The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.
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.
I presume that by now, you have heard about the furor surrounding UCLA student Alexandra Wallace and her ill-advised video that she posted to YouTube in which she “complains” about Asian Americans talking in the library by mocking them with such offensive phrases such as “Ohhhhhhhhhh ching chong ling long ting tong ohhhhhhhhhh” and makes light of the natural disasters and human suffering in Japan (the video in its entirety is below).
For various reasons, there quickly followed a big backlash and firestorm against her — UCLA’s Chancellor, Dean G. Block, issued a statement condemning the video (but later and separately adding that she would not be expelled because she did not commit a violation of the school’s code of ethnics):
I am appalled by the thoughtless and hurtful comments of a UCLA student posted on YouTube. Like many of you, I recoil when someone invokes the right of free expression to demean other individuals or groups. . . . I believe that speech that expresses intolerance toward any group of people on the basis of race or gender, or sexual, religious or cultural identity is indefensible and has no place at UCLA.
[T]his rant — beyond the action of an individual — is clear evidence that we still have much work to do before we can claim to live in a “post-racial” society. . . . “Asians in the Library” is a travesty on many levels, representing an attack on Asian and Asian American students and their families and undermining UCLA as a global university with deep ties to communities and institutions in Asia and other parts of the world.
It entails a “new racism” by foregrounding students who speak Asian languages and have different family traditions, as it insidiously groups and attacks UCLA’s American-born as well as our international students of Asian ancestry. As the only University of California campus without a diversity requirement, UCLA surely needs to implement a diversity requirement that will expose every student to the task of living civilly with people of different origins, backgrounds, orientations, and beliefs, whether they are born here or come from abroad.
I would like to highlight and expand on some of the points raised in UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center statement. Specifically, I see this video rant as another unfortunate and dangerous example of what happens (and is likely to continue happening) when institutional factors intersect with each other, as they are doing right now: White privilege, colorblindness, Asian Americans seen as the quiet ‘model minority,’ and ‘yellow peril’ fears of the rise of Asian countries.
Lesson 1: White Privilege
Let’s start with White privilege. However difficult it is for many White Americans to hear, examples like this video clearly show that many (as in a large number, but certainly not all) Whites implicitly think there’s nothing wrong with invoking cultural stereotypes to portray an entire group of color. I have written about this dynamic many times before, but needless to say, this is certainly not the first time that Whites have tried to “make fun” of Asian Americans or other groups of color on college campuses and elsewhere in society.
In her video, Alexandra Wallace unconsciously invokes White privilege by assuming that she can say whatever she wants about Asian Americans. For the sake of argument, I might accept that she is not aware that such phrases as “Ohhhhhhhhhh ching chong ling long ting tong ohhhhhhhhhh” and calling them “hordes” are deeply offensive and conjure up historical examples of Asians as faceless, sub-human invaders and villains.
But unfortunately, this “lack of awareness” is at the heart of the problem and in fact, forms the basis for much of the racism that Asians and Asian Americans encounter on an everyday basis. In other words, most non-Asians (most of whom are admittedly White) don’t purposely intend to be racist when make jokes or casual comments about Asians.
But when they do so, based on their ignorance of Asians and Asian Americans, they only reinforce and perpetuate their racial privileges as Whites. That privilege also gives them the ability to not have to worry about saying or doing offensive things about other racial groups.
That is, their racial privilege gives them a larger “comfort zone” to say and do things that they think are funny or harmless but ultimately, minorities find very offensive. Even if most Whites don’t have this consciously or even unconsciously in their minds when it comes to Asians, this climate of racial ignorance is a reality and functions to “protect” and “insulate” Whites — whether or not they’re even aware of it — at the expense of people of color.
Of course, many Whites will respond by basically saying that it was just a joke, Asians should just shrug it off, that it was harmless and that we Asians should just lighten up and not take things so seriously. The problem with that argument is that it ignores the larger historical and cultural context and that there are fundamental institutional power differences inherent in situations in which Whites denigrate minorities.
Each time an incident like that happens, it reinforces the notion of White supremacy — that Whites can say and do whatever they want toward anybody at any time without facing any negative repercussions. Ultimately, suggesting to us that we should just “get over it” only serves as another clear illustration of White privilege — of those with in an institutionally superior position telling those below them what to do and what they should think.
In this case, the institutional backdrop to Alexandra Wallace’s rant is the misguided belief that we now live in a colorblind society in which everyone and every racial group is now politically, economically, and socially equal, and that racial/ethnic discrimination, inequality, and racism no longer exist. Further, being colorblind also means that it’s impolite to discuss race or the U.S.’s history of racial oppression and domination — let’s just forget about them since they’re not important anymore, right?
Suffice it to say, and as this video shows, race and racial differences are clearly still very important today. They are still relevant because inequalities still exist and discrimination still takes place, and because colorblindness still provides a crucial foundation upon which White privilege can exist. In other words, if everybody is the same and on an equal playing field, it’s perfectly fine to joke about them however we want, right?
Lesson 3: The Model Minority Image
Another factor that comes into play is the image of Asian Americans as the model minority: smart and high achieving, but also quiet, passive, and obedient. While it is true that on the aggregate level, Asian Americans as a collective group outperform Whites on many measures of socioeconomic achievement, when we look beneath the surface, we see that there are notable differences between ethnic groups (some Asian immigrant groups are more self-selective in terms of their human capital while others are more likely to be involuntary refugees). Further, generalizing the seemingly positive belief that Asian Americans are successful puts extraordinary pressure on all Asian Americans to live up to those standards.
In this particular case, I will hypothesize that Alexandra Wallace (and many others like her) presume that almost all Asian Americans are smart ans successful but also passive and therefore, won’t care if she complains and mocks them. Also, I cannot rule out some degree of resentment about the success of Asian Americans as well, particularly at a university where 40% of the student population is Asian American.
This resentment leads me to my final lesson . . .
Lesson 4: Yellow Peril and Fears About Rising Asia
At the risk of being redundant, again I have already highlighted numerous examples in which U.S. society and U.S. citizens are increasingly feeling destabilized by demographic changes in the U.S. population, the negative effects of globalization, and increased competition with the rising economies of Asian countries such as China and India.
The latter is often referred to as the new “yellow peril” image of Asians “invading” the U.S. and taking over or destroying its institutions and society. It is an image that frequently gets conjured up in times of economic recession and especially when Americans perceive others to be benefiting and prospering at their expense. With the economic and political emergence of Asian countries such as Japan, China, and India in recent decades and the concurrent decline of U.S. superiority, this yellow peril image has gained new life and indeed, seems to be a growing fear, consciously and unconsciously, for many Americans these days.
When people feel that their standard of living or “way of life” is being threatened, they are likely to get defensive, consciously and unconsciously. In that situation, one way to react is to draw a more rigid cultural boundary between “us” and “them.” In this case, Alexandra Wallace invoked this nativist sentiment clearly when she said, “In America, we don’t talk in the library.” Inside Higher Education has a very well-written analysis of this entire episode and journalist Allie Grasgreen quotes Professor Joe Feagin, former President of the American Sociological Association and well-respect expert on White privilege research, on this emerging distinction between “insiders” and “outsiders”:
For Joe R. Feagin, a sociology professor at Texas A&M University and co-author of The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism, Wallace made a blatant statement that Asian students are separate from — and less important than — white students. “A key part of the stereotyping of Asians and Asian Americans is their foreignness,” Feagin said. “She makes the point that not only are Asians and Asian-Americans stereotyped and evaluated from the old, white vs. others — you know, racial framing — but they also face this dimension of not being American. That is, foreign vs. American.”
Taken together, all of these factors form the sociological context within which Alexandra Wallace publicly expressed her anti-Asian sentiments. The sad part of this episode is that she is certainly not the first person to engage in racism against Asian Americans and alas, she will not be the last.
Here are some more announcements, links, and job postings about academic-related jobs, fellowships, and other related opportunities for those interested in racial/ethnic/diversity issues. As always, the announcements and links are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the organization or college involved.
Part-Time Lecturers: Claremont Colleges
The Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies at the Claremont Colleges invites applications for part-time, visiting lecturer positions to teach one or two courses in Asian American Studies during the Fall 2011 semester. We welcome applicants who can offer “Contemporary Issues” and/or special topics courses which complement our curriculum, especially courses on Muslim, Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian, mixed race, or mixed ethnicity Asian Americans. Applicants should have a Ph.D. or be ABD, and have some teaching experience.
The Claremont Colleges (Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona, and Scripps) are liberal arts colleges located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. We value diversity, and actively encourage applications from women and members of historically underrepresented groups. Please submit a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, proposed course syllabi, and contact information for three references via email to email@example.com, followed by a hard copy of your application materials to:
Professor Kathy Yep
c/o Madeline Gosiaco
Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies
Lincoln Building 1118
647 N College Way
Claremont, CA 91711
Review of applications will begin February 1, 2011. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
We invite you to join us for the 6th Biannual Northeast Conference on Indonesian Studies. NCIS is a one-day conference for the presentation of new research relating to religion, politics, economy, language, culture, and the environment in Indonesia.
February 19th, 2011
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT
Dr. J. Joseph Errington
Professor of Anthropology, Yale University
“Other Indonesians: The National Language in Some Out-of-the Way Places”
Please visit the conference website or contact the organizers at YIFconference@gmail.com with any questions.
The Visiting Associate Director provides primary leadership for AARCC programs (University of Illinois, Chicago) that address Asian American students academic, personal, and vocational needs, including the Asian American Mentor Program; coordinates center and campus programs and activities with a focus on Asian American awareness such as Asian American Awareness Month; advises individual students as well as student groups; acts as AARCC liaison to campus units, especially student affairs units; provides consultative services to students, faculty and staff engaged in diversity initiatives in relation to relevant Asian American issues; supervises center staff; assists the Director with administrative oversight of center operations and staff. This position is partially funded by the Asian American Native American-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) grant administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
Oversee and coordinate Asian American Mentor Program, including supervision of graduate assistants and undergraduate mentors.
Coordinate campus educational programming such as Asian American Awareness Month and year-round guest speakers, events, workshops that focus on Asian American issues.
Provide and/or supervise academic, organizational, social, and personal advising to Asian American students, including assistance with resource allocations for student-initiated programs.
Serve as primary liaison between AARCC and student services, acting as primary representative of AARCC to these offices.
Develop and present workshops and trainings for faculty, staff, and students on Asian American student needs and services.
Serve as an AARCC liaison to the university on policy and practices in order to ensure that the campus serves Asian American students and addresses Asian American needs effectively.
Assist with administrative oversight of AARCC, which may include human resources support, budget oversight, as well as facility management; responsible for following all University procedures and protocols in these and all other administrative areas. Authorizes expenditures (to assigned limits) in the Director’s absence.
Serve as center liaison to external and internal associates in the absence of, or as designated by the Director. May represent the Director and AARCC on committees and at meetings.
Master’s degree in Student Affairs field, Psychology, Social Work or Education; Experience in higher education and student affairs with expertise on Asian American students, student development theory, and knowledge of Asian American Studies required. At least five years of demonstrated experience in areas related to student academic advising, student organizational advising, campus programming, facilitation of workshops, development of resource materials, coordinating and presenting educational trainings and workshops. Counseling background highly desired; strong interpersonal skills, excellent oral and written communication skills: ability to work effectively with diverse populations.
To apply, please submit an online application with your resume, cover letter, and names of three references. Review of applications starts Feb. 10th, but the search will remain open until the position is filled. This is a visiting position partially funded by a grant, renewable depending on funding.
Asian American Studies Program Goals: CSUF’s Asian American Studies Program aims: 1) to inform students about the history, challenges and triumphs of Asians and Pacific Islanders in America, including their contributions to this country; 2) to build interracial and interethnic understanding and cooperation; 3) to promote study and research in the area; 4) to contribute to Asian American communities in southern California to develop critical thinking and communications skills; and 5) to prepare students in selected career paths where knowledge and understanding of the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience is important.
Among the courses to be staffed are:
Asian American Studies 101—Introduction to Ethnic Studies
Asian American Studies 300—Introduction to Asian Pacific American Studies
Asian American Studies 308—Asian American Women (face-to-face or online)Asian American Studies 320—Asian American Creative Expression (face-to-face or online)
Asian American Studies 325—Asian American Film and Video (face-to-face or online)
Courses focusing on specific Asian American ethnic groups
Faculty members will teach undergraduate courses and are expected to be available to their students for consultation one hour per week for each three units of classroom instruction. Most courses are three-units per semester, typically offered in a lecture-discussion or online mode (as indicated).
ABD Doctoral Candidate or M.A. with substantial graduate course work in relevant field is required
Evidence of ability to work effectively with a wide and culturally diverse range of students and faculty
Evidence of prior teaching, mentoring, or tutoring experience
Academic Calendar: The fall term begins in mid-August and ends in mid-December; the spring term runs from mid-January through the end of May.
Rank & Salary: These are non-tenure-track, temporary appointments to the classification of Lecturer. Salaries vary depending upon qualifications and experience. Typical starting salaries for part-time faculty range from $4147 to approximately $4533 for a three-unit class. Eligibility for health benefits is governed by the collective bargaining agreement and based on a number of factors including unit load (wtu’s/timebase, etc).
Application Procedures: Please submit a letter of interest, a current curriculum vita, CSU-1 form, documentation of teaching effectiveness, sample course syllabi, and three current letters of recommendation. In your letter of interest, please indicate your availability for teaching throughout the week. Send all materials directly to:
Dr. Eliza Noh, Coordinator
Asian American Studies Program
Recruitment Control Number
California State University, Fullerton
800 North State College Blvd.
P.O. Box 6868
Fullerton, CA 92834
In addition, please complete an Applicant Data Flow Form and enter the Job Control Number listed above. Application materials are reviewed on an on-going basis.
The 5-year Korean Family in Comparative Perspective (KFCP) Laboratory for the Globalization of Korean Studies at the University of Illinois, funded by the Academy of Korean Studies, and housed in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, is pleased to announce a KFCP Postdoctoral Fellowship starting August 16, 2011. This one-year position, with the possibility of a one-year extension, is open to: (1) recent PhD recipients (within the last 3 years) and (2) those who will deposit their dissertation by August 15, 2011.
The KFCP Laboratory aims to bring the Korean family to the center of comparative East Asian and general family studies, highlighting Korea as a productive comparative case of interest to non-Koreanists across a range of disciplines and scholarly locations. KFCP Fellows must be scholars interested in comparative work on the Korean family. Scholars with primary expertise in the family of other East Asian countries (e.g., China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan) are particularly welcomed to apply. Scholars with primary research emphasis on the Koreas must have a concrete plan to conduct comparative research (i.e., with another country/region). The postdoctoral fellowship is open to scholars in any humanities or social science discipline.
The KFCP Laboratory is directed by anthropologist Nancy Abelmann and includes 3 KFCP Laboratory Fellows: Jungwon Kim (EALC and History, University of Illinois), Seung-Kyung Kim (Women’s Studies, University of Maryland), and Hyunjoon Park (Sociology, University of Pennsylvania). The Postdoctoral Fellow will be welcomed to an active Koreanist community at the University of Illinois that includes a biweekly Korea Workshop (that will actively engage the themes of the Laboratory). The KFCP Fellow will be provided the opportunity to participate in organizing a Korean Family Colloquium Series which graduate students will be able to attend for partial credit.
KFCP Laboratory Director, Fellows, and National Board Members will take an active role in nurturing the comparative scholarship of the Postdoctoral Fellow. The Postdoctoral fellow will also have the opportunity to “workshop” his or her manuscript/s with experts from both on and off campus. The KFCP Fellow will be paid $40,000 including benefits and some funds for domestic research-related travel. Application deadline: February 25, 2011.
A cover letter reviewing your research history, including your dissertation and other publications.
A statement of interest in the Korean family in comparative perspective, including a publication plan that includes the submission of one article for each postdoctoral year (OR a single- or co-authored book manuscript) (this can be integrated into the cover letter).
A statement of commitment to active participation in KFCP Laboratory events, including the Korean Family Colloquium Series (this can be a simple statement in the cover letter).
One writing sample, 25-40 pages.
Contact information for three referees who can speak to your scholarly work and abilities and to the feasibility of your research and publications plans for comparative work on the Korean family. Referees will be contacted electronically and asked to submit their letters.
Please address inquires to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Position: Sociology, Georgia State University
The Department of Sociology at Georgia State University invites applications for an anticipated tenure-track assistant professor position, beginning in August 2011, pending budgetary approval. We are looking for a scholar with substantive research interests in one of the three following specialty areas that complement our existing strengths: 1) family, health, and life course; 2) race and urban; or 3) gender and sexuality.
A successful candidate must have a demonstrated research agenda that can lead to external funding. Located in the heart of Atlanta, we are a Ph.D. granting department with a research-active faculty and a diverse graduate and undergraduate student body. We enthusiastically encourage applications from minority candidates. Applicants should submit: 1) a letter outlining their qualifications; 2) a curriculum vitae; 3) two samples of their scholarly work; 4) evidence of teaching effectiveness (e.g., course syllabi, student evaluations, and statement of teaching philosophy); and 5) three letters of recommendation. A Ph.D. is required at the time of appointment. An offer of employment will be
conditional on background verification. Send materials to: Recruitment Committee, Georgia State University, Department of Sociology, P.O. Box 5020, Atlanta, GA 30302-502. Deadline for application is February 28, 2011.
Applications are invited to “Rethinking International Migration,” a 2011 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers. To be directed by Roger Waldinger, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles, this five week summer seminar will be held at the UCLA campus from June 13 through July 15, 2011.
The seminar is open to 16 NEH summer scholars, from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds. Principally oriented to teachers of American undergraduate students, the seminar is open to qualified independent scholars, and will include two full-time graduate students. The seminar will be informed by a view that the study of migration resembles the process of migration itself: an activity that cuts across boundaries, in this case intellectual, not political, one best pursued by drawing insights and methods from a variety of disciplines.
Hence, this seminar will seek to expose NEH summer scholars to an interdisciplinary approach to migration studies, via focused discussions of three key areas at the core of migration debates: rights, citizenship, migration policy; the second generation; diasporas and transnationalism. Visit the program website for more information and the application form. The deadline is March 1, 2011.
Following up on my earlier post entitled “White Backlash: Yes, It’s Real,” I will use this post to maintain a continually updated list of news stories that highlight and exemplify various examples of this kind of direct and indirect anti-minority, anti-‘foreigner,’ and pro-‘traditional American’ mentality and behavior that is increasingly on display throughout American society. The list in in reverse chronological order (most recent stories first). Also, feel free to mention any other examples I missed in the comments section at the bottom.
Secret Service to Probe Bullet-Ridden Picture of Obama (Jan. 2012) A photograph showing a group of men with guns posing with a bullet-riddled T-shirt containing an image of Barack Obama’s face is to be investigated by the Secret Service. The picture originally appeared on the Facebook page of an Arizona (surprise!) police officer.
Arizona Teenage Girls Post Racist YouTube Denigrating Immigrants (Jan. 2012) A group of Arizona girls post a video on YouTube about “Mexican immigration” and the “new Arizona law that just passed the legislator (sic).” The video was pulled from YouTube and the creators deleted their YouTube account shortly after their inboxes and social media accounts were flooded with video responses and hate mail.
Blond UCLA Student Majoring in White Privilege (March 2011) Clueless UCLA student Alexandra Wallace thinks it’s cool to post a video on YouTube where she mocks and stereotypes Asians (yes, the tired, old ‘ching chong’ routine) and makes light of the catastrophe in Japan. [Insert blond joke here].
British Prime Minister Calls Multiculturalism a Failure (February 2011) Cameron stereotypes and indicts entire religious, ethnic, and cultural groups by arguing that “hands-off tolerance” in Britain and other European nations has encouraged Muslims and other immigrant groups “to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”
Ohio Mom Sent to Jail for Sending Kids to Suburban School (January 2011) A single African American mother tries give her kids a better life by sending them to a predominantly White school, only to be arrested, convicted of “tampering with school records,” and sentenced to 10 days in jail.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Multiculturalism has ‘Utterly Failed’ (October 2010) Germany’s leader declares that attempts at building a multicultural society has “utterly failed” and that, basically it is entirely the responsibility of non-Germans (i.e., non-Whites) to integrate into the German mainstream. Didn’t we hear a similar message from another high-profile German Chancellor back in the 1930s?
Islamophobia Reaches a Fever Pitch (August 2010) Racist and xenophobic opposition to a mosque near Ground Zero and calls by some Christian leaders to burn the Koran on 9/11 illustrates America’s rising hatred of Islam.
U.S Hospital Fires 4 Filipina Nurses for Speaking Tagalog on Their Lunch Break (June 2010) Four Filipina ex-staffers of a Baltimore City hospital haven’t gotten over the shock of being summarily fired from their jobs, allegedly because they spoke Pilipino during their lunch break. . . “They claimed they heard us speaking in Pilipino and that is the only basis of the termination. It wasn’t because of my functions as a nurse. There were no negative write-ups, no warning before the termination,” [Nurse Hachelle Hatano] added.
South Carolina State Senator Calls President Obama a “Raghead” (June 2010) Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts refers to President Obama and Nikki Haley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate of Indian descent: “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”
Arizona Passes Law Censoring Ethnic Studies Programs (May 2010) On the heels of the law that critics argue would legalize racial profiling against Latinos, Arizona’s new anti-ethnic studies bill “prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.”
Alabama Governor Candidate Declares “We Speak English” (April 2010) Tim James, Republican candidate for Governor of Alabama, releases a TV ad in which he declares, “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it” (you can watch the actual ad at the link above).
John Jay College Accused of Bias Against Noncitizens (April 2010) The Justice Department files a lawsuit against John Jay College of Criminal Justice, accusing it of violating provisions of immigration law by demanding extra work authorization from at least 103 individuals since 2007.
Male Studies vs. Men’s Studies (April 2010) A group of White male academics are trying to create a new academic discipline that highlights the ways in which males (by implication, White males) are apparently an underrepresented and oppressed group in contemporary American society.
UC Regents Sorry for Acts of Hate on Campuses (March 2010) Summarizing numerous racist incidents at numerous University of CA (UC) campuses, students and faculty try to get the UC Regents to see that racial ignorance and intolerance is a serious and endemic problem.
The Year in Nativism (March 2010) The Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes notable recent hate crimes against immigrants in 2008 and notes that nativist extremist groups have more than tripled in number, from 144 in 2007 to 309 in 2009.
Justice Department Fights Bias in Lending (January 2010) Under a new initiative from the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department begins targeting the rising predatory practice of “reverse redlining” aimed predominantly at minorities in which “. . . a mortgage brokerage or bank systematically singles out minority neighborhoods for loans with inferior terms like high up-front fees, high interest rates and lax underwriting practices. Because the original lender would typically resell such a loan after collecting its fees, it did not care about the risk of foreclosure.”
New Basketball League for Whites Only (January 2010) The “All-American Basketball Alliance” announces plans to create a minor league basketball league in which “only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.”
Here is an announcement from my colleagues at the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA:
UCLA’s “U.S./China Media Brief” Commemorates New Era of U.S.-China Relations
On the People’s Republic of China 60th anniversary year (1949-2009) and on the eve of President Obama’s historic November China visit, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center releases the new electronic, downloadable version of the “Presidents Edition” of the U.S.-China Media Brief to commemorate a new era of Sino-American relations. The “Presidents Edition” also serves as a handy electronic guide, together with the previous downloadable “Beijing Olympics Edition” to current issues in U.S.-China relations.
The U.S./China Media Brief website offers exclusive interviews with experts in U.S.-Chinese relations, commentary by former President Jimmy Carter, and essays exploring topics that range from labor unions to Obama’s potential impact on China.
Recent YouTube and podcast profiles feature: media expert Li Xiguang of Tsinghua University, Beijing; Janet Yang, Chinese American film producer; Gordon Chang, Stanford professor; Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times Beijing Bureau chief; Cheng Siwei “the father of Chinese venture capitalism;” and Y.C. Chen, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on U.S. corporate labor practices in Southern China.
The U.S./China Media Brief is accessible online for your viewing. Downloadable guides and materials include the following:
The entire 24-page, six-color 2009 U.S./China Media Brief “Presidents Edition,” which contains useful maps, charts, and commentary as well as summaries of key issues that will form the backdrop of President Obama’s November trip to China.
“China and the U.S. in the World,” a seven-page fold-out map that compares U.S. and Chinese energy, resources, and influence in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East developed by Harvard-trained researcher Sharon Owyang.
A compact Presidential Chart and Guide that traces the three decades of Sino-American normalization. This chart and guide summarizes past U.S. presidents’ relationship with Chinese leaders, ranging from Nixon to Obama.
An illustrated U.S.-China timeline that highlights key events/moments in the 200 year history between the U.S. and China.
Also, the 2008 “Beijing Olympics Edition,” reviewed by the New York Times on its Olympics blog (downloadable).
The U.S./China Media Brief was funded by the Walter and Shirley Wang U.S./China Relations and Communications Program at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
As an educator and a person of color, I have a particular interest in issues surrounding racial/ethnic diversity on college campuses. In fact, this topic is a common theme that I’ve written about on this blog. Like most liberals, I happen to think that greater diversity is generally a good thing, although I acknowledge that there are some ways in which diversity can lead to some challenges in the short run.
In other words, racial/ethnic diversity is a complicated and multidimensional phenomenon. This is especially true on college campuses where, in most cases, there are students who come from a wide range of backgrounds and once they interact with each other, can lead to an equally wide range of outcomes. To illustrate this point, Inside Higher Education reports on the release of a new study that looks at actual outcomes of racial/ethnic diversity on college students and finds, you guessed it, some mixed results:
One key finding was the generally positive impact on racial attitudes of living with someone of a different race. Students were surveyed on their attitudes before being assigned someone to live with, and after a year in which some lived with “outgroup roommates.”
Generally, and regardless of the attitudes with which students entered UCLA, those who lived with members of other ethnic groups showed statistically significant gains in comfort levels with people of different groups, having circles of friends beyond one’s own group, and a variety of other measures of tolerance toward different groups. The changes in attitudes were most striking for those living with either black or Latino roommates.
The one exception to this positive impact was with Asian students as roommates: White and black students who lived with Asians tended to show increased prejudice against Asians on some measures after living with them. . . .
[However], the researchers examined the impact of membership in groups that are defined largely by race and ethnicity (such as black student unions) as well as membership in groups that do not have an explicit racial or ethnic mission, but have overwhelmingly white members (some fraternities and sororities). Generally, they found that a negative impact resulted from membership in these groups — white or minority — in which belonging to such a group led to an increase in feelings of victimization.
There are several key findings here, so let me address them one at a time.
The Benefits of Diversity
The study’s finding that increased racial/ethnic contact and interaction among students leads to greater comfort with others of a different race is not new and in fact, reinforces what sociologists have been saying for decades — this is frequently referred to as the “Contact Hypothesis.” Nonetheless, it is nice to see real, concrete evidence of this idea in a real-world situation.
As the article also notes, this finding confirms one of the basic principles of affirmative action — that increased racial/ethnic diversity represents a net benefit for American society and is therefore a worthwhile goal. Opponents of affirmative action are free to criticize other aspects of affirmative action that they disapprove of, but as this study confirms, the argument that increased diversity can’t improve people’s attitudes and levels of acceptance towards others is simply not true.
The Drawbacks of ‘Segregated’ Student Groups
On the other hand, the study points out that racially/ethnically homogeneous student groups and organizations generally do not improve racial tolerance and acceptance. This finding is basically the flip side to the first one that I discussed above. The only potentially controversial part of this finding is that it applies to all kinds of homogeneous groups, whether they are all-White fraternities/sororities or Black Student Unions, Asian American Student Associations, etc. that are based explicitly on a particular racial/ethnic identity.
On that count, I would point out that while feelings of victimization and anger may exist among students of color in such racial/ethnic student organizations, there are many benefits that also exist within such groups. For example, these groups can also foster a sense of community identity and support and can also empower students by educating them about their group’s history and shared experiences, as well as giving them opportunities to turn their feelings and emotions into positive, constructive activities that provide the campus community the chance to further promote racial/ethnic diversity.
In other words, to echo another central theme of this blog, there is a difference between all-White and all-minority organizations in terms of their historical, cultural, and political meanings. That is, in the past and frequently still true today, all-White organizations have been associated with excluding marginalized groups and perpetuating a superior position of power for themselves.
In contrast, minority organizations have traditionally been focused on working to eliminate that kind of social inequality and to improve the conditions and lives of its members so that they more equally match that of their White counterparts. Therefore, the social dynamics are likely to be different between all-White and all-minority organizations.
I am not saying that all-White fraternities or sororities exist to actively reinforce White superiority. Rather, the nature and impact of the “negative” consequences of segregation are different because the history of American race relations has been different through the years. That’s what we should keep in mind when considering the dynamics of such groups.
The Negative Impact of Having an Asian Roommate
I’ve left this finding for last because I have the most trouble understanding it. My first reaction is skepticism of the results themselves. But as an academic myself, for now I will presume that the results are valid and reliable until I read the study’s exact methodology myself.
That said, my first question is, are there differences between having an Asian immigrant roommate versus a U.S.-born Asian American roommate? In other words, did White and Black students who had an Asian roommate have conflicts with the fact that their roommate was Asian or that s/he was an immigrant and therefore, presumably not as “Americanized” as they were. That may help to explain this particular finding.
If there is no difference between having an immigrant versus U.S.-born Asian American roommate, then my second thought is that perhaps it has to do with the fact that Asian Americans are something like 40% of the student population at UCLA. More generally and at the national level, perhaps White and Black Americans see us as symbols of globalization and how the U.S. is slowing losing its cultural superiority around the world as the 21st century progresses.
With that in mind, perhaps this finding that having an Asian roommate actually had a negative impact on racial tolerance for White and Black students at UCLA reflects this general atmosphere of economic insecurity and cultural change and instability.
While it is possible that individually, Asian American roommates exhibited specific behaviors that offended their White or Black roommates, I have a hard time seeing that this was a systemic or consistent pattern among most Asian American roommates. I will have to read the actual study and the authors’ explanations for this finding to have a more concrete idea.
Ultimately and with most studies dealing with the topic of racial diversity, there are many interpretations and conclusions to make. On the one hand, I am encouraged to see the study’s results that in almost all cases, increased racial/ethic diversity led directly to increased racial/ethnic tolerance among students.
At the same time, I am a little worried about how Asian Americans fit into this equation and to what extent this finding — that having an Asian American roommate had the lone negative impact on racial tolerance — is reliable and generalizable to American society in general.