Are Asians an oppressed minority in America, or not? We know for a fact that elite universities are nowadays discriminating against Asian applicants in much the same way they discriminated against Jewish applicants decades ago. But didn’t a lot of Asians historically suffer the same kind of discrimination that Irish, Italian, and other immigrants nowadays considered part of the world of “white supremacy”?
For example, there’s a little noticed passage in Justice Harlan’s famous dissent in the notorious Plessy vs. Ferguson “separate but equal” decision, which is most often rightly recalled for the clarity of Harlan’s argument that “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” A few sentences later, however, Harlan adds:
There is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race.
Well. That certainly sounds like garden-variety racism directed against people of Asian origin. (You usually find this paragraph in Harlan’s dissent is omitted Con Law casebooks, which is one reason I dislike most Con Law casebooks.)
The identity politics left doesn’t quite know what to do with Asians in the hierarchy of grievance-mongering and oppression Olympics. At least if this article from the always rewarding EverydayFeminism site is a guide to things:
By Ayesha Sharma
. . . [B]eing a non-Black South Asian from an upper-class immigrant household, I assimilated so hard that I came to identify almost completely with the white people around me. . .
It also led me to experience a comfort with whiteness which I now am realizing has been hugely self-destructive for my personal growth, self-acceptance, and ability to engage with other people of color.
I want to speak to those of you who are interested in thinking about your race more critically, and understanding how we as Asian Americans can be complicit in siding with whiteness. . .
We think we’re a model minority, but many of us don’t realize that we have histories and present realities of oppression and resistance as part of our experience.
There follows a list of ten ways Asians are complicit in white supremacy. Number 7 is my favorite:
7. When we identify with white systems of thought
Our privilege leads us to identify with systems of thought like political conservatism, white liberalism, and white feminism. . .
For example, if we identify with feminism that is actually white feminism, then we continue to not only delegitimize our experiences as Asian American people, but we can largely overlook the urgent importance of practically applied intersectionality in our politics.
Okay, I’m confused, too. I thought “political conservatism” and “white liberalism” were very different things. Simple question: Are Asians part of white supremacy, or are Asians another minority oppressed by whites? (See Justice Harlan above.) And if they are an oppressed minority, shouldn’t Asians receive affirmative action preferences?