Cultural Constructions, Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2.

So, let’s talk about shifts towards whiteness, the phenomenon of groups “achieving” status as white. I’ve mentioned that Greeks and Italians in Australia have in recent years shifted from non-white to white status. Most of us here are probably familiar with the history of groups like the Irish in the United States and their shift to whiteness. Here and there, I’ve been picking up a thread in my reading from the United States discussing the assimilation of Asians, the “model minority”. This thread is one of Asian Americans being absorbed into whiteness, or not being as properly non-white as other non-white groups, which gave me quite a jolt. The underlying idea, as I’m reading it, is that a group achieving some degree of whiteness’ favour in a particular place and historical moment gets to be absorbed into whiteness. Difference and discrimination get to be done away with together.

That really disturbs me: I think non-white identities should be allowed to be sustained, and that acceptance as white shouldn’t be necessary to lessen discrimination or for a group to be accepted as people. (That’s not to say that discrimination is in actuality being done away with; it’s reminiscent of “postracialism” as a deeply racist substitute for anti-racism. The notion that absorption into whiteness – or at least white approval – represents the moment harmony, happiness and so forth starts should make that evident from the get go.) I’m not trying to take away anyone’s identity here: if you identify as white but have this kind of history of non-whiteness, that’s cool. I’m simply troubled by the idea that this particular shift towards whiteness supposedly must be necessary as a part of the evolution of racial relations, rather than a shift towards acceptance of all kinds of identities.

Growing more accepted seems to be contingent on shifts towards white cultures, constructions as white, assimilation. I don’t think a choice to assimilate into a dominant culture not one’s own is necessarily a bad thing, necessarily a mark of oppression. The expectation that everyone be a part of it, that everyone wishes for whiteness and white cultural acceptance, makes me feel really scared. I don’t think my Australianness should be contingent on my giving up my culture (or relating to it in majority-approved ways), my community identification, the kinds of things that make me me. Irrespective of whether someone wants to hold on to their ancestral culture(s), or participate in dominant ones, or live in a fusion such as suits them, I don’t think that their cultural identification or practice needs to be held up with reference to a white ideal.

I want to be accepted, but not at the cost of my identity as non-white. I think it’s perfectly possible to achieve acceptance and, dare I say it, harmony across racial difference without the elimination thereof.


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29 comments for “Cultural Constructions, Part 3

  1. December 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    That’s not to say that discrimination is in actuality being done away with; it’s reminiscent of “postracialism” as a deeply racist substitute for anti-racism

    Ha! I was just going on about that again in the thread Jill just started on Obama and anger, when a commenter (likely a troll) tried the “postracial” gambit. In my response comment, I linked to this amazing chart that Restructure! put up on her blog a while ago: The Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Institution. That chart is about how multicultural /= anti-racist, but it applies to the “post-racial” nonsense as well.

    As I mentioned in earlier threads in this series, “multiculturalism” is a big deal in Canada, although for some it’s a sincerely held value and for others it’s just a buzzword. Either way, I feel that whatever our intentions with “multiculturalism”, we have not followed through in a way that reflects a commitment to celebrating and not just “tolerating” or “accepting” diversity. Restructure!’s post gives a good break-down of how this plays out. I think “multiculturalism” functions very similarly to “postracialism” in this way – a justification for translating human diversity into relative whiteness (otherwise known as “normal” or “default” – feh), erasing people and identities rather than racism.

    This post also brings me back to Deepa D.’s Reappropriating My Man and I Didn’t Dream of Dragons, which were the first truly consciousness-raising essays I ever read and which fundamentally changed my understanding of race, whiteness, and racial and cultural experiences.

  2. December 13, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I love I Didn’t Dream of Dragons, it’s probably the blog post I reread the most.

  3. Silver
    December 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    So, if I follow correctly, isn’t this more about dominant western culture railroading over others rather than ‘whiteness’? I’d certainly agree that western culture associates very strongly with ‘white’, but I don’t think they’re the same thing; It’s more of a symbiotic relationship. Even in Australia, we are overwhelmed with US cultural influences because it’s cheaper than our own. The French go to great lengths to try to protect their language and culture from outside influence, but I don’t think you can argue they aren’t white, or that they don’t have their own race problems.

    (Thanks for linking to ‘I Didn’t Dream of Dragons’, I found it powerful.)

  4. Ms. Rev.
    December 14, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Eric Liu wrote a chapter called “The New Jews” in his book _The Accidental Asian_ about the absorption of Jews into whiteness in the U.S., and about how there are some parallels between that process and the one that is happening now with Asian Americans. I recommend it.

  5. Kristen J.
    December 14, 2010 at 12:25 am

    I’m simply troubled by the idea that this particular shift towards whiteness supposedly must be necessary as a part of the evolution of racial relations, rather than a shift towards acceptance of all kinds of identities.

    This just makes so much sense to me. I’m troubled by the self-identification of whiteness. In my understanding of whiteness (and I don’t even pretend to have special insight on this), whiteness is more about institutional power than shared culture. So to me, self-identifying as white is more about aligning yourself with those in authority.

    When my Jewish great-grandparents chose to Anglicize their name and self-identify as white they weren’t trying to build a connection to their local communities, they were trying to avoid persecution.

    To me, my whiteness is something I consider imposed on me by the kyriarchy not something that is part of who I really am. Its an awkward fit for a Irish, Welsh, Jewish, Scottish, German, Native America person. Particularly since until relatively recently some of these ethnic groups weren’t and some still aren’t considered white.

    But regardless of who I feel like inside, the kyriarchy labels my pale, blond self as white and so that’s how I’m treated, that’s the privilege I benefit from.

  6. December 14, 2010 at 3:54 am

    ‘So, if I follow correctly, isn’t this more about dominant western culture railroading over others rather than ‘whiteness’?’

    I think not, Silver.

  7. Jennifer
    December 14, 2010 at 4:46 am

    I love this series, Chally.

    What troubles me about this idea that Asian Americans are ‘less’ non-white, is that certain aspects that feed into the ‘model minority myth’, particularly with regard to education, get used on the other side (cf articles about how Asian students are ‘taking over’ universities).

  8. timothynakayama
    December 14, 2010 at 6:55 am

    But a certain amount of assimilation is necessary to survive. Fresh out of university, I tried finding a job in Australia. Unsuccessful. It wasn’t until I had some overseas experience that I returned looking for a job. And by then I knew how to play the game, and that means “acting Australian” whatever that means. Speaking with an Australian accent, showing you enjoy footie (even if you don’t), having a “laid back” Aussie attitude towards work and life, and a DOZEN more things….all these things will help you get a job. I know plenty of Indian doctors and Chilean garbage collectors in Sydney who have MBAs and doctorates from their own countries, but yet because they don’t know how to “play the game”, they are desperately stuck in their positions and trying to find a job that is more relevant.

    I’m not an intellectual, so a lot of the smaller details are lost on me. But definitely, a certain amount of assimilation is required to fit in. It’s like I have two personalities: one that I put on when I go to work, and one I put on when I’m not at work.

  9. Kaz
    December 14, 2010 at 8:06 am

    @Kristen J. – I sometimes hear people talk about white culture, usually in the context of “why do we have a black history month but not a white history month?” (ugh) and I have essentially the same thoughts about it you do – there is no such thing as “white culture”. “White” is about power, and being the group that has it, and in the process identities can get subsumed. I’m German and I spent part of my childhood in the US – as a linguistic, cultural and technically ethnic (since ethnicity is associated with race I don’t usually phrase it that way, but there were very few people of German descent in my town) minority. One of the struggles I faced was that as a pale blonde girl whose heritage is about as white, if not Anglo-white, as it gets, and who spoke perfect American English it was very very easy for me to become absorbed into the dominant society – at the price of giving up my cultural identity, which was and is very important to me. As a result of this, I am to this day terrified about somehow losing my culture or native language; there are conversations I simply cannot participate in because it hurts too much. “White”, to me, is something I identify as to indicate I have some serious racial privilege going on, but it is not and will never be an identity. “German” is that for me.

    And it’s – even if we leave aside for the moment that you should not need to make people “like you” in some way in order to accept them as equal and if you do there is something fundamentally busted going on, how is doing what I wrote about above to more people supposed to help anything? Just from my own experiences I am totally unsurprised that someone nonwhite might not be too happy about the idea that they’d become “white” (as in the category shifting to cover them) one day.

  10. Q Grrl
    December 14, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Thanks for this series. Good stuff.

    I wish I could put into words the profound disconnect of being white and not understanding the harms of assimilation – of not seeing anything wrong with your own life because, well, it works for you (read: white people) and it is all you’ve ever known. It’s hard to step back and be willing to admit that your beloved reality is suspect, and unfortunately harmful. It’s been good for me as a lesbian to have the tremendous cultural/political pressure of gay marriage become the dominant narrative of queerness — I have come to understand what assimilation does on an individual and on a group level.

  11. Alice
    December 14, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Justin Smith had an interesting related piece recently. It’s written from quite a different angle – looking not at the assimilation of a formerly “non-white” racial identity to “whiteness”, but at the submergence and mystification of ethno-historical difference within American “whiteness”. But I think you may find it engaging.

  12. December 14, 2010 at 9:50 am

    This is a response, I think, to which cultures in particular are perceived as more “tolerable” than others. An ethnic culture that is not extremely effusive and verbose is more in line with white cultural attitudes. Speaking louder, faster, dressing differently, or displaying attitudes that seem somehow vulgar or incomprehensible to most Caucasians almost automatically results in othering. And these are only the first examples that come to mind.

    What makes things complicated is that there are multiple reasons why such attitudes develop in the first place. They are often an amalgamation of religious beliefs, circumstance, class, economics, and other factors. Being from the American South, one expects a casual sort of friendliness and unguarded attitude towards even complete strangers. In New England, this is not the case at all.

    The complications within so-called “White” society are problematic enough, but those are outside it have it tougher. And I would bet that even within People of Color, for example, there are delineations which complicate efforts towards equality. We often make things more challenging for ourselves than we should, in my opinion.

  13. December 14, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Those WHO are outside it, rather.

  14. December 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I hope my earlier comment was not taken wrongly. What I was trying to articulate was that cultural motifs do dictate otherness. For example, a WASPy person who keeps words to a minimum and rarely raises his/her voice above a moderate volume may be offended by a stereotypically Italian-American, loud, boisterous sort of attitude. People can be that petty sometimes and it is for reasons like these that one group feels though others ought to conform to its own standards.

  15. Jim
    December 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    “This thread is one of Asian Americans being absorbed into whiteness, or not being as properly non-white as other non-white groups, which gave me quite a jolt. ”

    There are several things going on.

    First, to get clear on terms, “Asian-American” almost always registers as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Filipino ancestry in US culture. India and Pakistan are in Asia; so what, so are Israel and SA for that matter, and none of it makes them “Asian-American.”

    Second, the big difference between the Japanese and Chinese on one hand and all the other groups is the way they were perceived by Anglo society – Anglo society feared and respected Chinese civilization, and really feared Chinese immigration in California, where for a period of decades the Chinese population was a significant percentage of the total. Then there was Japan, which from about 1910 on was a strong presence in the Pacific, with an army and a navy which both dwarfed what the US had. This was really different from the contempt that African-Americans and others faced and still face. I am talking about the situation on the West Coast, which along with Hawai’i is where the bulk of these communities live.

    Third, this is an area where the white/non-white binary really doesn’t work. POC as an identity is new, really only since the 70s, and I am not sure how much anyone in those communities other than university students ever has bought into that.

    I don’t think Anglos on the West Coast think of Asian-Americans as white, I don’t think Asian-Americans think of themselves as white, but both groups do have a sense of parity based more on class than some White (TM) ethnicity that has evolved over these centuries.

    In fact when it comes ot asimilation and the main markers of identity that people tend to use – language, religion and food – African-Americans are more culturally Anglo than any Asian-American group is. For what that’s worth.

    Comrade Kevin: An ethnic culture that is not extremely effusive and verbose is more in line with white cultural attitudes.

    This is really, really true. It also explains a lot of the distance from these other groups Asian immigrants verbalize. If you look at Chinese or Japanese films or Korean drama for instance, see who is shown as effusive and verbose – it’s always children or low-status adults. It’s considered a weakness, a lack of self-control and self-respect, the same as in English culture.

  16. Kristen J.'s Husband
    December 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Jim: First, to get clear on terms, “Asian-American” almost always registers as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Filipino ancestry in US culture. India and Pakistan are in Asia; so what, so are Israel and SA for that matter, and none of it makes them “Asian-American.”

    I’d argue that “Asian-American” in this context, specifically talking about the model minority context, is Chinese and Japanese – perhaps Korean. But definitely not Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, etc.

    One of the major problems with “Asian” as an imposed ethnic label is that there is a great deal of variety in the discrimination faced by people who are or whose ancestors were from countries in Asia. People assume I will be good at math, a hard worker, and well-educated because I’m Japanese. Those same “positive” stereotypes are not afforded to people who are, for example, Indonesian.

  17. Jim
    December 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Husband, that is all true, since we are talking about the model minority context. It definitely does not fit the Filipinos or Thauis, and even the Vietnamese, with all their 16 y/o Stanford students have the Born To Kill and other gangs to balance their image.

    Your second point about the problems with the label “Asian” is bang on. “Asian” is not a model minority, because it is not a group at all, except as a mental category. Each group has had really varied historical experience. The label also fails because it ignores inter-group hostilities. The same is true for the label “white” but that is another topic.

    May I ask if you are US-born or an immigrant? Whichever, do you see any difference in the experiences of discrimination or stereotyping of the two groups? My step-daughter’s dad is a Japanese citizen, and has retained his citizenship for many years. He personally doesn’t see much commonality with Japanese-Americans – different class, different histories. What is your experience?

  18. David
    December 14, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    “But definitely not Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, etc”
    A couple of my close friends are vietnamese and I know for a fact that they had the “asians are good at math” stereotype hovering around them all the time. Maybe its cuz they were both engineering students, slight of build, lighter skinned, etc. Of course, I think a nerdy physique and glasses do wonders for that too.

  19. PrettyAmiable
    December 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Jim: First, to get clear on terms, “Asian-American” almost always registers as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Filipino ancestry in US culture.

    Husband of Kristen J, I think what Jim meant is based on appearance (i.e. we could look at a Filipino woman and peg her as Asian) – though I agree with you that we (US-white-folks) tend to think Chinese, Japanese, Korean (and to conflate them as well like it’s all one region with one story as opposed to 3-4 distinct histories).

    Anecdote – I commented on how a classroom broke down – everyone on one side was an Asian international and everyone on our side was white (which I think has the potential for being a fascinating case study and maybe the international version for “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”

    And one of my friends said, no, XYZ isn’t Asian. He’s Indian.

    So, I definitely understand the comment, Jim.

    PS Kristen’s Husband, if this is your first time explicitly commenting on the blog, welcome!

  20. December 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    As much as the derail is an interesting one, could you please return more directly to the topic?

  21. Athenia
    December 14, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    To a certain extent, you have to go “white” because that’s how the majority of people operate. This isn’t necessarily “oppression”–when you have a country which consists of a bunch of different cultures, you have to some kind of commonality and that commonality is going to have to come from somewhere.

    And whose to says the dominant culture is white? I mean, Americans aren’t running around with British accents. Yeah, we’re still speaking English, but something new has been made. My boyfriend grew up speaking English more than Cantonese. Did he “give up” his culture? He wouldn’t say so. One can only do so much to “keep” your culture in the face of daily life.

    In NYC, there are communities that are essentially ethnic bubbles that keep that “white” culture at bay. And while this works for expats, their kids aren’t necessarily of that community. They don’t *need* the safety of the bubble.

  22. David
    December 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Jim:
    Husband, that is all true, since we are talking about the model minority context. It definitely does not fit the Filipinos or Thauis, and even the Vietnamese, with all their 16 y/o Stanford students have the Born To Kill and other gangs to balance their image.
    Your second point about the problems with the label “Asian” is bang on. “Asian” is not a model minority, because it is not a group at all, except as a mental category. Each group has had really varied historical experience. The label also fails because it ignores inter-group hostilities. The same is true for the label “white” but that is another topic.
    May I ask if you are US-born or an immigrant? Whichever, do you see any difference in the experiences of discrimination or stereotyping of the two groups? My step-daughter’s dad is a Japanese citizen, and has retained his citizenship for many years. He personally doesn’t see much commonality with Japanese-Americans – different class, different histories. What is your experience?  

    Kind of an interesting point (which I agree with). Of course, it quite clearly shows that there is a great deal to which any racial identity is constructed. Whiteness is a vast conglomeration of quite different European and other cultural and ethnic groups that are not alike at all (based simply on shades of skin color and perceived similar features). “Blackness” if that is also a term, is a similar construction of disparate groupings of ethnicities throughout Africa and throughout the world (based off of similar deceptive standards of skin color and features). The term Asian also behaves similarly. Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc. cultures are as different as France, Germany, Spain, yet people have a tendency from ignorance to lump them all together.

    That’s why I think education is important. At the very least, getting people curious about the world and its history is the first step to making people not so aggressively ignorant.

  23. December 14, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Athenia, the majority of people aren’t white, though. I’m not sure why national commonality – which is not what we’re talking about here – is supposed to have to come from whiteness in particular. Daily life and traditional cultures don’t have to be in opposition for everyone, and I’m really not sure why you’re conflating whiteness and Britishness there. Isn’t it funny how white people can go and live in non-white majority countries, live in “bubbles” and not need to assimilate? I just… what? This is like in the other thread in which you said that you had no privilege as a white person within a Latino/a community: it just doesn’t work that way.

  24. Kristen J.'s Husband
    December 15, 2010 at 6:22 am

    PrettyAmiable: Husband of Kristen J, I think what Jim meant is based on appearance (i.e. we could look at a Filipino woman and peg her as Asian) – though I agree with you that we (US-white-folks) tend to think Chinese, Japanese, Korean (and to conflate them as well like it’s all one region with one story as opposed to 3-4 distinct histories).

    Jadey,

    Thanks for the kind welcome. Sometimes this is true, sometimes not. I am often mis-read as Mexican for example and its interesting to watch people’s mannerisms change when they learn I’m Japanese. The Philippines are another excellent example, while some ethnic groups are typically read as “asian” where as other ethnic groups are not.

    Which along with this point:

    David: Whiteness is a vast conglomeration of quite different European and other cultural and ethnic groups that are not alike at all (based simply on shades of skin color and perceived similar features). “Blackness” if that is also a term, is a similar construction of disparate groupings of ethnicities throughout Africa and throughout the world (based off of similar deceptive standards of skin color and features).

    Reinforces K’s point above about white being a power dynamic label rather than an ethnic one. There isn’t “white” culture that assimilating into with result in becoming white. But the dominance of whiteness has lead people to attempt to emulate shit some white people do to become more accepted. The distinction is important.

    Anyway, I think many of these labels are more about simplifying and reinforcing hierarchical racism than they are about shared culture. In short whiteness is a coalition of ethnic groups created to maintain power.

    As to the question of how and whether the dominant group accepts new members, I think K’s theory (which I’m unaware if she’s shared elsewhere) is at least a useful explanation. When a subordinate group begins to accumulate some power, the dominant group can fight or assimilate. Which action they take depends on whether there is another threat to their dominance, something they are more afraid of than the subordinate group in question. This dynamic explains the integration of the Irish, suffrage in the U.S., and the current weird coalitions forming around a hatred of undocumented workers.

    Jim: May I ask if you are US-born or an immigrant? Whichever, do you see any difference in the experiences of discrimination or stereotyping of the two groups? My step-daughter’s dad is a Japanese citizen, and has retained his citizenship for many years. He personally doesn’t see much commonality with Japanese-Americans – different class, different histories. What is your experience? Jim

    I’m from Hawaii, so my experience with Japanese nationals is mixed with the xenophobia that is rampant throughout the islands as well as the racism Japanese nationals have towards someone who is part Okinawan. So, I don’t think my experience is useful or representative really.

  25. Jim
    December 15, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Kristen J.’s Husband: Anyway, I think many of these labels are more about simplifying and reinforcing hierarchical racism than they are about shared culture. In short whiteness is a coalition of ethnic groups created to maintain power.

    It works this way. As a group rises to power, it joins the club. The degree of assimialtion is negotiable – on the world scene, Russia is de facto white – and the same has happened. historically though whitenes was constructed to expalin and justify having power, not the other way around. In the early phases of exploration and colonization, Europeans were far more likely to describe themsleves by religion than by color in distinction with peoples they encountered. The color awareness developed later, as non-Catholic Europeans also started to succeed at colonialism.

    Chally: Isn’t it funny how white people can go and live in non-white majority countries, live in “bubbles” and not need to assimilate?

    Everyone does that if they can. There are bubbles in Britain where [non-white] people don’t need to speak English or participate in English society very much at all. France is like this too, and there it’s a significant colony, a significant percentage of the population. Italy has its Chinese islands. In the US there are constellations of these bubbles, and some have persisted for generations. In San Francisco you can get by fine in Cantonese. In most of the Southwest you don’t need English at all. Of course there is the Plattdeutsch-speaking Amish/Mennonite constellation of bubbles.

    Singapore is another bubble like this, that ended up becoming an independent country. No Chinese there speaks Malay, right in the middle of the Malay-speaking world.

  26. December 16, 2010 at 11:13 am

    But Jim, we aren’t talking about a few people who can go to a few countries and possibly get by…Chally is referring to the fact that white people who have the privilege of speaking English can live in a non-white dominant country and not have to ever speak the local country. Not “get by”, like you mention in Britain, or on some streets in San Francisco (about every other street in those areas is Mandarin, actually, or another dialect, so yeah, you can’t get by exclusively in any Chinese dialect there. Eventually someone will force you to use English.)…but you can live and never have a person expect you to be able to produce one syllable of the Mother Tongue of that nation because you appear to be white…to the point that if you were to actually start speaking in that country’s Mother Tongue people need to take a moment to realize it. English speaking privilege by white people is a fact. Many people actually just go around demanding it. People catering to you and going out of their way to make sure that you don’t have to use their language…making sure that their signs are in English even though they do not use English as an official language, subtitles on the telly. They even show our movies in the theatres and play our music on the radio. They use pictures of our models in adverts and use English words to sell products. These aren’t bubbles, this is an odd phenomena of people simply having another privilege of their whiteness combined with the Superiority of English Speaking.

    I can tell you for a fact that everyone does not try to live in bubbles and not assimilate. Some people actually try to respect the culture of places they live and the people they live among and try to interact in the local language. They don’t walk around demanding that everyone cater to them. To be clear, I am not talking about immigrant people who have difficulty learning another language or barriers to language learning even though they try, but people who think that they should be catered to because they speak English and should be allowed to anywhere they go. It just gobsmacks me every time. And it is often a trait I find combined with white privilege.

  27. Jim
    December 17, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    OYD, I see what you are saying. I think that is more a matter of English-language dominance (you can call it proivilege if you like, but since no one granted it, it not’s privilege by the common use of that word). And it extends to non-white speakers of English. This is going to look like white privilege (which also was ot grnated by anyone) except that if it actually were a matter of whiteness, on the world scale that Chally is refering to, it would hold for French or German or Italian or Spanish, which it clearly does not – or even Swedish or Finnish.

    Ouyang Dan: (about every other street in those areas is Mandarin, actually, or another dialect, so yeah, you can’t get by exclusively in any Chinese dialect there.

    SF has changed so much. When I was growing up in that area, you never heard Mandarin anywhere. When you say every other street, do you mean the street signs or what people are speaking. I know about the Sei Sip/Sam Yap split in the area, and of course Mandarin nowadays – what other dialects/languages are spoken these days?

    Anyway, the rest of your point goes to something else – “getting by” – I meant only daily use in one’s own community. In the US there is now opportunity for any kind of economic advancement without English, and of course that’s not the case for Englsih-speakers almost anywhere in the world. But again, that’s not true for German. In fact in Germany and the rest of Europe you need English capability to get access to a lot of opportunties.

  28. Athenia
    December 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Ouyang Dan, I don’t think Jim and I are trying to deny English speaking privilege in the context of white visitors in foreign countries.

    My point, at least, is that for these ethnic groups English is power. English is what makes the world go round when a bunch of non-white groups get together and do their thing. So, I know Chally trying to make the argument that one does not have to give up their non-whiteness to prove their national identity. But immigrants have to make certain choices. What do they want to keep? And do their kids, for example, even have a “choice”? Their kids aren’t of their parent’s culture–their culture is of the country they were born into which makes this whole “keeping” thing a moot point.

    I wish perhaps someone from Singapore could chime in here. I think they would have an interesting take on what it means to have a national identity, but sustain a non-white identity. Perhaps in Singapore it’s much easier because the major ethnic group isn’t “white” either.

  29. December 18, 2010 at 5:01 am

    Athenia: Their kids aren’t of their parent’s culture–their culture is of the country they were born into which makes this whole “keeping” thing a moot point.
      

    I’m a child of immigrants and consider my culture to be that of my parents.

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