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Lingering thoughts from the discussion

wendydays's picture

Black/White Paradigm? What about Asians in America? 

As an Asain, I wasn't quite sure about how I personally related to the discussion of "white privillege" and black opression. How do Asian Americans such as East Asians and South East Asians fit into the picture because the black/white paradigm does not fit the Asian American experience.
As an individual from a privileged background as well, I guess I would probably associatte myself with "whites" but at the same time Asian Americans also had a history of being oppressed when they first arrived in America. In that sense, Asian American can be considered "black" as well because they were also heavily discriminated against, such as the Chinese Exlcusion Act (1882) where the U.S banned Chinese Immigration and the Japanese Internment Camps (1942) where 110,000 Japanese Americans were were forced to live in "exclusion zones". 

It's interesting to see how Asians have been excluded or neglected from all my U.S History text books throughout my education. Despite the fact, I went to a predominantly Asian school with an American educiation system in Shanghai. We learned about White colonization and Black slavery but our curriculum never taught us anything about Asian American (Yellow?) history/oppression. It seems that while Blacks deal with second-class citizenship, Asian Americans are viewed as outsiders whom access is denied.

One of the issues concerning Asian Americans is that they are not assumed to be American citizens, unlike Blacks. Asian Americans are "victimized" as well.

However, last semester I was taking an Asian American Communities class and many of the students (including myself) complained that it was not very engagaing and "boring" as well. I guess students are "shaken out" when educators keep trying to enforce "top-down" paradigms and making distinctions between opressor and victim. I remember getting really "bored" of constantly hearing about "Asian Americans being victimized" and "stereotyped". I guess what really would have engaged me was learning about "solutions" to address these problems of discrimination and prejudice. Learning about tragic history can be rather depressing because you can't do anything about the past, so I think it is important to draw connections between history and current events and show students how they can actively play a role in social transformation and that the problems of history are still relevant in today's society.


alesnick's picture

a role in social transformation

I really appreciate this reflection and the insights you share about the positioning of Asian Americans in US society as well as in Us-inflected curricula abroad.  The array of positions -- victim, outsider, invisible, blocked of access -- is so complex and dizzying. 

I am very interested in your sense that a way through is to study so as to enable active work on the ways history moves us in the present.  I wonder if this could grow into a teaching project for our course.