Sexism in Racist Tones

Last spring UCLA was the site of a YouTube rant by a former student who was white non-Hispanic, about “Asians in the library” including her version of “Asian speak”- sociologists call this and other derogatory verbage against a group ethnophaulisms. Much of the work on the sociology of race focuses on the influence of the dominant group over subordinate groups; in the case of the US it usually refers to the influence of white non-Hispanics over non-whites. The Alexandra Wallace case is one of these. This is pretty straightforward racism and its significance is due in part to the public platform of YouTube used to convey her thoughts and feelings.

But I was reminded of the Wallace incident because it was implicitly linked to a more recent incident that seemed somewhat ambiguous. On Tuesday November 27th, the Vietnamese Student Union of UCLA had a banner in the student union building where (I think) each student organization has a space to promote their group. It goes unmanned for many hours a day. So on Tuesday morning some members of VSU found a paper with the words “asian women R Honkie white-boy worshipping Whores” tacked onto their banner.  The following day, a similar phrase was found scrawled in one of the women’s bathrooms in Powell Library. The question everyone is asking: who would do this?

Because Wallace was mentioned in the reporting, we’re led to believe that these are similar in nature. Maybe. Perhaps a white student may have done this but in this discussion by the online news site “The Young Turks” they suggest that it may be more complicated than our race-sensitive intuitions might suggest.

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Notably as they point out, the remark is not merely about race but about gender – it’s an attack on Asian American women. It specifically accuses them of “white-boy worship.” We have to agree with the news discussion and ask, why would someone white promote this? Instead we might consider turning attention to the complex matters of interracial dating, and the perceived differences in dating patterns among white and Asian college students. From this perspective, this incident is the ranting of a unique individual, probably Asian American, who feels frustrated about rejection (real or perceived) and externalizes his insecurity by making a public show of his emotions.

So this story does not actually seem similar to the Wallace story at all. The news reports also made mention of another incident at UCLA of anti-Latina sentiment earlier in February 2012. In that one, sexist language was used again with a racial tone. It was not enough to make an ethnophaulism against Latinos, it was specifically aimed at women, and most likely women’s agency in crossing racial lines (evidenced by the phrase “Meximelt”). At this level, perhaps the real issue is sexism. Certain ethnic minority males feel threatened by their female peers in the decisions they make regarding who they will and won’t date. Perhaps that is where the problem rests.

But we should ask further still: in a post-racial America, why would an ethnic minority male feel threatened by dating preferences that cross racial and ethnic lines? Perceived threat of this sort presumes a lack or loss of power by the threatened, and the available power by those they feel threatened by. In these two instances of public sexist-racist remarks, the perceived power of minority women to date outside of their ethnic community is the primary target. But implied in the messages too is a perceived threat of white males who date interracially. Why would white males be perceived as having more power than ethnic minority males? In a society that privileges white masculinity, some non-white males will be particularly sensitive to the difference (i.e. unfair treatment) they experience or perceive in their day-to-day lives. This combination of sexism and racism reflects what sociologists describe as intersections of power which cannot be reduced to one social category or the other. Both racism and sexism structure the kinds of language one uses to express hostility such as the cases we see here.

The upshot is that if both the anti-Asian and anti-Latina sexist remarks are reflective of irresponsible young non-white men, it works to create a climate of fear and insecurity for all. Perhaps that was the aim of those responsible for the rants, but in the end this doesn’t improve their chances at dating someone from their own culture-group. The effect of their behavior chills relations between men and women within these ethnic communities, and promotes distrust between ethnic minorities and whites. If this is the case, those responsible are basically saying “I want everyone else to suffer for the anger I feel from rejection.” In sum, while race is certainly a factor in these incidents involving defacing private, public or communal property, it cannot be decoupled from the sexism that work together in a matrix of inequality that privileges white masculinity.

  • http://www.iSteve.blogspot.com Steve Sailer

    So, a slur against white men — “Honkie white-boy” — is the fault of white men?

    Got it!

    • Jerry Park

      Mr. Sailer, that’s not the connection, but it’s one I hear a lot in the classroom. It’s a culture that emphasizes white masculinity that is a problem. It creates a hierarchy among men in which minority males can never fully conform. This informs personal resentment which is directed against the opposite sex within their ethnic group, and individuals use “white males” or the equivalent as the foil. You can imagine how implausible it would be if someone wrote the actual relationship out in this kind of format: “I resent participating in a culture that privileges white masculinity over my own which I perceive to be the reason why the same-ethnic Asian women I wish to date seem to choose white males over me.” People often resort to slurs like these which can then be misread as one thing or another.

  • http://destroytorebuild.blogspot.com MaSir

    Excellent blogpost!!

  • George Yancey

    Something to think about. Among African-Americans, men are more likely to date whites than women. Can this reflect a priviledge position of white feminity. If so then why the gender difference between blacks and other racial groups. Any thoughts on that?

    • Jerry Park

      Hi George, got me thinking as usual! Why do we not see this pattern reflected among African Americans? I suspect that some of this is due to segregation. I believe on college campuses and in white collar professional jobs, we will see more Asians and Latinos relative to African Americans due to historic discrimination against blacks (which still persist). UCLA reflects this to some extent. Therefore the visibility of interracial dating appears more often to be white-Asian and white-Latino. I believe also that there is an internalization of inferiority among many Asian and Latino Americans such that they will try to conform to the dominant controlling images of society. I sense this sometimes with Asian American women who seem to want to appear more white by changing their eyelid shape and lightening their skin to some extent. So in a sense these behaviors reflect desirability toward the white male gaze conveyed by the broader culture. From my limited reading of African American sociology, I think there’s a similar tension toward conformity, while at the same time a resistance to it as well. It’s intensified by the history of unequal treatment by white society and by white male aggression in pre-emancipation. There’s been a lot of discussion over whether black women are also trying to be more white in ways that mirror their Asian and Latina counterparts. But at the same time, others are resisting it and celebrating their uniqueness regardless of whether it holds limited prestige in mainstream America. I would guess that a number of African American college-attending women struggle with whether they ought to date interracially, and I would guess this is a more salient convo for those women who are in conventional colleges and universities where there may not be as many available black partners. From this direction we could imagine an African American female college student posting a sign that said “Black men are white worshipping …” -but it doesn’t happen since it’s not considered feminine in a society that encourages conformity to white femininity. This then creates a sense of alienation and frustration for some black women who feel they have no way to let out their angst. Also, if we use some of Mark Regnerus’ arguments about the gender ratio in college, we would say that African American college males interracially date more often because the presence of women is much higher. And yes, since whiteness is privileged in society, we would expect that dating white women will be seen as a “step up” in prestige. We’d probably get a better grasp on this if we could account for the social contexts of interracial dating combined with perceptions of internalized racial status.

  • George Yancey

    You know me. I always like to stir the pot. Interesting analysis.

  • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

    Could you explain your use of the phrase “post-racial America”? Are you implying that America is post racial?

    • Jerry Park

      Hi @ReluctantLiberal – I was just drawing on some popular verbage that gets tossed around since Obama’s election in 2008. Many persist in the belief that we are no longer bound by the racism of the past, hence “post-racial.”

  • http://www.examiner.com/political-buzz-in-detroit/dan-poole Dan Poole

    For the sake of argument, lets just assume that you are correct about American society privileging white masculinity and white femininity. I would argue that the opposite is true, but again, lets jut assume that you are right. If so, then I have three arguments:

    1. You seem to be arguing that non-white males are justified in being angry with the women in their racial group because they have an inferiority complex spurred by the privileging of white masculinity. In other words, you’re arguing that non-white males have a legit reason for being upset with women in their racial group who are dating white males. If that’s your argument, then let me ask you a question: would white males have any legit excuses for being upset when white women date non-white males? Or would any such objection from white males be deemed inherently racist? If so, then I’m assuming your argument for why such objections would be racist is because whites are still the majority in this country. But if being the majority racial group and/or ethnic group is the criteria for being a racist, then any Chinese male in China (95% Chinese), and any Japanese male in Japan (98% Japanese) is a racist if he opposes Chinese and Japanese women dating white men. And if you DON’T think that a Japanese man in Japan is a racist because he opposes Japanese women dating white men, then you are guilty of a racial double standard against white men that can fairly be classified as anti-white. So again I ask: Would it be racist if a white man opposed white women dating non-white men? And if that would be racist because whites are in the majority, then wouldn’t it also be racist if Japanese men in Japan did so?

    2. Even in today’s society where forced integration has been institutionalized for half a century now, birds of a feather still flock together. A quick look at wikipedia reveals the following:

    “White Americans were statistically the least likely to wed interracially, though in absolute terms they were involved in interracial marriages more than any other racial group due to their demographic majority. 2.1% of married White women and 2.3% of married White men had a non-White spouse. 1.0% of all married White men were married to an Asian American woman, and 1.0% of married White women were married to a man classified as “other”

    You could make the counterargument that trends are changing, and indeed I will cede to you that the same wikipedia article reveals that in 2008, 50.8% of native-born Asian women out-married (most of them to white males. presumably). However, as a sociologist you should know that human behavior doesn’t change over night. People don’t just wake up one day and decide that interracial marriage is ok. It takes time – usually decades – to change behaviors and attitudes towards such sensitive issues. What i’m arguing here is that because human beings have so long been accustomed to marrying within their own racial group – not to mention their own ethnic group – we still have the mindset that men and women should stick to their own kind. Put it another way, when it comes to interracial marriage, we still have the mindset that “what is” is “what should be.” I would argue that this mindset still exists on a sub-conscious level even though consciously a majority of Americans now approve of interracial marriage. Moreover, I don’t think the angry reactions from Asian males and Latino makes over the prospect of their women dating white men is caused by an inferiority complex. I think its a much simpler: Asian men sub-consciously think Asian women should stick to their own kind. Asian men would still be upset if Asian women were hooking up with black men, or Latino men, or Amerindian men. Because Asian women are hooking up with white men, it gives an easy excuse for liberally-minded sociologists like you to blame the reaction of Asian men on the privileging of white masculinity, but unless you want to argue that Asian men WOULDN’T be upset if 50% of their women were hooking up with other non-white men, then your argument about white masculinity goes out the door, and we are left with the conclusion that Asian men just don’t like it when their women don’t stick to their own kind. In short, Asian men are ethnocentric, and ethnocentrism among any race and ethnic group is normal, natural, and healthy.

    3. In your comment to George you mentioned that “others are resisting (conformity) and celebrating their uniqueness regardless of whether it holds limited prestige in mainstream America.” In light of everything you argued, I don’t see how such a statement can be interpreted as anything other than an opposition to cultural assimilation, which is defined by wikipedia as “the loss of a subaltern group’s native language and culture under pressure to assimilate to those of a dominant cultural group.” So if we assume that white masculinity and white femininity are privileged, then that means Asian women and black women who conform to such behaviors are culturally assimilating into America. I’m going to assume that you are NOT opposed to cultural assimilation in the abstract. Surely as a sociologist you know the devastating of consequences of balkanization which are directly caused by failure to assimilate into the dominant culture. Therefore, you don’t oppose cultural assimilation, its just that the dominant American culture must be changed to something else – something that doesn’t privilege whiteness. Its not that you don’t want Asians, blacks, and Hispanics to culturally assimilate, per say, its that you don’t want them to assimilate to the dominant culture of whiteness.

    Now then, regardless of what you want the dominant culture to be – my guess is that it’s some kind of “Tower of Babel” society whereby all humans of all races and creeds live together peacefully and harmoniously – the bottom line is that your opposition to whiteness as the cultural norm makes you anti-white by definition. You cannot logically claim to oppose whiteness – IE, the privileging of white masculinity and white femininity – without calling yourself anti-white. But people like you never describe yourselves as such because then you’d be showing white Americans like me your true colors, and the entire mantra that “diversity is our greatest strength” would be discredited in the minds of white Americans. We would think, “how can diversity be our greatest strength when it excludes people like me? Why should I support something that destroys my livelihood, my beliefs, and my way of life?” Furthermore, because you wish to replace whiteness as the cultural norm, what you advocate is tantamount to revolution. Not a physical revolution, of course, but a revolution in mores, norms, customs, and behaviors. It matters not that you disprove of the current culture of whiteness and that you still want to call this country “the United States” and call the people who inhabit it “Americans.” Your desire – and the desire of millions like you – to uproot the culture that by your own standards has been in place for 300 years, and replace it with something else, makes you a revolutionary. Seeing as you are opposed to what you perceive is the dominant culture of whiteness, why don’t you just move to a country where whiteness isn’t dominant? Such countries are a dime a dozen, and some of them have first world standards of living. I looked at your profile and saw that you are Asian, so the first world nations of Japan and South Korea (or Hong Kong, which operates like a city-state) are easy pickings for you. Why do you wish to replace the culture that 200 million Americans, myself included, are accustomed to? Why should WE change just because non-whites are uncomfortable with assimilation? Do you see us telling China and Japan what their culture should be? Nope. What about sub-Saharan African nations? We tried to. It failed. So we packed up our bags and left. Besides, it was European nations who once tried to change the culture of African nations. America never did that. America even supported the decolonization efforts and helped lead the fight against Apartheid! But that probably doesn’t matter to you because just like European nations, whites are the majority in America. And besides, America once had slavery, so cares about all the good white Americans have done to repair race relations, amirite? Whether its hanging the sins of our ancestors around our necks or obsessing over the dominant culture of whiteness, your underlying agenda is anti-white. Its transparently obvious that you are only opposed to one people going in and changing the dominant culture of another people when the former is white and the latter is non-white. If your principle was that a nation or group of people should not go into a different nation and subvert that nation’s dominant culture, then you have no right to tell us what our culture should be just because you don’t like it, or because it makes your kind feel uncomfortable. The era where you could complain about legal barriers is gone. Your opposition is to norms that are completely out of the governments reach. And the ONLY reason you oppose those norms is because (according to you) they are the norms of whiteness. You are ONLY opposed to cultural assimilation when the dominant culture is whiteness. Don’t try to tell me that whiteness as a concept can be divorced from white people themselves. Whiteness isn’t a title of nobility like Kings and Aristocrats. Nobility requires legal barriers. Whiteness is a non-legal concept which merely requires the existence of white people. Our attitude, mindset, and way of doing things is something that naturally flows out of us. White masculinity and white femininity exist because it is part and parcel of who we are. As such, whiteness is not an artificial construction like nobility that only exists because the law says it exists. Whiteness is a natural construction that is directly connected to who are and how we act. So even if you don’t wish to harm us physically. you nonetheless wish to strip us of our core and replace it with something unnatural and foreign – something artificial. You literally want to change how we think, act, and feel, and your moral justification is that how we currently think, act, and feel – not to mention how we’ve thought, acted, and felt for the last couple centuries – is wrong. Evil, even. Yet, your moral justification falls flat on its face because various evils that whites have engaged in – slavery, colonization, legalized racism – have been an engaged in by EVERY race for long stretches of time at some point in history. Your moral justification for opposing how whites think, act, and feel is entirely contingent on how it effects non-whites. As such, while it is implicitly – sometimes explicitly – assumed that your moral justification and moral outrage is universal, it is in fact tribal, which means that as far as whites like me are concerned, your moral justifications and outrage are rendered meaningless. We authentically oppose slavery, colonization, and legalized racism because we believe it is universally wrong. We don’t wish to rule over anyone or subjugate anyone. Its become evident that that’s not how non-whites like you feel. Your moral code is the following: “When I am the weaker, I ask you for my freedom, because that is your principle; but when I am the stronger, I take away your freedom, because that is my principle.”

    Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. If non-whites like you continue to live by that moral code and continue to deny the olive branch of colorblindness that has been extended to you for half a century by white Americans, then odds are that your diversity mantra will blow up more spectacularly then a supernova. Nobody takes well to becoming the victims of their own good will. First we will feel betrayed. Then we’ll feel despondent. Finally we’ll feel angry. You might not like us when we’re angry. We’re doing everything to get beyond race and establish a colorblind, post-racial society. You reject our efforts because to you, the default mode of colorblindness is whiteness. Sobeit. But don’t act surprised when, like every other liberal experiment in the history of the world, the promise of utopia becomes the reality of tyranny. You think that by destroying whiteness you’ll get wonderland, when in fact you’ll probably get a nightmare that resembles North Korea.

    • Jerry Park

      Dan, thanks for your comments, I was surprised by the amount of reflection you put into this (I often presume my posts drift into the internet ether), so thank you again for bringing a number of important points to light. I hope to answer a few of your points here.
      1) Not every social science explanation is intended to be a justification for individual behavior. If the person who posted that slur was indeed Asian American, my explanation for that behavior is not meant to convey “therefore he should do this kind of thing.”

      2) does racial dominance theory apply to other contexts? It should, and if it’s possible to do cross-national comparisons, your point is exactly where the research should go. I know for example that there are Korean minorities in China and Japan. I wonder if the dynamics we see in the US mirror the patterns in these cultures where non-same-ethnic minorities are a growing presence. what’s really interesting too is how this plays out when non-Asian minorities participate in these dynamics. One main issue is the power differential between dominant and subordinate groups in a specific society.

      3) Endogamy (marrying within one’s culture group) is the norm, and intermarriage is a fascinating phenomenon because it is as you state, a very unusual pattern that goes against the tendency toward homophily (preference for the members of the same group/ social category).

      4) one of the things that I like about America is its ability for individuals to reinvent themselves since this is largely a nation of immigrants. It’s (in my view) a bold experiment. However, sociologists noticed the patterned ways in which reinvention is selectively available to some and not to others, and some of this is connected to conformity to a dominant culture mode like privileged whiteness. But as I learned growing up as Korean American, I see that racial and ethnic identities are constructed, and they require an edifice built on a combination of structural and local factors like media messages and the messages we get from our families and teachers. So privileged whiteness is also a construct and it can change. It’s my perspective that every problem has a solution but the solution tends to drive the start of a new problem (or sometimes replicate the previous problem in a new way). So I have hope that the dominant ethos might change over time, but I realize that it’s likely to create its own problems. When it comes to issues like racial identity and intermarriage, I think we’re seeing the complexity of solving our ever-diversifying nation.

      5) your point about the balance in promoting and denouncing slavery among whites is well taken, and it’s a point I try to stress in class. To me, it points to the constructed nature of privileged whiteness and how it can change. One doesn’t need to be racially white to conform to privileged whiteness as an ideology. conversely one doesn’t have to be non-white to resist conformity to it either.

  • Thomas Volscho

    you may want to check out Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin’s study. Or Professor Chou’s new book:
    http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwsoc/9179.html

    • Jerry Park

      Thanks Thomas, was unaware of this new book, looks interesting, and a likely follow-up to their previous work!

  • mike88

    This is a bigger issue than whiteness. A lot of this revealed racial preference in dating (marriage is a different matter) is to do with stereotypes (and realities) of typical members of races (noting the imprecision of that term). A Thai woman is typically going to be more petite than a Jamaican woman; equally a Jamaican man is more likely to be larger/more muscular than a Thai man. As petiteness and largeness are respectively seen as typically feminine or masculine qualities, dating preferences will play out accordingly (e.g. Thai women are more likely to be in demand for interracial dating than Jamaican women, whereas the reverse will be true of men).

    So this is not about “whiteness” as such; in fact, some white women resent the preference some white men have for Asian women. Just as some white men resent the preference some white women have for black men. As a non-American, for instance, it always strikes me in American porn how common is the fantasy of white wife with black lover.

    I’m sure some black guys are sometimes pretty happy about how this stereotype can play out for them!

  • David

    “In short, Asian men are ethnocentric, and ethnocentrism among any race and ethnic group is normal, natural, and healthy.”
    This literally means that “in short, if Asian men are not ethnocentric, and if there is no ethnocentrism among any race and ethnic group, it is abnormal, unnatural, and unhealthy. In other words Dan Poole seems to imply that asian-white marriages are abnormal, unnatural and unhealthy.
    “Now then, regardless of what you want the dominant culture to be – my guess is that it’s some kind of “Tower of Babel” society whereby all humans of all races and creeds live together peacefully and harmoniously – the bottom line is that your opposition to whiteness as the cultural norm makes you anti-white by definition. ”
    The Tower of Babel doctrine is inherently anti-white, anti-black, etc. Why? At the Tower of Babel God supposedly confused the tongues and these languages ranged from German to Latvian to Russian to Chinese etc. If we strictly follow the Tower of Babel doctrine, the existence of white and therefore black and Asian Americans of mixed ethnicity is an abomination as well as unnatural. Why? Because white America is a combination of Latvian, Armenian, English, German etc to form white America which is opposite of what God intended at the Tower of Babel. Same argument can be made about the existence of African Americans, Hispanics and Asians of mixed Asian ancestry. So even the existence of Mr. Poole is an abomination under the doctrine of the Tower of Babel.

  • http://www.examiner.com/political-buzz-in-detroit/dan-poole Dan Poole

    @David:

    “In other words Dan Poole seems to imply that asian-white marriages are abnormal, unnatural and unhealthy”

    Even Jerry Park agreed with me that Endogamy (marrying within one’s culture group) is the norm, and that intermarriage is a very unusual pattern. But since you put me on the spot, I’ll candidly share my beliefs: If every white person today were to marry a non-white, whites would be gone in a single generation, as every person would look like Barack Obama or whatever the mix may be. Therefore, insofar as we wish our own people, and every people on earth, to maintain its own existence and distinctiveness, we ought to consider intra-racial and intra-ethnic marriages as normative. To the extent that we view intermarriage as equal with or preferable to intra-marriage, we are working towards the destruction of entire peoples. There is no neutrality on this issue. In order to maintain the preservation of the human diversity God has created, both biological and cultural, intermarriage must be seen as unnatural and uncommon. To say otherwise is a denial that it is good to preserve one’s own people, heritage, and culture. World peace is not achievable, not through race-mixing, not through anti-war jargon, not through capitalism, not through anything the left or the right can think of.

    “At the Tower of Babel God supposedly confused the tongues and these languages ranged from German to Latvian to Russian to Chinese etc. ”

    But Germans are white. Russians are white. Chinese are Yellow. Koreans and the Japanese are yellow. The peoples of sub-saharan African nations are black. The Amerindian tribes are red, and the Mestizos are brown. God created people this way. There’s even a nursery song that goes, “Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight.” The existence of race is self-evident. It is not a social construct any more then gravity and a round earth are social constructs.

    “white America is a combination of Latvian, Armenian, English, German etc to form white America which is opposite of what God intended at the Tower of Babel.”

    Not true. For starters, American whites are united by a common language: English. Moreover, the various ethnic groups have not been around since the Tower of Babel. The English, for example, are the descendants of interbreeding between the Anglos and the Saxons. Then in the 11th century, the Franks invaded and conquered England. The history of humanity is small groups interbreeding with other small groups, then those groups interbeed with other groups, and so on and so forth until you get entire ethnic groups with distinct identities and cultures. Yet, virtually no one disputes who the English are. Nobody asks if an English person is Anglo, Saxon, or Frank. And it doesn’t matter either. Yet, people are constantly trying to discredit the concept of whiteness just because different people of different cultures can be classified as white. Classifying who is and isn’t white might be an arbitrary exercise, but that doesn’t prove whiteness doesn’t exist anymore then differences between Anglos and Saxons proves that the English don’t exist.

    I know this is all falling on deaf ears because you clearly don’t believe in the Tower of Babel story anyway. You’re entitled to your beliefs, but since you are trying to hang me by my own beliefs, I’m here to tell you that you have no Biblical basis for opposing the mixing of different ethnic groups of the same race. There’s nothing in the Bible which says there must be 10 languages, 100 languages, or 1000 languages. We don’t even know how many ethnic groups and languages there were when God separated us. But as Carlton Coon described, we do know that a race is a major segment of a species originally occupying, since the first dispersal of mankind, a large, geographically unified, and distinct region, and touching on the territories of other races only by relatively narrow corridors. Within such a region each race acquired its distinctive genetic attributes – both its visible physical appearance and its invisible biological properties – through the selective forces of all aspects of the environment, including culture. After having become differentiated in this fashion, each race filled out its space, resisting, because of its superior local adaptation, the encroachment of outsiders with whom it mixed, from time to time if not continuously, along its borders (Coon, page 10)

    • Jerry Park

      @Dan, I agree with some of your points but take a more neutral stance. I don’t see intermarriages as “unnatural” but they are uncommon. Your review of ethnic group formation makes some sense but it also reveals the complexities of history. As you noted, smaller people groups intermixed with nearby small people groups and repeated this pattern over and over. The development of these people groups into ethnicities as we understand them today is partly a result of an historic “stopping point” of intermixing for lack of a better phrase. and it appears that different groups selectively intermixed depending on the most proximal people groups near them. So it’s not that ethnicity has some definitive origin point (I’m laying aside the Babel story); it’s more relative to the time period we’re referring to – most likely it’s in relation to our current understanding of what those ethnicities mean today. Similarly, race is constructed; it’s constructed based on biological/ physical appearance characteristics we deem to distinguish one group from another. Notably, the Nazis saw the Jews as a race, but in the US today we see them as an ethnic-religious group. I believe this also occurred in Asia; imperialistic groups attributed racial difference to those groups they deemed inferior. So it’s a constructed and historically-contingent characteristic. And one small correction: American whites *today* mostly share a common language of English. But whiteness varies over time. The Italians, French, Spanish, Poles, Russians etc. from the 1800s and 1900s who immigrated most assuredly were not fluent in English – they united with English-speaking whites because it was clear that they were in charge. If they wanted access to better resources, wealth, opportunity for themselves or their children, they would conform to English-speaking whites. So language doesn’t quite hold white Americans together in some absolute historic sense; it was the work of many generations of conformity that led to our current conditions that lead us to see “white = English-speaking”.

      As mentioned earlier however, I do agree that intermarriage is generally rare to the extent that the availability (or the perception) of resources, opportunity, wealth are unevenly distributed. The preference for intermarriage in American society is a bold claim that race should not be linked with inequality. By intermarrying, a new generation of Americans would (in theory) emerge that breaks the historic inequalities of the past. In theory, the children of intermarriage gain more resources than the minority parent through the acceptance of the majority parent’s network. That’s not easily done nor is it clearly accomplished based on what little we see in the research. It’s my opinion, I think the better path might be to acknowledge and celebrate intermarriage but not at the expense of deriding intramarriage. And if we talk with folks about this issue, most supporters of intermarriage usually don’t view those who marry within the same race as somehow inferior. Part of what makes America so exceptional is maintaining this kind of tension and encouraging a kind of experimentation that may provide better futures for some who have a lineage of marginalization.

  • Christina Chan

    I’m not sure how you decided that the graffiti was most likely written by minority men. To me, it seems like it’s just as likely that white women would write those comments because they are trying to protect their turf (i.e. white men belong to white women not Asian or Latino women). I have heard black women say similar things about the “good” black men being “stolen” by white women, but being in a generally lower position of power they are less likely to put that in writing. In other words, if black women get caught defacing property, they probably feel like they would be punished for it. I think white women if they get caught probably think they can talk their way out of it as youthfulness or other such thing. Whether or not their perceptions line up with reality is irrelevant, I think that minorities live in the “fear” of being punished more than whites do.


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