News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Asian “race” is the new face of U.S. immigration

Although most scientists agree that race is social construct, editors at widely respected media sources continue to perpetuate racist myths every single day. 

Members of the same "race"?
Today’s New York Times reported that Asians are now “the fastest-growing racial group in the country.” To my friends with origins in the Far East, let me say “I feel your pain.”

For over a decade, the mainstream media has barraged the nation with breathless pronouncements about the scope of Hispanic immigration to the United States. Using language usually reserved for natural disasters, publishers and broadcasters have forecast the growth of the Hispanic population, which is invariably portrayed as a racial monolith swarming over the land. Now, with the story of the “explosive growth” of the U.S. population originating in Latin America growing a little stale, it seems those with Asian origins may be in for similar treatment.

Of course, in both cases, the picture painted in the media avoids inconvenient nuances. Central to these over-simplifications is the idea that those labeled “Asian” and “Hispanic” can be lumped into distinct racial categories. This absurd conflation of geography with genes is best summarized in these words: Race is an illusion, but racism is real.

Although most scientists agree that the idea of “race” is social construct, editors at widely respected media sources continue to perpetuate racist myths every single day. In reality, people with origins in the Far East and Latin America are not genetically similar. But under the incongruous “racial” labels used in the media, people from the Indian sub-continent, Japan, China and the Philippines are considered genetically the same. This puts Mahatma Gandhi in the same racial category as  Mao Zedong. 

The myth-making about a “Hispanic race” is equally absurd. Who in their right mind would consider Cameron Diaz, Salma Hayek and Afro-Cuban salsa legend Celia Cruz part of a single race? Apparently the editors at the New York Times and other prestigious publication do. 

What’s the harm in all this? These inaccurate quasi-racial categories paint a distorted picture of U.S. society. The illusion of monolithic swarms of racial “others” stirs irrational fears, fueling the growth of extremist movements based on xenophobia that could destabilize the nation. If present trends continue, we could be on the path to the Balkanization of America.

Racism does not always wear a white hood and burn a cross on someone’s lawn. Sometimes the racism takes place at a keyboard – by someone who should know better.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Saw that in the NYT this morning. You'd think they could do better. Thanks for pointing out their intellectual laziness, Raul.