This is a guest post by eponymous blogger Asian American Movement. It first appeared here.
"78% of Asian TRAs Consider Themselves White"
Last year, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued an interesting report on transracial Asian adoptees (TRAs) in America. One finding that was most provocative addressed the racial identification of TRAs…
As this New York Times article notes, 78% of TRAs considered themselves to be White or wished they were White when they were children.
While shocking, this percentage is also somewhat understandable given that TRAs are deracinated from their countries of origin and are often raised in a predominantly White milieu.
To me, the experience of TRAs is in some ways a metaphor for the experience of many Asian Americans in general, regardless of whether or not they were adopted.
In particular, the sense of cultural dislocation and identity issues that are sometimes experienced by TRAs are also felt keenly by Asian Americans.
Moreover, not a few Asian Americans either tacitly or directly think of themselves as ”Honorary White” people, or they are perceived as such by society in general.
This Honorary White status in part is what the Asian American Model Minority stereotype is about: Asian Americans are a ”house negro” class between the White majority and minorities such as Blacks and Latinos.
In his seminal essay "Racist Love," Frank Chin talks about the lack of a distinctive Asian American identity and culture, and the consequent embrace of White values by many Asian Americans.
This self-destructive identification with Whiteness is expressed at many different levels, from the cultural to the political, and it's an important tendency within the Asian American community, which itself is highly fragmented and weak.
The fact that certain Asian Americans (cough, Michelle Malkin) wholeheartedly embrace this Honorary White identity of their own volition says a lot about them as individuals and about the sorry state of the Asian American community in general.
People like Michelle Malkin more openly and nakedly exemplify this racial identification in everything but name.
This identification with Whiteness is even expressed in one’s choice of romantic partners. As the Times article notes, one TRA named Kim Eun Mi Young said that when she was younger she “would date only white teenagers, even when Asian boys were around.”
Young explains that: “At no time did I consider myself anything other than white…. I had no sense of any identity as a Korean woman. Dating an Asian man would have forced me to accept who I was.”
This is reminiscent of Frank Chin’s comments about the deeper significance of the high outmarriage rates among Asian Americans.
Questioning the idea that “love is colorblind,” Asian American outmarriage rates, Chin suggested, are reflective of “a people who failed to generate an identity and culture attractive and compulsive enough to make our people attractive to each other and survive as a people and grow as a culture” (Letter to Y’bird, 1977).
In other words, without a distinctive Asian American culture, there really is nothing that holds “Asian America” together as a people.
Indeed, what would really be interesting to find out is what percentage of non-adoptee Asian Americans either consider themselves White or wished they were White as children.
More about the findings of the Evan Donaldson report can be found on the TRA blog Harlow’s Monkey.