Yellow: Race In America Beyond Black And Whiteby Frank H. Wu
In the tradition of W. E. B. Du Bois, Cornel West, and other public intellectuals who confronted the "color line" of the twentieth century, journalist, law professor, and activist Frank H. Wu offers a unique perspective on how changing ideas of racial identity will affect race relations in the new century.Often provocative and always thoughtful, this book addresses
In the tradition of W. E. B. Du Bois, Cornel West, and other public intellectuals who confronted the "color line" of the twentieth century, journalist, law professor, and activist Frank H. Wu offers a unique perspective on how changing ideas of racial identity will affect race relations in the new century.Often provocative and always thoughtful, this book addresses some of the most controversial contemporary issues: discrimination, immigration, diversity, globalization, and the mixed-race movement, introducing the example of Asian Americans to shed new light on the current debates. Combining personal anecdotes, social-science research, legal cases, history, and original journalistic reporting, Wu discusses damaging Asian American stereotypes such as "the model minority" and "the perpetual foreigner." By offering new ways of thinking about race in American society, Wu's work challenges us to make good on our great democratic experiment.
- Basic Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.45(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.31(d)
Read an Excerpt
Like anyone else, I am often asked "Where are you from?" Like other Asian Americans but unlike most other Americans, I also am frequently asked the follow-up question even after I reply that I was born in Cleveland and grew up in Detroit but lived in San Francisco before moving to Washington, D.C., "Where are you really from?"
The paired queries are almost always sincere, revealing curiosity more than malice. Yet the inquiries, especially repeated constantly as if they cannot ever be answered satisfactorily, remind me that, for some of my neighbors, I remain a perpetual foreigner. They ask me, "When are you going home?" and "How do you like it in our country?"
This book not only tires to explain where I am really from, but also seeks to explore where we together can move. I have written it with faith that a democratic society can and should be diverse.
(From the Introduction)
Meet the Author
The first Asian American to serve as a law professor at Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., Frank H. Wu has written for a range of publications including the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and The Nation, and writes a regular column for Asian Week. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
In the book, he writes pragmatically in support of affirmative action, examines the role of mixed-race people in society, gives context to immigration policies and explores the space Asian Americans occupy in the United States. Two points stand out. 1) Americans constantly think in terms of race, but are often - particularly if they are white - unaware that they are thinking racially. 2) Being neutral on race is not an option. Asian Americans take a stand whether they are aware of it or not, and because Asian Americans are neither white nor black they have an opportunity to bridge that divide. Wu`s parents are immigrants who came from Taiwan looking for a better life. His father was an engineer and his mother a librarian, then homemaker, then real-estate agent. Wu grew up among white people. His suburban high school shared a campus with another high school. Between them, he says, they had 4,000 students, and only one of them was black. Asian Americans were scarce, too, in the Midwestern suburbs. 'I knew I was different, but I didn`t know how I was different or why.' He wanted to fit in, but people were always reminding him that he wasn`t white. They still do. He has been called names, but more common are all of the little reminders that don`t even register with the people doing the reminding. He devotes a chapter to Asian Americans as perpetual outsiders. In another chapter he takes apart the model-minority myth, showing how the myth has stirred resentment of Asian Americans and how it has been used to put down African Americans. He believes Asian Americans should not allow themselves to be used in that way, that they can and should play another role. 'If I`m going to fight the stereotypes that face me, I have to give precedence to the stereotypes against African Americans,' he said. If Asian Americans want to protect their own rights, they should start by advocating for the rights of black people. 'There is no question Asian Americans face stereotypes, but we don`t face anywhere near the brute discrimination African Americans face.' It`s not just different in degree, he says, it is different in kind. Wu had offers to teach at several universities, but he chose Howard because it has a mission beyond helping its students make a lot of money as lawyers. He says people of all races constantly ask, 'Why Howard?' They are amazed he chose a historically black school. No one would be surprised if he had chosen a white school. Howard has never restricted students or faculty on the basis of race, and in fact its faculty is at least as diverse as any historically white school. Wu also picked Howard because he knew how poorly many Asian-American professors have fared at historically white universities. In the book, he writes that early in the century, when white schools were reluctant to hire Asian Americans, many found positions at Howard and other black institutions. He issues a call for coalitions across racial lines to address racism. If people whose ancestry lies in Japan, Korea, China or the Philippines can unite and create a pan-Asian identity as Asian Americans, then they can create coalitions with Latinos, Indians, black folks. Wu acknowledges that black authors have had many of the insights his book offers (though readers will also find much that could only have come from Wu). But he says it is important that he, an Asian American, say these things. He says he used a little lie to keep himself going while writing the book, something writers often do. His little lie was that once the book was done he would not have to talk about race anymore. But, he says, there is no point at which you can say we`re done, we`ve created a diverse society. Like democracy, we have to work at it constantly. Our ideals as a nation draw us to reach for a more perfect society. In Wu`s ideal world, 'each of us declares our own identity and is accepted and respected for that. And th