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July 24, 2003

Jews & Asians-again

I've gotten two recent emails forwarding me this old Slate piece by Nick Lemann, When Asian-Americans become the "new Jews," what happens to the Jews?, so I decided to link it.... (flavor of the month I suppose-thanks Ikram & zizka)

Posted by razib at 03:59 PM

I'm always a bit uncertain about the American usage of "Asian". Do they use the word in the broad sense (i.e. including India and environs) or merely China/Korea/Japan/Taiwan?

(In Britain, "Asian" is synonymous with the browns)

Posted by: Sex Pistol at July 24, 2003 05:27 PM

I'm always a bit uncertain about the American usage of "Asian".
So are we Americans. Usually, you have to guess who they're talking about from context, e.g.:
"Asian professionals" or "Asians doing well in school" = CJK + Indians, but not necessary SE Asians.
"Poor Asians doing well in school" = Vietnamese + Filipinos. In NY, maybe kids of illegal Chinese too.
"Asian organized crime" = Vietnamese or Chinese
"Asian youth gangs" = Cambodians, Hmong, or, in SoCal/NY, Koreans.

Why so complex? Cuz the thought-reform AznAktivists (who got "Oriental" chucked out on this side of the pond) like claiming to represent as large a population as possible, so they lump together everyone, and the rest of society follows their usage or gets accused of being racist. Hence the new "Asian/Pacific Islander" which is slowly filtering down to the masses, and laying the groundwork for "API/Middle Easterner."

Posted by: Eric Lien at July 24, 2003 07:57 PM

As I understand, "Oriental" got chucked because over the course of a century or more it had accumulated a thick crust of miscellaneous nonsense about The Oriental Mind, Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, Suzi Wong, the Yellow Peril, and so on, and people decided trying to start over with a nice new name and let it accumulate its own new bullshit. My guess is that there are few on this site who wish that they were still being called Orientals.

For me Asians are people who recently immigrated from the continent of Asia, except for Middle Easterners and Russians from Siberia. Pacific Islanders are lumped in because there aren't very many of them, I guess. To me, after a couple generations immigrants are Americans, but if people want to hyphenate that's OK.

In the old article that's posted here, Asians probably means East Asians plus subcontinental professional families.

On the topic of the article, incidentally, the Asians in Portland I've seen that have gone jockish are the Lao. One of my son's friends was 6'3" and an all-city basketball player. I've also met some big, slightly scary Lao body-builders with tattoos here. We're getting into niche stereotypes here, but the Lao I've known are extremely sociable and outgoing and not at all shy, unlike all the other groups I know of except Filipinos.

Posted by: zizka at July 24, 2003 08:34 PM