Everyone Looks a Little Bit Asian

Everyone Looks a Little Bit Asian

truthdig: drilling beneath the headlines

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Visiting Scholar
Brown University

Like many other Hispanics, I am a member of Generation E.A. (ethnically ambiguous). Over the years I’ve been mistaken for just about every racial or ethnic combination—from Eurasian to Afro-Irish to Arab-Native American.

This guessing game is something members of Generation E.A. are used to in discussions with acquaintances, classmates, co-workers and curious passersby. Sometimes it’s even educational. But this is never something one would expect to hear from a politician, particularly a politician addressing the Hispanic Student Union at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, Nev. Yet this is exactly what happened when Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada, told a group of students that she did not know if the brown border crossers featured in her “Best Friend” commercial were all Hispanic because “some of you look a little more Asian to me.” She continued, “What we know, what we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country. My grandchildren are evidence of that. I’m evidence of that. I’ve been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly.”…

…But the most recent confusing remarks about race and ethnicity are different because they serve a unique purpose. They provide an opportunity to open dialogue in a campaign season that has been more focused on economics than on ethnicity. Could it be that the two are connected?

“The interesting thing about Angle’s version of racial and ethnic talk is that it is more focused on Hispanic issues than on the traditional black-white paradigm,” according to professor Ulli K. Ryder of Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. “What’s happening here is that Hispanics and Asians are being compared and confused because they both equal foreign in the U.S. racial imagination.” So, Angle is saying that these two foreign groups can melt and look alike, but that they will never look like Americans...

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