Qualitative Sociology 2003 Pyke

Qualitative Sociology 2003 Pyke - P1 GRA Qualitative...

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Qualitative Sociology, Vol. 26, No. 2, Summer 2003 ( C 2003) “FOB” and “Whitewashed”: Identity and Internalized Racism Among Second Generation Asian Americans Karen Pyke 1 and Tran Dang An analysis of 184 in-depth interviews with grown children of Korean and Vietnamese immigrants finds that the racial beliefs, meanings, and stereotypes of the mainstream society shape how they think about coethnics, generate lo- cal identities, and deflect stigma from themselves. We examine the terms “FOB” (“Fresh Off the Boat”) and “whitewashed” that were commonly deployed to den- igrate coethnic “others” as “too ethnic” or “too assimilated” while casting those at the bicultural middle as the “normals.” We describe how this system of “in- traethnic othering” serves as a basis for sub-ethnic identities, intraethnic social boundaries, and the monitoring and control of social behavior. We draw on the concept of internalized racial oppression in framing our findings. KEY WORDS: acculturation; Asian Americans; ethnic identity; internalized racism; second genera- tion Americans. INTRODUCTION The post-1965 wave of immigration, dominated by streams of non-white new- comers, has expanded the numbers of racial/ethnic minorities in the U.S. The lifting of quotas on Asian immigrants along with the flood of Southeast Asian refugees has contributed to new Asian American ethnicities (Zhou 1999). Unlike earlier waves of European immigrants who gradually merged into the white majority, Asians have been racialized as “others” and excluded from the white mainstream (Espiritu 1992; Gans 1979; Waters 1990). Hence, straight-line assimilation theo- ries that predict amalgamation into whiteness based on the adaptation processes of European immigrants and their children have had little success when applied to to- day’s non-white immigrant groups. New approaches have been needed. Research 1 Correspondence should be directed to Karen Pyke, Department of Sociology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0419; e-mail: [email protected] 147 C 2003 Human Sciences Press, Inc.
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148 Pyke and Dang on the “new second generation” has led to new models that consider a multiplicity of identities and acculturative pathways (Omi and Winant 1994; Portes and Zhou 1993; Rumbaut 1994; Tuan 1998; Zhou 1997). Current models regard ethnic identity as dynamic, situational, multilayered and multidirectional (Nagel 1994). This social constructionist approach views the continual negotiation and delineation of social boundaries whereby individuals and groups are differentiated and labeled as central to the formation of ethnic identity (Barth 1969; Espiritu 1992; Kibria 1997; Nagel 1994; Smith 1991). As individuals move across various interactional contexts, the boundaries of social differences that shape identities shift, and multiple layers of identities are constructed. Different identities are enlisted or imposed depending on their symbolic appropriateness and strategic utility across the various situations and audiences encountered (Espiritu 1992; Nagel 1994, pp. 154–155). Take the case of Korean Americans. The national
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  • Spring '97
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