Our informants represent some of the strongest, most influential racial justice efforts taking place across the country today, including some of the most prominent Asian American organizations.
We asked a series of questions about Asian American racial identity, Asian American attitudes toward other people of color, approaches to racial justice work, and gaps and challenges in the field. There is a lack of clarity about what racial justice means in this political moment.
This leaves underlying structural problems unchallenged, or worse, reinforced.
In this environment, Asian American organizations face pressure to elbow for political clout in a zero-sum game of racial inclusion.
The problems of structural racism are dense and vast, yet rather than pushing for transformative change, most efforts today seek to protect the gains of the Civil Rights Movement against rightwing attack.
The prevailing framework of liberal multiculturalism limits the political terrain for fighting back to questions of representation.
Many participants said that low-wage Asian American workers have the highest level of race consciousness.
People told us that at the same time that Asian Americans do not think about race generally, they have also internalized a sense of superiority over other people of color, particularly Black people.
Arguments of Asian cultural superiority often try to validate the model minority label: The success of Asian-Americans in the United States is “a tribute to hard work, strong families and passion for education.” Positive stereotypes about Asian-Americans are frequently seen as more beneficial than detrimental to the student psyche, in spite of research that these stereotypes harm Asian-American students' mental health and well-being.
The most poignant consequence of the model minority label is its failure to acknowledge socioeconomic and education disparities among the diverse range of communities categorized as Asian-American.