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Pedram PeddyPPI Rahmanian Speech 7; Intercultural Communications Tuesday, March 29, 2011 The Contested Meanings of Asian Americans

Summery In the article, The Contested Meanings of Asian Americans, Nazli Kibria discusses the topics of Racial Dilemmas in the Contemporary U.S., Dilemmas of Racial Meaning, The Asian American Construct, and Post 1965 Developments, and finally Positioning Dilemmas: Asians as a Model Minority. The section, Racial Dilemmas in the Contemporary U.S., Kibria states that in the social and political discourse today, the idea of race is one that is prominent, and yet is ambiguous in meaning. Bringing together distinct ethnic or national groups, these panethnic collectivities constitute an increasingly important and visible aspect of racial politics in the U.S. Omi and Winant (1996) argue that these pan-ethnic formations are the basis for new forms of racialization or the development of new racial subjects. The concept of Asian American, has become institutionalized in U.S. life, as it is evident, for example, in classifications of race in the census and other bureaucratic forms. Embedded in the contestations of Asian American meaning nowadays are such larger questions as What constitutes a racial group? and What is the character of racial disadvantage in the U.S. today? The section, Dilemmas of Racial Meaning, Kibria states Race is a system of power, one that draws on physical differences to construct and give meaning to racial groups and the hierarchy in which they are embedded (Miles 1989; Sanjek 1994). The focus of this study is the social construction of race. That is, within the limits of prevailing structures of opportunity and constraint, racialized groups work to shape their own identities. Construction involves both the passive experience of being made by external forces, including not only material circumstances but the claims that other persons or groups make about the group in question, and the active process by which the group makes itself. . . . Among the dilemmas of racial meaning are issues of boundary The signification of hum n biological characteristics in such a way as to define and construct differentiated social collectivities (p. 75). Racial boundaries

2 reflect relations of power, in particular the ability of the dominant group to construct and impose definitions upon others. The one-drop rule or the rule of hypodescent for defining black identity in the U.S., that has also been widely accepted and enforced by African Americans as a basis for defining membership. Community and its issues are linked to processes of ethnicization or the making of an ethnic group. Intrinsic to racial construction is the locating of groups within a racial hierarchy surround issues and questions of positioning. The section, THE ASIAN AMERICAN CONSTRUCT AND POST-1965 DEVELOPMENTS, Kibria states Asian American is a contemporary, postCivil Rights construct. Asian settlers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, known as Asiatics or Orientals by the dominant U.S. society, they did not respond by banding together. Rejecting the then common term Oriental, they coined Asian American, a term that has since gained currency. Like the other pan-ethnic collectivities promoted by the movements of the time (for example, Native American, Latino), the Asian American concept has become an institutionalized dimension of the contemporary U.S. racial system. In addition, the high proportion of immigrants, along with a global context that in many instances facilitates host and homeland linkages, suggests processes of transnationalism to be an important feature of Asian American life today. Within the Asian American population today, it is also the case that many post1965 Asian immigrants come from professional, white-collar and highly educated backgrounds. The middle-class background of many Asian immigrants, in conjunction with the phenomenal growth and success of some Asian economies, has lent support and credence to the popular image of Asians as a model minority: a group that is culturally programmed for economic success. In fact, many analysts characterize the Asian American population today as polarized, consisting of two sharply disparate socioeconomic segments. Further contributing to a movement away from a purely middleclass profile is the entry since the mid-1970s of refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos whose levels of education and training are, on average, lower than that of the other post-1965 Asian immigrant groups. The section, Positioning Dilemmas: Asians as a Model Minority, By the early 1980s, talk of the Asian tiger economies and the Asian miracle, often

3 attributed to Confucian values, had become commonplace in the U.S. Also relevant, of course, are the middle-class and professional backgrounds and socio-economic achievements of a substantial segment of the post-1965 Asian immigrants. In essence, it does so by suggesting that Asians are a minority group endowed with cultural values such as a strong work ethic and devotion to education that predispose them to economic and educational achievement.