Some Republicans Rejecting Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Many on the Republican right, like the governors of Wisconsin and New Jersey and their wealthy corporate sponsors, are taking on the world’s and the US’s human rights tradition, progress, and ratified agreements. They seem to wish to move the world and this country backwards on hard-won and potential human rights. We as a nation in the late 1940s agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which several Americans had helped to prepare. Notice a particularly critical part, Article 23, of this grand international declaration:

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
• (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
• (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
• (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Here is the main text after the preamble, a clear agreement on human rights for humanity, and signal of the free and democratic futures yearned for by many democratic protesters in Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin, Ohio, and across the planet, today and for centuries now:

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations…..
2 Article 1.
• All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
3 Article 2.
• Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
4 Article 3.
• Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
5 Article 4.
• No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
6 Article 5.
• No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
7 Article 6.
• Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
8 Article 7.
• All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
9 Article 8.
• Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
10 Article 9.
• No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
11 Article 10.
• Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
12 Article 11.
• (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
• (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
13 Article 12.
• No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
14 Article 13.
• (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
• (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
15 Article 14.
• (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
• (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
16 Article 15.
• (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
• (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
17 Article 16.
• (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
• (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
• (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. Continue reading…

Racist Groups Online & Off: What the Research Tells Us

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report this week about the alarming rise in hate groups in the U.S.   In the year 2010, there were 1,002 hate groups, the first time the number was over 1,000.    The number hate groups in the U.S. has increased every year over the last decade.   Because the rise in hate groups has coincided with the spread of the popular Internet, many people conclude the Internet is the cause of this phenomenon.    For example, one news report on the SPLC data said the following:

“The growing epidemic of hate and extremism on both sides of the political spectrum is being fueled largely by the Internet, which provides a forum for the groups to communicate and spread their message.being fueled largely by the Internet, which provides a forum for the groups to communicate and spread their message.”

It’s not the Internet.    At least, it’s not the Internet-only that’s to blame here.   That’s also not what the SPLC report says.    To see evidence that it’s not the Internet that’s fueling the rise in hate groups, you only need to look further in the SPLC Intelligence Report.  The Patriot and Militia Groups declined from 1996 through 2008, key years in the growth of the Internet. Then, from 2008 to 2010 these groups began to rise again (fuzzy chart from SPLC below, original here).

If the Internet were fueling growth of hate groups across the board, then this bar chart would go up as Internet use increased.   But it doesn’t.  Instead, it dips in the middle, even during a period when Internet growth was growing.

Mainstream news reports also frequently suggest that hate groups are using the Internet to “recruit” new members.  For example, an ABC News Report suggests that a cloaked site I’ve written about here before is:

“a testament to how effectively hate groups have harnessed the power of the digital age to recruit new members, many of them young and vulnerable to such overtures, through Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites.”

Closely tied to this, is an often repeated line that hate groups use the Internet to “broadcast” their message, as in this passage from a 2008 news item:

“The site broadcasts a virtual newscast based on a real crime that morphs a photo of the black suspects into apes and charges that blacks have lower intelligence than whites. …hate groups are using YouTube, Facebook, online games and virtual worlds such as Second Life to target enemies and gain new recruits.”

The problem with this view of hate groups “broadcasting” and “recruiting” via the Internet is that it misunderstands both how the Internet works and how social movement recruitment works.   The Internet, and especially Web 2.0, works by people seeking out content that they want to find.  It’s different than traditional broadcast media, which is based on a one-to-many model. For example, a television network (like ABC) broadcasts programming to a large, mass audience.  Web 2.0 works on a many-to-many model in which people share content they like with others in their network.   Chris Anderson has written about this shift and refers to it as “the long tail.” People go to the websites of hate groups, for the most part, because they seek out the content there (see Cyber Racism for more on this argument about “recruitment”).   Social movement recruitment is a years long, typically face-to-face process.  The research indicates that the Internet is not an effective mechanism for recruitment.  For example, Ray and Marsh conclude that: “Online recruitment efforts are opportunistic rather than aggressive in nature,” and ineffective (Ray and Marsh, “Recruitment by Extremist Groups on the Internet,” First Monday, 2002).

So does this research suggest that we shouldn’t be concerned about the growth in hate groups?  Not at all.  The fact is hate groups are growing offline, in person, and face-to-face.  The people in these groups then use the Internet to stay connected and reinforce their beliefs and connect with still others who share those beliefs.

What the research tells us that it’s the appeal of the racist groups offline that we need to address.

Race, Digital Divides & Mobile Technology: What the Research Tells Us

In the early days of the Internet, there was a lot of talk about “access” to technology.  Alongside that was a lot of concern that only people who are white and rich had access to technology, while people who were poor and/or black or brown (and sometimes women) didn’t have access to technology.  This concern about who had technology and who didn’t got called “the digital divide” and lots of research got done on it.

World Connection
Creative Commons License photo credit: Digitalnative

Digital Divide(s)? In an initial study conducted by the Census Bureau under the direction of the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, African-Americans were found to have lower rates than whites in both computer equipment ownership and telephone service (“Falling Through the Net,” NTIA, 1995).  Even though the original report was subtitled, “A Survey of ‘Have Nots’ in Rural and Urban America,” the findings about race are what made headlines.  The finding about differences in computer ownership between whites and blacks was widely reported and quickly became known as ‘the digital divide.’  It also sparked an entire subfield of research within Internet studies relating to race.  The initial focus on computer ownership shifted in subsequent versions of the study to Internet access and the second report included “digital divide” in the title (“Falling Through the Net II: New Data on the Digital Divide,” NTIA, 1998).  These initial “divides” in ownership and access have largely vanished now (for example: Leggon, 2006, ““Gender, Race/Ethnicity and the Digital Divide,” in edited by Mary Frank Fox, Deborah G. Johnson, and Sue V. Rosser, (eds.) Women, Gender and Technology, University of Illinois Press, 2006).   Still some researchers subsequently identified “second level divides” that focused on the relationship between skills, “Internet literacy” and Internet usage (Hargittai, “Second-Level Digital Divide: Differences in People’s Online Skills,” First Monday 7(4), 2002).

he rhetoric of “digital divides” has also been heavily critiqued by some scholars as a “disabling rhetoric” that marginalizes people of color as technological innovators (e.g., Anna Everett, (2004) ‘On Cyberfeminism and Cyberwomanism:  High-Tech Mediations of Feminism’s Discontents’, Signs 30(1):1278-86; Michelle Wright, (2005) ‘Finding a Place in Cyberspace:  Black Women, Technology and Identity,’ Frontiers 26(1):48-59).

Selwyn (“Apart from technology: Understanding people’s non-use of information and communication technologies in everyday life,” Technology in Society, 25 (1), 99-116.) contends that digital divide formulations rely on the assumption that Internet access and usage is desirable for everyone, when in fact, people might not be using the Internet because they don’t see a social benefit in doing so.  Brock (2006) extends this argument to race and explains that slower Internet adoption rates among Blacks may have more to do with the lack of culturally relevant content online for Blacks rather than any lack of “Internet literacy.”

Then came Mobile Technology. Much has changed since the mid-1990s when ‘digital divide’ research began and computer ownership and Internet access meant sitting before a desktop machine with a wire plugged into a wall.  Today, being connected to the Internet often means having a “smart phone” (e.g., a phone that enables users to access the Internet).

Samsung Star 3G S5603
Creative Commons License photo credit: liewcf

Ten years ago, Howard Rheingold (2002) accurately predicted the ‘next social revolution’ in computing would be the advent of mobile technologies, and this development has had important implications for race, racism and Internet studies.

Mobile phones enabled with Internet access are approaching ubiquity and with that, bridging some of the divides noted in an earlier era.  According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project (a rich resource of data), cell phone and wireless laptop Internet use have each grown more prevalent between 2009-2010.  African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos continue to be among the most active users of the mobile web, for example:

  • Mobile phone ownership is higher among African-Americans and Latinos (87%) than among whites (80%)
  • African-American and Latino mobile phone owners take advantage of a much greater range of their phones’ features compared with white mobile phone users
  • Among Latinos, 29% of mobile-phone users surf the Internet on their device, compared to 12% of mobile-phone-owning whites.

So what does all this research tell us about race and technology?   It’s still way too early to know how these patterns might shift again, but it seems clear that early predictions about “digital divides” between technological “haves” and “have nots” – especially along stark racial lines – were overstating what the evidence suggested.  It also seems very likely that many of those dire early reports about “minorities left behind” were engaging in the disabling rhetoric of racism’s low expectations.  As African Americans and Latinos lead the adoption of mobile technology here in the U.S. is among the more fascinating developments as it over turns those expectations.

Race and Racism Online: What the Research Tells Us

The Internet is changing us.  It’s changing how we acquire knowledge, how we communicate, how we connect with one another.   Today, some 15 years into the scholarship of the Internet, researchers are just beginning to look at how race and racism are (and are not) changing by and through the way we use the Internet.  Over the next week or so, I’m going to be writing a series of posts about what the research tells us about race and racism online.   I’ll also point out spots along the way that, in my view, are understudied and need someone to turn a critical eye toward.

40/365
(Creative Commons License photo credit: Xelcise )

RACE & STRUCTURE OF THE INTERNET. While we may not think of the Internet as having been invented, but in fact it was, at a particular place and time.   The combination of technologies that has come to be known as the popular Internet was developed in a number of specific geographic places, institutional contexts and historical moments.  For more about this history, see  Berners-Lee, T. and M. Fischetti  Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 2008).   This narrative is compelling, but to date, no one has offered a thorough examination of the ways that race was, and continues to be, implicated in the structure of the invention of the Internet.
INFRASTRUCTURE & DESIGN. Scholar Tyrone Taborn notes that the role of black and brown technology innovators has largely been obscured (Taborn, 2007). As Sinclair observes, “The history of race in America has been written as if technologies scarcely existed, and the history of technology as if it were utterly innocent of racial significance” (Sinclair, B. (ed.) (2004) Technology and the African-American Experience: Needs and Opportunities for Study. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p.1).

Yet, race is implicated in the very structure of the “graphic user interface” (GUI).  For example, Anna Everett observes that she is perpetually taken aback by DOS-commands designating a “Master Disk” and “Slave Disk,” a programming language predicated upon a digitally configured “master/slave” relationship with all the racial meanings coded into the hierarchy of command lines (Everett, 2002, ‘The Revolution Will Be Digitized: Afrocentricity and the Digital Public Sphere’, Social Text 20(2):125-146., p.125).

Nakamura writes that the drop-down menus and clickable boxes that are all too often used to categorically define `race’ online are traced back to the fact that race is a key marketing category (Nakamura, 2002). Beyond the selection and targeted-marketing via race, elements of the interface are racialized.  The nearly ubiquitous white hand-pointer acts as a kind of avatar that in turn becomes ‘attached’ to depictions of white people in advertisements, graphical communication settings, and web greeting cards (White, M., The body and the screen: theories of Internet spectatorship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006). The images of racial or ethnic minorities and their relationship to IT infrastructure and design is either to the role of consumers or of operators of the technological wizardry created by whites.

Assumptions about the whiteness embedded in the infrastructure and design gets spoken when there are ruptures in that sameness, such as the introduction of an African-American-themed web browser, Blackbird which I wrote about here in 2008.   While Blackbird caused quite a stir among those who had operated on the assumption of a race-blind Internet,  the development of a racially-themed browser is not qualitatively different from, but rather an extension of, the racially targeted marketing facilitated by drop-down menus and clickable boxes.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss some of what the research tells us about race and mobile technology.

Global Social Movements in Dakar to Forge Unity & Political Path



The World Social Forum (WSF) gathered in Dakar, Senegal February 6-11, 2011 as the systemic crisis of global capitalism intensified and popular uprisings were sweeping North Africa and the Arab world. The social forum was a powerful and inspiring convergence of peoples’ struggles and social movements from below, bringing together about 75,000 participants from all corners of Africa and the world to deepen relationships, to vision another world, and to chart a political path forward.

Goree Island, the strategic site of the Door of No Return through which at least 30 million African women, men, and children were forced into the genocidal violence and terror of the transatlantic slave trade, many destined for the United States, is a short ferry ride from the port of Dakar. This vividly contextualized the significance of the WSF focus on Africa and the Diaspora and the centuries of white supremacy and racism inextricably intertwined with systems of colonialism, neocolonialism, and capitalism on a global scale.

Social movement organizations – Grassroots Global Justice, World March of Women, La Via Campesina, International Alliance of Inhabitants, among many others – came together in the Social Movements Assembly to confront the 21st century realities of global capitalism, poverty, racism, patriarchy, war, and climate destruction and to put forth a declaration of unity of action. It lifts up the “new universality” of humanity in all our diversity – as both objects of capitalist exploitation and oppression, and as political agents of our history, our liberation, and our future.

The Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly, crafted to guide our struggles, declares:

“… [W]e are gathered here to affirm the fundamental contribution of Africa and its peoples in the construction of human civilization. Together, the peoples of all the continents are struggling mightily to oppose the domination of capital, hidden behind illusory promises of economic progress and political stability. Complete decolonization for oppressed peoples remains for us, the social movements of the world, a challenge of the greatest importance. …

We affirm our support for and our active solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab world who have risen up to demand a true democracy and build the people´s power. …

Capitalism´s destructive force impacts every aspect of life itself, for all the peoples of the world. Yet each day we see new movements rise, struggling to reverse the ravages of colonialism and to achieve well-being and dignity for all. We declare that we, the people, will no longer bear the costs of their crisis and that, within capitalism, there is no escape from this crisis. This only reaffirms the need for us, as social movements, to come together to forge a common strategy to guide our struggles against capitalism. …

We fight against transnational corporations because they support the capitalist system, privatize life, public services and common goods such as water, air, land, seeds and mineral resources. Transnational corporations promote wars through their contracts with private corporations and mercenaries …

We will continue to mobilize to ask for the unconditional abolition of public debt in all the countries in the South. We also denounce, in the countries of the North, the use of public debt to impose unfair policies that degrade the social welfare state.

When the G8 and G20 hold their meetings, let us mobilize across the world to tell them, No! We are not commodities! We will not be traded! …

We defend the food sovereignty and the agreement reached during the Peoples’ Summit against Climate Change, held in Cochabamba, where true alternatives to face the climate crisis were built with the social movements and organizations worldwide. …

We call on everyone to mobilize together, everywhere in the world, against violence against women. We defend sexual diversity, the right to gender self-determination and we oppose all homophobia and sexist violence. …

We fight for peace and against war, colonialism, occupations and the militarization of our lands. …

Inspired by the struggles of the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt, we call for March 20th to be made a day of international solidarity with the uprisings of the Arab and African people, whose every advance supports the struggles of all peoples: the resistance of the Palestinian and Saharian peoples; European, Asian and African mobilizations against debt and structural adjustment plans; and all the processes of change underway in Latin America.

We also call for a Global Day of Action Against Capitalism on October 12th, when we express in myriad ways our rejection of a system that is destroying everything in its path.

Social movements of the world, let us advance towards a global unity to shatter the capitalist system! We shall prevail!”

“Our Values”: White Eurocentric Framings of Muslims



The International Association for the Study of Canada (a division of the Association for Canadian Studies) and the Canadian Race Relations Foundationrecently commissioned the firms Leger Marketing in Canada and Caravan in the U.S. to ask several questions concerning immigration, integration, and diversity, which included the following question: Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that “Muslims share our values.”

In each country some three in ten respondents agree that “Muslims share our values.” Disagreement is somewhat greater in Canada with approximately 55 percent of respondents saying they do not think “Muslims share our values,” compared to 50.3 percent in the U.S.

The survey leads us to raise other, arguably more central questions: Are North Americans, who happen to be Muslim, not part of the collective us?

A survey, even a well-intended one commissioned by groups admirably fighting racism, which includes the phrase “our values” might inadvertently suggest that Muslims are outsiders and/or conjure up the us versus them dichotomy. To borrow from Joe’s excellent post, written on the heels of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent speech at the Munich Security Conference

here is some old white-centric framing, with the [‘our’] obviously not including the Muslim … folks, who are othered as a ‘they.’ Presumably this means the [‘our’] are the virtuous … and the stereotyped “they” must conform to this conception of (white European) [values].”

What do Muslims value?

Instead of promoting (deliberately or inadvertently) the idea that Muslims are perpetual foreigners, and/or Islam is antithetical to the professed values of this country’s political culture, we need to educate ourselves. We should not lose sight of the diversity within the Muslim population (or any population for that matter). Muslims who immigrate to Canada do so for a variety of reasons and originate from numerous countries. Islam and Muslims are not new to Canada, though some people who identify as Muslim are new immigrants. The acknowledged history of Muslims in Canada actually dates from the mid-19th century. In fact, the Muslim community is almost as old as Canada itself. Four years after Canada’s founding in 1867, the 1871 Census recorded 13 Muslims among the population.

In the U.S. historical accounts of Muslims include extraordinary tales of African slaves who retained their religion despite great hardship. Furthermore, there are common roots and mutual elements associated with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which all originate from the Abrahamic tradition (see here and here).

A.G. Noorani in Islam and Jihad: Prejudice versus Reality (Zed Books, 2003) provides fundamental concepts indispensable to offsetting prejudice against Muslims and counterbalancing any tendency to romanticize un-Islamic brutalities of fundamentalists whom he argues are impostors abusing the faith as a political weapon. Similarly, as Dr. Amr Abdalla of the United Nations University for Peace points out, the life of Mohammed (considered the founder of Islam, and regarded by Muslims as a messenger and prophet of God) contains more stories of non-violence and forgiveness then it does militancy; and yet–just like in Christianity—certain stories are emphasized to fit particular political goals and ideologies.

Why does this matter?

The final question we raise is “why this matters,” and why it should matter to those of ‘us,’ such as the writers, who are permanently included in the ‘our.’

It matters because Canadians, like many in the U.S., are not immune to fear, prejudice, and/or even hatred, of Muslims and Islam as a religion. It matters especially at a time when the Canadian federal Christian Heritage Party (CHP) is calling for a national moratorium on immigration from Muslim countries to curb what it deems increasing radical Islamist power. Mike Schouten, a CHP candidate, considers the British Prime Minister’s recent words “powerful” for acknowledging that “multiculturalism has, in essence, been a failure” and demonstrating “just how complacent the West has been towards radical Islam”.

Tessa M. Blaikie is a sociology honours students at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. Kimberley A. Ducey is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, University of Winnipeg.

Mocking President Obama: Fox Story on Gorilla Precipitates Much Racist Stereotyping

A few weeks back a blogger over at DailyKos.com posted a note that

Today on the Fox Nation web site, they posted a story on the popularity of some new videos of a gorilla walking upright like a man.

Then the DailyKos blogger notes some of the comments in posts underneath the Fox story:

1preacher: Yea, I could see where this Gorilla evolved from obama’s family.

amveteran: This is a true knuckle dragger. Reminds me of Al Sharpton.

winterhawk: Just as I thought, that’s buckwheat’s daddy.

flyinjohn23: Not only that….He got himself one of those Hiawian Birth Certificates over the internet all on his own too.

1preacher: Because I said that this was obama’s mother, that is racist? Not following that one.

hawk1052: Shelia Jackson Lee, comes to mind.

armed: is the one in the background carrying a teleprompter and throwing tater tots at the other one.

And the Fox Nation site then noted that at least 13 comments were flagged for their content, which presumably meant they were even worse. One can still find these very old ape-imagery examples in discussions of President Obama many thousands of times across the Internet today–as a quick use of google search will demonstrate. This ape/animal imagery has been central to the old white racial frame now for centuries.

Washington: No In-State Tuition for Immigrants, Then No Sales Taxes



State Senate Republican ranking minority member of Financial Institutions Housing and Insurance Committee, Don Benton has just dropped a bill (Senate Bill 5828) that would deny undocumented resident students of Washington in-state tuition and state financial aid at state universities.

This is a terrible policy idea on many counts. At a time when engineering programs at the University of Washington are turning away half of qualified applicants because of budget cuts, having an easy scapegoat for the problems in our state universities is typical. Why not blame undocumented immigrants for the crisis in higher education? Many of my students actually believe they are to blame for our failing health care system and for our economy as well thanks to conservative news media outlets.

Political Science Professor at the University of Washington, Luis Fraga states

Public policy is the primary way in which Americans have always demonstrated their commitment to each other.

Unfortunately, our commitments to each other are increasingly commitments of hate and hostility, especially targeted against some of our most vulnerable members of society. Hate is not only becoming a normalized part of our political dialogue at all levels of government, but it is now increasingly becoming public policy as well.

However, this bill is also highly hypocritical from a financial perspective. Washington State is one of the few states that does not have a state income tax. So, the largest portion of individual taxes paid (as opposed to business taxes) are paid for through sales taxes and fees on government services. This means that undocumented residents pay sales taxes just as much as anybody else. These taxes go towards funding higher education, among other things. If Senate Bill 5828 is successful this means that undocumented state residents will be denied the benefit of the taxes for which they contribute to. Perhaps Represented Benton would be willing to amend our tax system to exempt undocumented state residents from paying sales taxes too, just like we except non-state residents from Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho who shop here!

Asian American Students: The Invasion Theory



Asian American academic success may be an Achilles heel. Predominant myths about the so-called “model minority” have obscured the very real challenges that Asian Americans face and that are exacerbated by such fictions as the invasion of American universities by Asian American and Pacific Islander students (AAPI).

In his article, “Asian Evasion: A Recipe for Flawed Recipes,” Mitchell Chang notes the avoidance of fact-based discussions about issues relating to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, leading to confusion on educational issues. As he notes, a 2005 report by the College Board, “Facts not fiction: Setting the record straight” defuses the myth of Asian invasion by demonstrating that AAPI student increases are similar to other minority student populations. Half of these students are in California, New York, and Texas, with two out of three Asian American and Pacific Islander students attending only 200 institutions of high learning in eight states.

A second predominant myth that the report debunks is the notion that Asian Americans attend only elite institutions. AAPI students are evenly concentrated in two- and four-year institutions, with over half of the students in California and Nevada enrolled in community colleges. Like other minority students, Asian American and Pacific Islander students often struggle with poverty, public assistance, and linguistic barriers. In fact, according to a (pdf) report entitled “Beyond myths: The growth and diversity of Asian American freshmen, 1971-2005,” more Asian American families are classified as low income (47.4 percent) than the national population (39.5 percent). Increasingly, the availability of financial aid determines where Asian Americans attend college.

Perhaps another area for consideration is the focus of Asian American culture upon academic achievement at the expense of other domains of knowledge as well as the interplay of shame and family pride associated with the ebb and flow of success. Witness the controversy over the austere view of Chinese parenting offered in Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

How do we account for the high suicide rates among AAPI students cited in the College Board Report, representing 46 percent of the deaths at an elite public institution, and 13 out of 21 deaths at an elite private university? Like other minority groups, Asian Americans may internalize self-blame when achievements do not match aspirations and when faced with the unexpected burdens of systemic racism. Alvin Evans and I share research in our book, Are the Walls Really Down? Behavioral and Organizational Barriers to Faculty and Staff Diversity (Jossey Bass, 2007) indicating that Asian American students have a greater tendency to blame failures on themselves and to minimize discrimination in comparison with members of other minority groups.

And the invisibility of discrimination as it affects Asian Americans only makes the impact of such exclusion more severe. As Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin observe in The myth of the model minority: Asian Americans facing racism (Paradigm, 2008), “The Asian American experience with racial hostility and discrimination is also very negative and largely untold, and such an untold experience is indeed a very harmful invisibility” (p. 3). Unlike their African-American counterparts, Asian Americans are remarkably fragmented and have not been successful at organized resistance or collective consciousness relating to discriminatory practices.

A new narrative of the Asian American student needs to replace the glamour of the model minority stereotype. More likely, this version will not only make visible the invisibility of Asian Americans as a minority group facing the pernicious effects of discrimination, but it may deviate from the prototypical views of success of their own parents, relatives, or communities. In the face of significant external challenges to self-esteem and self-determination, the new narrative will inevitably need to chart the voyage of Asian Americans from encounter with prevailing stereotypes toward positive self-identity and self-affirmation.

`

Four Country Survey on Racial Discrimination


On 24 January 2011, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Association for Canadian Studies released the results of a four country (Canada, the U.S., Spain, and Germany) survey on racism and discrimination.
Amongst the findings:

• German respondents were more likely than Canadian, American, and Spanish respondents to believe that visible minorities and whites are treated equally in the work place.
• One in three Canadian, American, and Spanish respondents claimed they witnessed a racist incident in the past year.
• Opposition to interracial marriage was lowest in Canada and highest in Spain.
• Spanish and German respondents were more likely than American and Canadian respondents to agree that their national government should take the lead in combating discrimination.

Findings specific to Canada were as follows:

• Canadians were evenly divided over whether racism is on the rise within its borders.
• Québec francophones were more likely to favor living in neighborhoods surrounded by people from the same racial background than any other group in Canada or the U.S. The second most likely to prefer racially homogeneous neighborhoods were white Americans.
• Canadian allophones (who are more likely to include visible minorities) were the most likely to have a preference for racially diverse neighborhoods.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, said the poll results call into question assumptions regarding what motivates a person to select a given neighborhood, stating:

It makes you think about that theory that minorities self-impose segregation on themselves and they are the ones who want to live in clusters or enclaves… This survey suggests the contrary…. It actually suggests that it’s not the allophones or ethnics who prefer living in clusters or enclaves. It is actually the francophones and, to a slightly greater extent than allophones, the anglophones.

Meanwhile, Ayman Al-Yassini, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation stated

[t]he reality is that Canadians are more aware of the whole issue of racism and discrimination than other countries.

Jedwab concurred, explaining that while the U.S. survey indicates the same proportion of those surveyed view racism as an increasing difficulty, the breakdown within different categories of people produced variations between the countries that are worthy of note.

Canadians were categorized as English, French, or allophone. Half of English Canadians considered racism a growing problem, while that proportion was approximately 40 percent for francophones and allophones. In the U.S., people were categorized as whites, blacks, or Hispanics. Among blacks and Hispanics, more than 55 percent view racism as a growing problem, while 44 percent of whites did. For that reason, Jedwab suggests that Canadians view racism as outside their personal experience, while Americans view the issue more subjectively:

In the United States, it’s more those groups who are expressing the phenomenon through the lens of how they feel they’re affected through those groups. As opposed to in Canada, you’re seeing an assessment being made on the part of English Canadians about what the situation is, not so much as whether they’re affected by it individually.

The study is based on polling by firms in each country. In Canada, Leger Marketing polled 1,707 respondents online between 31 August and 4 September. In the U.S, the online poll of 1,048 respondents was conducted by the Opinion Research Corp. between 30-31 August.

Stephen A. Mutch, Tessa M. Blaikie, Crystal S. Van Den Bussche, and Kyla E. Doll are sociology students at University of Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada). Kimberley A. Ducey is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, University of Winnipeg.