Beyond Black and White: Socializing Latinx and Asian Identities

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By Val Reynoso

In her article “For Many Latinos, Racial Identity Is More Culture Than Color,” Navarro addresses the complexities of Latinx racial and ethnic identities especially in regards to the US census.

She explicates how the race classifications offered by the US census are not satisfactory to many Latin American descendants for numerous reasons; some of these reasons being that they are racialized differently in their home countries, that they are very multiracial and have difficulty drawing fine lines in terms of racial identity, or disconnections they may feel with their cultures if they did not grow up around other Latinx or if they have a parent who is not of the heritage.

On the other hand, Navarro also brings up a portion of Latinx who do not identify as such on the census and just put their race instead. Moreover, I can relate alot to the sentiments described in the piece as a “Latina” because identity is something that I and many other “Latinx” struggle with in our lives especially if we are not white, which majority of us are not.

The US census definitely contributes to the identity issues many Latinx experience because constructs of race and racial categorizations are different in Latin America than in the US, so what is considered black or white in the US may not always be socialized as such over there. Colonialism and Spanish imperialism is the root cause of said issues and of the creations of the terms Hispanic/Latinx, which is the main reason why I avoid the terms in describing myself and identify as a multiracial Dominican instead.

However, in the US, I am still socialized as “Latina” despite it not being a race but a panethnic group and colonial term, so I still have to explain my identity to people sometimes and the meaning of the Latinx label.

In “Beyond Black and White: The Model Minority Myth and the Invisibility of Asian American students,” Wing debunks myths about the Asian-American community and especially those who are students. Wing discusses anti-Asian racism in the US in the late 19th century to the WWII era, such as Executive Order 9066 which authorized the internment of Japanese Americans under President FDR, the Chinese Exclusion Act, etc.

Wing also mentions Yellow Peril which is oftentimes overlooked and reminded me of Hollywood films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s—a prime instance of Yellow Peril propaganda and anti-Japanese orientalism. Asians are seen as the “model minority” because they oftentimes excel socioeconomically and academically in comparison to their non-Asian racialized counterparts; however, they are still an oppressed nationality that experiences racism and other forms of discriminations based on their race and US history proves this.

I wish that Wing would have gone more into detail on how part of the reason why Asians are now seen as a “model minority” is because of how they played into anti-Black racism and other forms of racism in order to gain more proximity to whiteness and reap material benefits from that; similar to how Irish and Italian migrants became socialized as white in part because of their perpetuation of anti-Black racism. I also agree with Wing that in regards to race, the US sees the world as black or white and has tried to push other groups into either of those two categories.

Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.

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