Anti-Latina Racism Morphs to Become Anti-Asian

In a bizarre twist, TPM points out that the latest NationalReview cover meant to satirize the “wise Latina” Sotomayor visually portrays her as Asian (h/t @lehmannchris via Twitter).   The mind boggles.  I’ll admit I’m short on analysis on this one; feel free to drop a comment and offer your own interpretation.  nationalreviewcover

(UPDATE from Joe):

This is not a new problem with the National Review. They seem to have some sort of Asian fetish. In a 1997 issue of that conservative magazine, a large pictorial cartoon concerning fundraising investigations of Democratic Party leaders appeared on its cover. This showed caricatures of then President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton as slant-eyed (like Sotomayor!), buck-toothed Chinese in Mao suits and Chinese hats–images suggesting very old white-stereotyped images of Asian/ Asian American characteristics. Since the 19th century, white cartoonists, political leaders, and media commentators have portrayed Chinese and other Asian Americans in such visually stereotyped terms, often to express a fear of the “Yellow Peril.” When confronted, the National Review’s white editor admitted these were Asian caricatures but refused to apologize. Such reactions, and the fact that there was little public protest of the cover outside Asian American communities, suggest that such racial stereotypes remain central to the white racial framing of Asians/Asian Americans. And now, apparently, of Latinos. Perhaps this cover is to signal “peril” to whites from Latinos?

NB: Thanks to Jon Smajda web guy for, who – once again – valiantly assisted with WP sidebar problem.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    I don’t know. If I knew nothing of her and just saw an image and somebody told me to guess which ethnic group she belongs to or is from in terms of origins—I would have been way off…even geographically…Polynesian would have been my own first guess…. But then again, I grew up on the West Coast and have been away for no more than 3 & ½ of those years…so I don’t know if my guess would be different had I grown up here in Texas, on the East Coast somewhere, or elsewhere. Nonetheless and regardless, her Latina identity is known and explicit, and that what is important which should be wholly respected in every way. I am pleased with President Obama’s choice.

    I think the image shows how powerful ethnic and cultural social constructs are in the minds of people and how they play into stereotypes—particularly when people or individuals don’t “fit” the preconceived conceptions people hold of the various groups. My best guess for the folks who created that image is that they have very strong negative stereotypes about the Latino communities in general (sort of a duh! here I know)—but perhaps more so of the women as I have never seen a Latino man portrayed that way. She is obviously perceived as an exception to her group. The exception to her group makes her a token with relation to the dominant group and the overarching racist structure. But the association with Asian stereotypes synthesizes the token status with a model minority stereotype. And perhaps it is an attempt to mix things that may seem culturally contrary or incompatible (and perhaps even an attempt to bring religious offense symbolically to she and the Catholic Latino community and perhaps Catholics most generally, in terms of mixing Catholicism with Buddhism)—but in a way that arouses perhaps negative sentiments (tokens and model minority) among white racist folks–particularly non-Catholic Christians… as they (whites in general) view “those” folks as threats in general…taking their jobs and opportunities right out from under them, blah blah blah.

    I don’t know. But my initial thoughts on this one for now….


    I only got to listen to a half hour or so of Washington Journal’s coverage of the D-Day anniversary event in France. So, maybe during the time I wasn’t watching they discussed the roll of Africans in WWII? And also, I know by request, that Africans didn’t participate in the storming of one of the major war events/cities? Normandy I think. Was this discussed at all?

  3. My guess is — and it’s only a guess because, after all, we’re talking about the National Review, so who knows what they’re really thinking — is that what they were seeking to do here is diss the concept of the “wise Latina,” by making it too “zen” sounding, almost as if the whole “empathy” issue were just a touchy-feely, Eastern, pseudo-Buddhist deviation from hard-nosed WASP “reason” and logic. Considering the longstanding racist trope of the inscrutable Asian, and the contrast of the “oriental” with the “occidental,” this seems to me to be a way to trigger that stereotype. Interestingly, it seems odd to realize that, in effect, poking fun at the notion of empathy and wisdom actually results in a strange auto-negation of the European/white self, when put forward by whites like those at the NR. In other words, it’s almost like saying that whites are inherently un-empathic and the opposite of wise (which can be said as, stupid and capricious). Of course, if a person of color said this, they would view it as an anti-white racist slur. But here it is the white folks saying it, in effect, about themselves, by making these things (empathy and wisdom) out to be some kind of exotic, negative thing. I think it would help those of us who are challenging racism to regularly try and make this point: that whites end up putting them/our selves in a box with many of the stereotypes and frames we use for the “other,” and that these boxes are actually harmful to the very whites who project them.

  4. @Tim – You’re right. White folks, the ones we (people of color) meet who we get along with so long as the coversation stays off the issue of rac(ial politics) as well as the P Buck’s (Pat Buchanan) whose racism is written in his face, never cease to amaze me with their understanding and caterogization of race(s). Cause you know part of the occidental v oriental construct is also sort of reason and science vs “wisdom” and mysticism, but at the same time, part of the P Buck construct is that the average white person is wise(r than any [average] person of color). To make a bit of a joke about it, nobody can hold and argue two contradictory ideas at the same time like a white person! (I forget the exact arguments Patty B was making that particular day on MSNBC, but the regular from a liberal-moderate think-tank caught him in it and Pat B was too dumb/privileged to see it. It made for some interesting TV. I think it might have been something about the pope and Catholics’ alleged protection of life or something.)
    The contradiction I kinda see here, which is a part of white privilege(s), is to claim different traits as positive (or at least not negative) when applied to whites but negative when applied to people of color. For instance, NR is making fun of the “wise and empathetic” issue when it comes to Sotomayor. But in their next issue, or maybe even this one, they’ll also at some point make some claim that they’re empathetic to the plight of inner-city residents and have the wisdom to help if only the residents would listen. I hope I’m making sense. This kinda of contradictory duality became apparent to me in the middle of a coloniliams in Africa and Asia history class when I noticed how all the Africans and Asians were oversexed while it was the white men who’d have 1 white wife, 1 white girlfriend, and 1+ African/Asian concubine. Moreover, it seemed to me that if the women of equatorial Africa could walk around topless and the men not have 4-hr long erections, maybe it wasn’t the Africans who were (over)sexed. I hope that explains my thinking and the point I’m trying to make about white contradictory thinking.

  5. I find the comments from white males very encouraging in that there appears to be a willingness on their part to acknowledge the weight that one class of whites, the white skinned privileged, puts on another class of whites, those who don’t consciously claim white skin privileges, through the vehicle of racist behavior imposed on people of color, i.e., not of white skinned European origins. In another blog on this topic, one commenter suggested that “whites dominated American society”(Curvector). If the tacit mental inertia of being dominant as a “white” is direct and proportional to the conscious psychic inertia of being a dominated person of color; whites who consciously experience the ascension of numerous oppressed people to social positions that the same dominant whites had physically and psychically denied( the Presidency of the United States of America) to oppressed people of color, we are in the beginnings of a huge cataclysm of psychic stress. As one of the rising oppressed, I can imagine the conflict and dissonance the “non-dominant” whites feel. People of color have always known, through individual contact and shared situational experiences, that whites were not dominant as individuals. Whites only dominated in the mob, or institutional organizational, sense. It’s unfortunate, but those white skinned privileged people who haven’t discovered and dissolved their false historical consciousness, will find themselves allied with those dominated people of color whose false historical consciousness demands that whites be dominant in a world where white dominance will be a sign of insanity.

  6. @Emery – I not sure I feel much sympathy. The whites who don’t consciously claim skin privilege still haven’t tried to ensure equal opportunity for others. They haven’t done anything particularly special to help level the playing field. Quite to the contrary, the refuse to see that the playing field is unlevel no matter how many studies and facts and research is put before them. When they can’t deny the facts, they simply passively accept the status quo and/or rationalize inequality by use of a racist myth they refuse to turn loose.
    While I’m not sympathetic, I can understand how it would feel to have what you thought was a right, whether by citizenship or white-skin privilege, taken away – as in the Legend of the white guy unfairly looked over because of affirmative action. (Even though studies have shown and a quick consideration of demographics would confirm that even if every unemployed black man [I only refer to men because we still live in a patriarchic society, and, right or wrong, the stats on men have more of a punch.] was given a job by firing a white man, approximately 99% of white men would remail employed. And so you see, still the unemployment rate for white men would probably remain acceptable in economic terms assuming a relatively okay economy. Even in this bad economy, the uptick wouldn’t be that strong.)
    My only concern is that as the playing field is leveled, their dissonance will tell them it’s being turned against them, and they’ll respond by attempting to blocking equality (eg, attacks against Sotomayor). As time and history would have it, I’m not sure they have the power they used to. Not if progressives and liberals, especially the white ones who refuse to see their ownracism, can get our act together.

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