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week 9 reading 1 - r Chapter 6 Reactive Solidarity...

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Unformatted text preview: r Chapter 6 Reactive Solidarity: Anti—Asian Violence E Iflakyfi'éifi‘rkekz’awsifggmirewlqaaaaaufizrryJ-awaammwe» While political benefits certainly promote pan—Asian organization, it is anti~Asian violence that has drawn the largest pan-Asian support. Because the public does not usually distinguish among Asian sub- groups, anti-Asian Violence concerns the entire group—crosscutting class, cultural, and generational divisions. Therefore, regardless of one’s ethnic affiliation, anti-Asian violence requires coanterorgani- zation at the pan-Asian level. Research on ethnicity has indicated that external threats intensify group cohesion as members band together in defensive solidarities. The threatened destruction creates a common interest where none may have existed before [Coser 19 56,- Portes 1984). Most often, a group is sanctioned for its actual or alleged wrongdoing. But a racially defined group can also suffer reprisals because of its externally im- posed membership in a larger group. In the Asian American case, group members can suffer sanctions for no behavior of their own, but for the activities of others who resemble them [Light and Bonacich 1988: 324). Thus anti-Asian activities necessarily lead to protective pan-Asian ethnicity. True, as indicated by the discussion on ethnic "disidentification" in Chapter 2, external threat does not always con- solidate groups, but can also disintegrate them. However, it is also went 134 Chapter 6 Sign organization, it :pan-Asian support. 1 among Asian sub- roup—cross-cutting refore, regardless of iires counterorgani- nal threats intensify :tensive solidarities. interest where none 984). Most often, a gdoing. But a racially if its externally im- sian American case, ‘ior of their own, but [Light and Bonacich ly lead to protective .iscussion on ethnic ices not always (3011- However, it is also true that these early attempts by Asian immigrant groups to “dis identify” themselves from the targeted Asian group often failed. The most notorious case of mistaken identity was the 1982 kill— ing of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was beaten to death by two white men who allegedly mistook him for Japanese. The Chin case activated both Chinese and pan-Asian levels of solidarity. To understand the web of reactive solidarities better, this chapter analyzes Asian American organizational responses to anti-Asian ac- . tivities, particularly their responses to the Chin case. The Chin case is substantively important because many Asian Americans now con- sider it to be the archetype of anti-Asian violence in this country. It is also theoretically instructive because it sheds light on the pluralism of reactive groups. ‘ 3‘ An ti-A sian Activities Anti-Asian activities in the United States can be traced back to the middle of the nineteenth century. For the most part, Ameri- cans meted out sanctions against Asians via the political and legal systems (McKenzie 1928, Ichioka 1988]. From the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, more than six hundred pieces of anti- Asian legislation were enacted, either limiting or excluding persons of Asian ancestry from citizenship, intermarriage, land ownership, employment, and other forms of participation in American life [Iapa— nese American Citizens League 1987: 65 ,- Chan 1991: ch. 3]. As indicated earlier, the gravest government mistreatment of Asians oc- curred when Iapanese residents and citizens were placed in relocation camps at the beginning of World War H (Daniels 1971). Anti-Asian hostility also took violent turns. In the mid-nineteenth century, whites “were stoning the Chinese in the streets, cutting off their queues, wrecking their shops and laundries“ {Dulles 1946: 89). In some instances, such as the Rock Springs Massacre in Wyoming in 1885, these violent outbursts ended in brutal killings. For the most part, these atrocitieslwere legally sanctioned. For example, in 1854, the California Supreme Court ruled that Chinese could not testify against whites. So long as no white person was available to witness on their behalf, any crime perpetrated against the Chinese went unpunished (Dulles 1946). During World War II, the United States Congress began to chip away at the legislative barriers to Asian immigration and citizenship. By the early 1970s, Asian Americans were finally accorded the civil rights long guaranteed to other residents and citizens. But in the late I97os, reports of rising anti-Asian activities also began to surface.1 At a congressional hearing on the impact of the new Asian immigration, an Asian American attorney contended that ” today we are witnessing a resurgence of anti-Asian sentiment manifest by growing problems of vandalism, physical attack, and on occasion murder” (K. Wong 198 5: 173). In a statement submitted to the US. Commission on Civil Rights, US. Representative Robert Matsui (I 984) warned of the danger of rising anti-Asianism. In a 1988 keynote speech, the found- ing president of the Asian/ Pacific Bar of California similarly warned, "The danger i see in the next decade is the revitalization of anti-Asian hostility” [Asian Pacific American Coalition 1989a). Because no systematic data on anti-Asian activities exist, it is dif- ficult to substantiate the claim of rising anti-Asianism. As the US. Commission on Civil Rights [1986: 5) reported, “There is currently no way to determine accurately the level of activity against persons of Asian descent, or whether the number of incidents has increased, de- creased, or stayed the same in recent years.” On the other hand, rising anti-Asianism has become so alarming that it has entered the public discourse, as evidenced by an increase in the number of articles on anti-Asian violence published not only in the ethnic press but also in major neWSpapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Washington Post, San Francisco Examiner, and Los Angeles Times [Japanese American Citizens League 1987: 66m67). Federal, state, and local civil rights bodies extended this public discourse by holding official hearings on anti-Asian crimes. At a Los Angeles County hearing, twenty-two persons testified that the "Asian community has been alarmed by anincrease in anti-Asian vandalism and violence in Los Angeles County and in other parts of the country" (Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 1984). These racial incidents ranged from hostile bumper stickers to racial name-calling to physical assaults. In Washington, a state com~ mission reported that Asians in the state had experienced harassment of “very serious proportions ” at the hands of "native workers” [Korea- town 1983). In California, the attorney general’s Asian and Pacific Islander Advisory Committee concluded that, "in recent years, there 136 / Reactive Solidarity _ ' I ' jweamfwmwxma:eagreeaiammyammmaa mjlflifilulxaxh has been an intensi]E ney General’s Asia; 23}. At the national on Civil Rights {1%}: in numerous and Nation.” In the ab: substantiate the cl they do confirm th; Factors 0 Social scii group conflicts. M a confrontation b class'based theori51 in structuring socia: contrast, race-based a racial group causel As in many cases Asian activities incl Economic Resource é plains public animq nomic downturns, problems and regard Light 1983: ch.13 borne most of the of high unemployme: rates, competition into intergroup confi: Rights 1982; Los AnE 1984, US. Commissi in nine cities indie that “Indochinese re 3 began to chip and citizenship. corded the civil s. But in the late in to surface.1 At an immigration, 1: are witnessing owing problems urder" [K. Wong Commission on 54) warned of the :eech, the found- imilarly warned, Lion of anti-Asian ). ies exist, it is dif- 1ism. As the US. ‘here is currently 1gainst persons of has increased, de- other hand, rising :ntered the-public iber of articles on c press but also in 2111 Street Iournai, xaminer, and Los re 1987: 66,67). :ended this public sian crimes. At a ; testified that the casein anti-Asian id in other parts of 1 Human Relations bumper stickers to igton, a state com- :ienced harassment re workers” [Korea- ‘. Asian and Pacific . recent years, there has been an intensification of anti-Asian hostility” (California, Attor- ney General‘s Asian and Pacific Islander Advisory Committee 1988: 23}. At the national level, a multisite study by the US. Commission On Civil Rights [1986: 5) concluded that “anti-Asian activity exists in numerous and demographically different communities across the Nation.” In the absence of longitudinal data, these studies cannot substantiate the claim of rising violence against Asians, however, they do confirm that anti-Asianism is, indeed, a serious problem. Factors Contributing to Anti-Asian Activities Social scientists continue to debate the etiology of inter- group conflicts. Most of the dialogue has been structured around a confrontation between class-based and race-based theorists. For class-based theorists, economic competition plays the central role in structuring social relations (Bonacich 1972,- Cummings 1980]. In contrast, race-based theorists insist that unfavorable attitudes toward a racial group cause intergroup conflicts [Allport 19 58 ,- Myrdal 1 962]. As in many cases of racial conflicts, factors that contribute to anti- Asian activities include class as well as ideational elements. Economic Competition Resource competition theory posits that self-interest ex- plains public animosity toward immigrants. Especially during eco- nomic dOWnturIis, the native-born blame immigrants for the nation’s problems and regard them as unwanted competitors (Bonacich 1972; Light 1983: ch. 13]. Historically, Asians in the United States have borne most of the blame for economic woes [Saxton 1971 ,- Kitano r 980, K. Wong 198 5]. Recent anti—Asian activities coincided with the deteriorating economic conditions that began after 1975. In a context of high unemployment, climbing inflation, and skyrocketing interest rates, Competition between Asians and non-Asians often escalated into intergroup conflicts (California, Governor’s Task Force on Civil Rights 1982; Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 1984,- U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 1986). A 1980 poll conducted in nine cities indicated that 47 percent of the respondents believed that "Indochinese refugees take jobs away from others in my area” [Starr and Roberts I 982). According to a I 989 Los Angeles Times poll, a quarter of the respondents believed that Asian Americans were gaining too much economic power, no other group was similarly de- scribed by more than 7 percent [Rodgrick 1989a]. The mushrooming of Asian businesses across the country has also evoked anti-Asian sentiment, often expressed in efforts to ban Asian~language business signs (Fong 1987 ,- Siao 1989(1). The rapid influx of Asian immigrants to the United States since 1965 further exacerbated the tension be- tween Asians and non-Asians [Desbarats 198 5 : 522—523). In particu— lar, the growing presence of Korean businesses in black neighbor- hoods in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, New York City, and Los Angeles has fueled black anger, at times leading to racial violence (I. Kim 1981,- Light and Bonacich 1988: ch. 12,- Cheng and Espiritu 1989). In addition to actual or alleged domestic economic competition, Asian Americans are resented for the United States’ international trade imbalances. A period of economic recession in the United States coincided with a rise of Pacific Rim economies, not only that of Iapan but also those of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singa- pore. Unable to keep pace with Asian competition, traditional indus- tries such as steel and automobiles experienced severe downturns. American businesses and labor unions, as well as elected officials, blamed the ills of American industry on business competition with Asian countries (Smollar 1983; US. Commission on Civil Rights 1986: 36—37). A prime example is automobile manufacturing: many Americans attributed the unemployment among American automo- bile workers to the large Japanese share of automobiles sold in the United States (US. Commission on Civil Rights 1986: 36). A 1982 "' national poll indicated that 44 percent of the public blamed U.S. eco— nomic problems “almost completely“ or “very much” on Iapanese business competition {ML Woo 198 3). Anti-Iapanese sentiment ap- peared on bumper stickers that read ”Toyota—Datsun—Honda—and Pearl Harbor” and "Unemployment Made in Iapan” (US. Commis- sion on Civil Rights r986: 40]. Unfortunately, anger against Asian nations is often transferred to Americans of Asian ancestry, who have suffered from a long history of anti-Asian attitudes and behav- iors {Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 1984: 2, R. MatSui 1984: 63). 138 / Reactive Solidarity )1Mfi»MtMWWWWWW/WbflflizfifiVJJB-Jrfiz'siwiséisfii’éwiéqimoihflflrkhiv795.21:rim/1.7 Anti. Attitt still alive and i Organization {: the fifteen ethr or a bad thing : than a 5 3 percei higher than a Survey resul come Asian in: poll, more tharé east Asian refugE only 26 percent: man Burt Talcf Orientals” {cit-d ion toward the! attitudes in nini l'ieved that the Asian countries? over 77 percent} of a Southeast not be willing 1988:81L 2 Anti-Asian anti-immigran cated that, beth favoring a decrt Governor’s TaskE tion toward survey of San believed Asian i only 17 percen tive impact (Col decry Japanese pean investmenf real estate2 In billion in US. rel in US. real estatf zgeles Times poll, Americans were was similarly de- ‘he mushrooming voked anti-Asian anguage business 3isl‘an immigrants :d the tension be— ;—523 ). In particu- 1 black neighbor— I., New York City, ; leading to racial :h. 12 , Cheng and nniic competition, Ltes’ international on in the United es, not only that of gKong, and Singa- traditional indus- aevere downturns. s elected officials, competition with n onCivil Rights nufacturing: many American automo- 1obiles sold in the 1986: 36). A 1982 ic blamed US. eco- auc ” on Iapanese iese sentiment ap- sun—Honda—and an” (US. Commis- nger against Asian nan ancestry, who ttitudes and behavT [Relations 1984: 2 , Anti-Asian Attitudes Attitudinal surveys reveal that anti-Asian sentiments are still alive and well today. In a survey of 2,000 Americans, the Roper Organization (1982} asked respondents to indicate whether each of the fifteen ethnic groups listed has “on balance . . . been a good thing or a bad thing for this country.” No European group received lower than a 5 3 pertient positive rating, in contrast, no Asian group received higher than a 47 percent positive rating. Survey results also indicate that many Americans do not wel- come Asian immigrants and refugees. According to a 1975 Harris poll, more than 50 percent of the American people thought South- east Asian refugees should not he allowedto enter the United States , only 26 percent favored their entry. Many seemed to share Congress- man Burt Talcott’s conclusion that, “Damn it, we have too many Orientals” (cited in Rose 1985: 205). Five years later, public opin- ion toward the refugees had not changed. A 1980 poll of American attitudes in nine cities revealed that nearly half of those surveyed be- lieved that the Southeast Asian refugees should have settled in other Asian countries (Starr and Roberts 1981}. This poll also found that over 77 percent of the respondents would disapprove of the marriage of a Southeast Asian refugee into their family and 6 5 percent would not be willing to have a refugee as a guest in their home [Roberts 1988: 81). Anti-Asian sentiment seemed to be symptomatic of the general anti-immigrant mood beginning in the late 1970s. Poll results indi- cated that, between 1965 and 1981, the proportion of the US. public favoring a decrease in legal immigration rose sharply (California, Governor’s Task Force on Civil Rights 1982: 52]. However, opposi- tion toward immigrants was not directed equally toward all groups. A survey of San Diego County found that 3 6 percent of the reSpondents believed Asian immigrants had a negative impact on the city, but only 17 percent thought Western European immigrants had a nega- tive impact (Cornelius 1982: 16). Along the same lines, the media decry Iapanese ownership of US. prOperty but largely ignore Euro- pean investment—even though Eur0peans own the most American real estate.2 In 1985, the British held $44 billion and the Dutch $38 billion in US. real estate. In contrast, the Japanese owned $ 3 5 billion in US. real estate in 1988. The disproportionate political and media attention to Iapanese ownership suggests "that the professed concern for overseas ownership is a smokescreen for racial animosity toward Asians” (California, Attorney General’s Commission 1986: 27—28). Asian Lumping It is difficult to trace the etiology of any racial incident. M0- tives are often mixed, so economically motivated acts may also carry a racist message and vice versa [Light 1983: 354—3 55). For the pur- pose of this chapter, it is not necessary to choose between class-based and race-based explanations of anti-Asianism. What is important is to recognize that, whatever the cause, hostilities directed at any of the Asian subgroups tend to affect the others as well. All Asians are at risk because outsiders perceive them as a single group. Because outsiders do not or cannot distinguish among Asian sub- groups, they target all Asians for their "message of hate” or pun- ish one group for another’s behavior. They also fail to distinguish recent immigrants and refugees from third- or fourth-generation citi- zens (Allen 198 3: 62; US. Cemmission on Civil Rights 1986: 2-3, Harrison 1987: 16]. Worse yet, non-Asians seldOm distinguish Asian Americans from Asian natiOnais. In public discourse, victims of anti- Asian incidents are often referred to as foreign nationals when, in fact, they are American citizens (Iapanese American Citizen League 1987: 69). In a testimony submitted to the US. Commission on Civil Rights, US. Representative Matsui (1984: 64] contended that "the difference between Asian nations and Americans of Asian ancestry becomes so blurred that Asian Americans are the scapegoats to for- eign industries.” This misconception is reflected in the recurrent blaming of Japanese Americans for the bombing of Pearl Harbor and for the trade imbalance with Iapan. Along the same lines, those who resent Asian entrepreneurs often confuse small-scale Asian Ameri- can businesses with high—profile investment projects funded largely with overseas Asian capital [Pong 1987]. More than any other inci- dent, the beating death of Vincent Chin epitomizes the racism of Asian lumping: blamed for Iapah’s economic advantage, a Chinese American, mistaken for Iapanese, was murdered. 140 / Reactive Solidarity The On t] year-old Chin? three friends bar, Chin bece Chrysler factc; lot, where Eb: friends fled. Fi Nitz, allegedli fast food reste: Ebens struck 4 police arrested from severe hé guests attendtE Beer 1983; We; In filing chi degree, murdef gain, Ebens plé not contest viction in Mid prison, Wayne time on Ebens probation and: tice 1983a,- Kai Kaufman cited of criminal rec you make the zens for Iusticf Although can communif fully expected the outraged ai Citizens for Iui man’s lenient country, who Letters of proti as New York ar received exteni professed concern l animosity toward ion 1986:27—28). 'acial incident. M0- acts may also carry —355). For the pur- etween class-based hat is important is ; directed at any of vell. All Asians are e group. 1 among Asian sub- 3 of hate“3 or pun- fail to distinguish nth-generation citi— lRights I986: 2*3; n distinguish Asian .rse, victims of anti- nationals when, in can Citizen League 3mmission on Civil ontended that “the .s of Asian ancestry Le seapegoats to for- ed in the recurrent of Pearl Harbor and me lines, those who -scale Asian Ameri— njects funded largely :han any other inci- nizes the raci...
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