles to prepare its Camrys and build its race shops for the Nextel Cup circuit, competitors are accusing the company of raiding teams for talent and raising the costs of operation by offering drastically higher salaries. It is a departure from the universal welcome bestowed upon Dodge when it announced it was re-entering the Cup series in 2001 after a 16-year absence. Its parent company, DaimlerChrysler, was based in Germany, but Dodge was viewed as an American-born brand. . . .
Since announcing a year ago that it would join the Nextel Cup competition, the company has seen a debate escalate in this insular sport over what is considered American-made in today’s global economy. As Toyota drivers are quick to point out, Camrys are built in the United States, the Ford Fusion is produced in Mexico and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo comes from Canada. . . . Toyota has yet to compete in its first points race, and it is already on the defensive.
In my earlier post to which I linked at the top of this entry, I mentioned that while U.S. automakers are laying off workers and closing factories, many Japanese automakers, particularly Toyota, are instead, opening up more factories and hiring more American workers. So the question comes back to, who qualifies as being American? Are you American just because you were born here? Are you automatically American just because you’re White?
Or can you also be a “legitimate” American if you contribute to the success and strength of American society and in Toyota’s case, employ tens of thousands of American workers, but your original ancestry happens to be Asian?
Ultimately, this anti-Toyota backlash is based not just on racial prejudice, but also on a concept that is very familiar to sociologists like myself — economic competition. That is, when people (or in this case companies) feel economically threatened, their anger will almost always lead to ethnic hostility. History shows time and time again that when White workers feel economically insecure, the first people they blame are “minorities” for driving down wages, taking “their” jobs, or forcing companies to move factories or outsource overseas.
The same thing is happening here, folks. American automakers are reeling from their own failures and difficulties so they’re blaming anybody they can think of. Just like they did in the early 1980s with the first wave of “Japan-Bashing,” so too are they doing that now with the backlash against Toyota’s involvement in NASCAR. It’s almost like clockwork . . .
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Criticism Against Toyota in NASCAR" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/02/criticism-against-toyota-in-nascar/> ().
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