Are Asian-Americans “people of color”?

October 29, 2020 • 12:45 pm

This has always puzzled me. For college admissions and other decisions that involve meritocracy, Asian-Americans are not considered “people of color”. (When I refer to “Asian-Americans” in this post, I refer to East Asians, like the Chinese and Japanese, not to Asians from, say, the Middle East.)

We all know about the Harvard case, now appealed, in which the University unsuccessfully sued for (and, I think, was guilty of) discriminating against Asian and Asian-American applicants. In that case the group was hardly oppressed, and, in fact, could be seen as privileged. In terms of income, for example, Asian-Americans have a 32% higher median household income than American whites. Asians also do better in school, in terms of grades or achievements on standardized tests, which is why they are winnowed back at admissions time.

You’d be hard pressed to make a case that Asian-Americans are victimized in any meaningful way, and would have to resort to things like the (unconscionable) remarks made to some Asians when the pandemic hit, blaming them for coronavirus.

Yet Asian-Americans are indeed considered people of color, both in terms of self-description and for accounting purposes, like when a college gives the percentage of “faculty of color”. And when the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston held “Kimono Wednesdays”, many Asians reacted as if their culture was being ripped off, though (to be fair), some Japanese ladies showed up defending the kimonos worn by whites. Cultural appropriation, it’s often argued, can only come from a dominant culture stealing for an oppressed one.

And a sure sign of being oppressed is the HuffPost list of “voices” (i.e., news of the oppressed) which includes Asians:

I always understood that “people of color” referred not to pigmentation, which of course is correlated with oppression in America, but with oppression itself. That’s why Linda Sarsour, who is whiter than I, can consider herself a person of color, while Jews like me are automatically white, despite the pervasive oppression of Jews throughout history.  What puzzles me is how you can be considered a person of color in general, but then that moniker disappears at college admission time or when paychecks are handed out.

It’s also true that Asian-Americans are underrepresented in the entertainment industry, though I’m not sure that this reflects bias rather than preference. Can you be a person of color when it comes to movie roles but not when you’re applying to Harvard?

Perhaps I don’t quite get the PoC term, because I didn’t think that, for a given group or gender, it applied in some situations but not in others. If you think you have a good handle on the term—or just want to discuss it—weigh in below.


32 thoughts on “Are Asian-Americans “people of color”?

  1. Gee, it’s almost as if this woke SJW method of classifying people by real or presumed racial or ethnic categories and creating some sort of race/oppression scale naturæ is in itself racist.

    1. If CRT’s Procrustean approach to social analysis appears to produce anomalies, then that’s just your colonised mind fooling you.

      By reason of skin colour, the children of Obama and Jacob Blake are indistinguishably situated in society. Judging by their absence from well paid NBA teams, Asian youth are also oppressed People of Colour.

  2. I am not qualified to answer the question or question the answer being a person of white. At some point after Person of Color became normal I originally thought it was the new improved term for Colored People. Stupid me.
    Colored people became African American and that term is now considered wrong because who is to say the person came from Africa. If that were the case we are all Africans. So I try to avoid using anything but people. As someone once said – I am not a member of any organization that would have me for a member.

    1. What is NOT allowed is to have a condition of being define a person. Therefore a diabetic is not allowed, as that implies the diabetes alone defines the person, so one is supposed to say ‘a person with diabetes’. Equally a ‘person of ….. whatever’…

      I think that is pedantic but understandable. People are just so pathetically soft in presfnt times I would say, but then I was bullied.

  3. While both Jews and Asians have been subject to prejudice and hate, and still are, they have overcome it and now have higher incomes and achievements than whites on average. That makes them as “privileged” as whites in the eyes of the social justice folks, and therefore they, along with whites, must make room for the “less advantaged” PoC. Most Jews are of course white, so they even more so.

    1. So by the SJW logic, shouldn’t a black person who succeeds in life and becomes quite wealthy no longer be considered a PoC? Or are we to always and forever judge the individual in the accomplishments of the group? Inherited privilege and sin for “whites” and inherited oppression and failure for everyone else? What if one is mixed, as Obama, half European-American, half African? Why is he always “black” and never “half white” or even (more truthfully) mixed? Smells like the old One Drop rule to me but both lefty bigots and righty bigots agree he must be “black”. And his kids, are they more oppressed than he, having a “black” mom and a “half black” dad? It’s all a bit of nonsense, really, and just as racist as the racist ideology it claims to be fighting. It’s a wonder the SJWs don’t use a sliding scale where your level of oppression is tied to a skin color chart. I can’t help but to think this is the “Sophisticated Theology” version of race.

  4. “People of color” is a woke, activist term. It’s not supposed to be consistent or make sense — this is theology, after all.

    The very idea that a concept like “person of color” should be analysed using logic and evaluated for consistency is itself a “white supremacist” idea!

    Instead one just emotes it along with ones “lived experience”.

    1. The alternative is to use the “one drop” approach, which the Woke are probably already doing without seeing the irony…

      1. We all have one or more drops… somewhere. It has to be the case. What is it, 20 generations = over 1 million theoretical ancestors, so even with pedigree collapse from cousin marriages of some type 2nd, 3rd whatever) it seems probable that many non-black people might have a black ancestor in there, …

        1. Indeed. I only need to go back to my grandfather for Native American Blood, and much more than one drop. But I’m not a PoC because I look every bit like my other English/Scottish/Irish grandparents, or as many assholes told me when I was little: “There ain’t no red-headed injuns!” I found this extremely hurtful especially after he died when I was about 8 and partly why I get very upset with the leftist Critical Racist Ideology. It’s personal. I became obsessed with native cultures even not knowing exactly where he came from. One DNA test said South America/Amazonia, another said Canada. Whatever. Point is know thyself and to hell with the lefty and righty racists if and when you don’t match their preconceived race ideologies.

  5. The (un)logic of racial colorism:

    “There is a strong asymmetry between black and white racial inheritance. If a person has a black parent, a black grandparent, or a black great^n-grandparent (where n represents any number of past generations), then that person is designated black. But if a person has a white parent, or three white grandparents, or Z white great^n-grandparents (where Z is any odd number and n still represents any number of past generations), then that person is not thereby designated white. A fortiori, anyone with white forebears equal in number to the black forebears who would result in their being designated black is not thereby designated white. Thus whiteness is the absence of black forebears, assuming no other /non-white/ forebears, or the absence of non-white forebears. And blackness is the presence of one or more black forebears, depending on how far back it is considered necessary or desirable to go in investigating the race of a person’s forebears. This means that in order to be white it is necessary that an individual be all white, while in order to be black it is sufficient if an individual has one black forebear.

    The logic of this schema allows that the sufficient condition of one black forebear need never be satisfied in any way that can be empirically verified. Black designation is based on an individual’s location anywhere in a line of descent that contains one black forebear. A black forebear is thereby defined as someone who is in a line of descent where there is one black forebear. Logically this is an infinite regress.

    The schema implies that both whiteness and blackness are defined in terms of blackness. Thus American racial categories are interdependent, and because there is no positive definition of blackness, American racial categories are groundless—they have no empirical foundation.”

    (Zack, Naomi. Race and Mixed Race. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993. pp. 10-11)

    1. The (Online) Oxford Dictionary defines “person of color” as “person who is not white”, but who is white and who is non-white? If “in order to be white it is necessary that an individual be all white” (N. Zack) in the sense of having no non-white ancestors, then nobody is white and everybody is a person of color, since all humans ultimately have non-white (black) ancestors.

  6. I am a person of color. I have yellow hair, a pink integument, and blue eyes. I am TECHNICOLOR! CINEMASCOPE!
    Yet somehow I’m not allowed into the Persons of Color bailiwick. Why not?
    Aha. It has nothing to do with my color; it has only to do with the place of origination — northwestern Europe — of my progenitors.
    The notion of “people of color” is reminiscent of the Kaniza triangle, wherein three notched colored triangles seem to create a white triangle that is not really there. Rather than a term of inclusion, “people of color” is meant to EXCLUDE one small segment of the global human population: persons whose ancestors lived at the westerly end of Eurasia.
    So much for “inclusiveness.”

    1. You can’t say that without checking your privilege 😉 . More seriously, in the UK at least, white working class kids perform less well than every group except Roma/Traveller children. Of course, acknowledging that poor educational outcomes are about class at least as much as they are about race is probably not something that the Woke are likely to bother considering. Although to be fair, The Guardian does do so:

      1. When I did my compulsory one-year military service in Belgium about 50 years ago we had two gypsies in our unit. They were Belgian nationals but they had somehow escaped school and didn’t know how to write or read. My French-speaking companion conscripts were assigned to teach them writing and reading every afternoon. The gypsies were quite smart, but not interested in reading, and their teachers ended up writing love letters to their quite attractive girlfriends. It became a group effort, resulting in a quite creative effort. The gypsy recruits were quite fashionable and used to tailor their khaki shirts to their bodies with staples. Because they spent their monthly stipend in a day or two taking the girls out, they succeeded to borrow quite large sums from the bar that was managed by the conscripts.

  7. This is why the woke now use BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) in place of POC, because the BI are higher on the oppression scale than the POC.

  8. It’s definitely not about skin color. If you’ve successfully assimilated into the mainstream culture economically, then you are not a PoC. Everyone else is a PoC of some kind. The fact that you may be a member of some cultural and/or ethnic group is not at issue. It’s about success, not culture. If you aren’t part of a successful group then you’re assumed to be downtrodden and a victim of the system.

    1. Yes, I agree. Asians are certainly a minority which has been subject to discrimination in the past (and arguably still is). People of Color now represents part of the oppressed/oppressor framework. Asians are handy when the Progressives want to talk about WWII internment to castigate the country, but their failure to ensure their continued oppression is ultimately to their detriment politically.

      1. I’m enormously privileged. I live in Hawaii. I’m a retired university professor.
        Hawaii has a variety of ethnic groups. According to the 2010 Census, 23.6% of Hawaii residents claimed multi-ethnic backgrounds (two or more races), far more than any other state in the USA (the second highest is Alaska with 7.3%). You will find a “mixed plate” of ethnic groups in Hawaii; 38.6% of Hawaii’s population is Asian, 24.7% is White, 10% is Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, 8.9% is Hispanic (mostly Portuguese), 1.6% is Black or African American, 0.3% is American Indian and Alaska Native, and as noted above, 23.6% of all Hawaii residents are of multi-ethnic background (two or more races). Philipinos, Vietnamese, Thai, and others are in there somewhere.
        According to Ancestry, my DNA is Welch. My spouse is Japanese. Her mother was born and raised in Japan. Her father is third generation Japanese born in Hawaii. My neighbors on my left are third generation Japanese, on my right, born in Thailand. Our condo resident manager is Samoan.
        One of the great things about Hawaii is that our kids in school, public and private, grow up in this mixture. Their classmates and best friends, from kindergarten through college, are a mixture of ethnic groups, hence, the combinations that result. We are all in this together. The Hawaiian word is ohana.
        One class I taught for freshmen was how to succeed in the university. One of the topics we covered was ethnic differences, Chinese, Japanese, Philippino, and some others. My Hawaii students could rattle off unique behaviors of each ethnic group, recognizable, daily observations, but no big deal.
        Is there anything especially good about these groups? FOOD! The response was instant and unamous. We have Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian, Philippino, Thai, Mexican, and more, easily available.
        Food, family, and friends, in great variety are what we live at work, at play, and at home every day. Ethnic differences are to our benefit.

  9. I have worked for many years in Middle Eastern and Asian countries and found it strange that Arabic peoples think of themselves as white unlike their servants from India, Pakistan and S.E. Asia. Darker coloured Chinese and S.E. Asians spend their time trying to get white skins with every skin care product proclaiming its whitening powers.

    1. This suggests that ‘colour’ is fluid, subjective. But for me it’s tribalism not colour that’s important. That is in plain sight and how incidentally how the woke work.

  10. Good points all on the Asian issue but man… you’ve got to free yourself from huffing that Huff Post kerosene: its bad for one’s mental health. A 12 step process, maybe: “Save me from the terrible writing I can’t control…..”

    Oh. And damnable Linda Sasour! I almost wish the faith community were right b/c there’d a a special room in hell for THAT individual. She’s. Just. The. Worst.

    D.A., J.D., NYC

  11. I’ll put this up again, since it seems pertinent to me:

    How did we go from:

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (MLK, 28-Aug-1963)

    To: Race being the most important characteristic of a person. Maybe the only important one. Said to determine whether one should be allowed to speak or be listened to.

    And: How does this possibly advance race relations?

  12. Tribalism is at work here, not colour, colour is the flag. It goes down from here at a dizzy speed and ‘we’ are lost.
    If we were all brown, no problem, it would be brown over brown privilege… freek me days!
    Domination and classes (evolutionary psychopathology? ) drive a certain strain of homo that will take everyone to the cleaners and scrub them to their likeness.

  13. Obviously, you’re a “person of color” only when you’re “victimized”, not when you’re successful and free. …Unless, of course, you’re Jewish, in which case you’re *never* victimized, even by Nazis. We’re talking Political Correctitude here, not logic.

Leave a Reply