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Yellow: Race In America Beyond Black And White

Yellow: Race In America Beyond Black And White

5.0 1
by 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.

Editorial Reviews

Whether they are portrayed as the model minority or the perpetually alien, diabolical Japanese or promiscuous Suzi Wongs, Asian Americans suffer. Professor/activist Frank H. We believes that even racially sensitive Americans have a blind spot for yellow. Harboring special views about Asian Americans is, he thinks, something we've been practicing for centuries. This Oprah guest knows how to communicate his points succinctly and with human force.
Chicago Tribune
Yellow also offers an excellent overview of the official and unofficial policies that have shaped Asian-American history and identity in the U.S., and of the thinking that has laid the foundation for them. Wu draws on a refreshingly disparate bank of thinkers and writers (from Shakespeare to essayist Randolph Bourne) to grant him his points.
National Journal
[Wu] adroitly works his way through the brier patch of America's racial challenges with remarkably good humor and an open mind.
Library Journal
This fascinating blend of Wu's personal experiences and his experiences as a lawyer, professor, and reporter provides a different and much-needed perspective on an important and often neglected subject.
Mother Jones
[Wu's] defiant yellow-in-a-black-and-white-world perspective is refreshing.
Publishers Weekly
Beginning with a recap of his childhood bewilderment with the paltry selection of appealing Asian characters in 1970s American pop culture, Frank H. Wu, associate professor at the Howard University School of Law, describes the alienation experienced by Asian-Americans in the 20th-century in Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. An activist and journalist (the Washington Post, the Nation, the L.A. Times, etc.), Wu discusses key moments and phenomena in Asian-American history: the WWII internment camps, the 1992 L.A. riots, the "model minority myth," the virulent anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. during the 1980s' recession (exemplified by the murder of a Chinese American engineer by two white auto workers, fined $3,780 for the crime) and periodic fads involving "Asian-ness" in American media. His sobering, astute, compelling investigation locates the particulars of Asian-American experience with racism in this country's spectrum of ethnic and cultural prejudice. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An exhaustively detailed brief provocatively argues that Asian-Americans should be included in the national dialogue about race. Drawing on an eclectic range of references from John Stuart Mill to Tom Wolfe, Wu (Law/Howard Univ.) admits he hopes to stimulate discussion as well as invite dissent as he advances his ideas. Addressing both black and white prejudices against Asian-Americans, Wu is punctilious about acknowledging the greater burden race has imposed on blacks. Divided into three sections, his study begins with personal recollections of growing up as a Chinese-American and ends with a chapter detailing his reasons for teaching at Howard, a historically black university. In the first section, Wu rebuts the myth of the model minority by demonstrating that, while Asians are highly educated, they receive a lower return on their investment in education and are underrepresented in management; their higher income, he argues, reflects families pooling their resources. Next, he analyzes the implication of mixed-race marriages, as well as such problems as Asian-Americans' stand on affirmative action (he supports it), racial profiling (he discusses the case of Wen Ho Lee), and the dilemma of diversity. Citing the abhorrence that the Asian custom of eating dogs evokes in Westerners, he argues that, while everyone favors diversity, no one has thought critically enough about its implications. Wu suggests that one way of reconciling assimilation with multiculturalism would be to distinguish the division between what is substantial and what is superficial: ". . . an Afrocentric curriculum that is rigorous may be preferable to one that is auctioned off for product placements." In the finalsection, he suggests that Asian-Americans should engage in building coalitions with African-Americans and other minorities as well as with whites to create a tolerant civic society. A timely and thoughtful, if at times overidealistic, plea for full participation in the great ongoing debate.

Product Details

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.

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Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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