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Hardcover Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White Book

ISBN: 0465006396

ISBN13: 9780465006397

Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White

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Book Overview

Writing in the tradition of W. E. B. Du Bois, Cornel West, and others who confronted the "color line" of the twentieth century, journalist, scholar, and activist Frank H. Wu offers a unique... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

this book changed me

I can honestly say this: I will never, ever be able to listen to a racist comment about Asian Americans again - even an unintended one -without thinking of what I've learned in this book. There were times I cried while reading, considering the life-long "otherness" foisted on Asian Americans by white Americans, including myself. A few chapters into this book, I was sitting in an exit row on a plane that was getting ready for take-off. The flight attendant came down the aisle to ask the perfunctory questions of us in those seats, of our willingness to die for the cause and all. The flight attendants are required to get a verbal `yes' from each passenger in the exit row. Sitting across the aisle from me was a middle aged Asian American business man, dressed impeccably, clearly a frequent flier (as most people in the exit row are). After explaining the situation, the flight attendant turned to this man and asked, "do you speak English?" he responded, "yes", with the complete lack of accent only available to a 2nd or 3rd (or longer) generation Asian American. I almost jumped out of my seat, with my new awareness of what it would be like to be asked questions like this (and worse), have assumptions made, and be treated as "other", and "not us", for your entire life. (I actually turned to the man, and a bit shaky with my brand-new righteous indignation on behalf of all Asian Americans, said, "I apologize for the stupidity of Caucasians." He gave me the odd look I deserved.) Here's the rub: how do I - how do we - engage in this critical conversations without somewhat perpetuating or adding to the "otherness" sin against Asian Americans? By the very fact that I am trying to figure out how to be a part of change - in my own heart, first, and in our culture in some way - I am concurrently, and by necessity, bringing attention to the uniqueness (read: otherness) of the Asian American experience. How can I pursue the friendship I think I would really enjoy with the Asian American youth worker in san diego I met through all this mess, have conversations about stuff like this, and yet still not treat him as my token Asian American friend, as my personal guilt-assuager, or as my "project" - all positions that do violence to him. The book actually addresses this tension, explaining (at length) why the ideal of "colorblindness" doesn't work. but, either I didn't quite understand that part, or I thought the final conclusion of "live in the tension" wasn't quite satisfying enough. Anyhow. I really do recommend this book, especially for anyone who would like to grow in their understanding of the Asian American experience and the issues that continue to surround the racism we don't tend to talk about in America.

Superlative Overview and Introductory Book

My only claim to understanding Asian-American racism in the US is being a victim of it. I am no scholastic expert in the field, not even a closet scholar. My father immigrated from Taiwan. My mother suffered the indignity of the internment camps during WWII. But I didn't learn about my ethnicity, or racism, from them. Born in the US, I learned as many of my generation did- through experience. So from this perspective, Professor Wu has done a magnificent job of accomplishing two great tasks in a single, readable book: he has outlined a superb historical account of Asian-Americans in America with respect to racism, and effectively defined and explained the complex manifestation and quandaries of racial issues for Asian-Americans. There is, of course, an accounting of the most egregious cases of racial bias and outright bigotry in the history of our country. But even more importantly, Professor Wu effectively summarizes the history of Asians and Asian-Americans in the US to help explain how the model minority stereotype is a two-edged sword that actually in many ways exacerbates the problem and in some ways enables the problem to proliferate, particularly by playing such a stereotype off against the stereotype of Afro-Americans. Make no mistake, Professor Wu strongly espouses coalitions among not only Asian-Americans, not only all minorities, but all peoples. It is, he argues, the only way to bring resolution. But the conundrum of racism, as he effectively describes it, is truly one of color and the perception of color. Being white in America is perceived by many as the ideal, the epitome. For example, when the issue of my ethnicity came up in my office, recently, one of my staff, attempting to be gracious, remarked: "I never noticed you weren't white." (Firstly, the fact that I am not white is obvious.) Unintentionally, and without any malice, she was inferring that being white was, if not the expected standard, at least the preferred state. Wu explores this phenomenon in some detail, with numerous examples. To me, it became equally important a concept as the more overt examples of discrimination and bigotry, and I concur with Wu that in some ways this perception is more dangerous, because it is more prevalent and insidious-- and in many ways it is true. Which is part of the problem. Wu continues by exploring cultural traditions and and perspectives, and how those differences can lead to both misunderstanding and contribute to the phenomenon of the "glass ceiling" faced by some Asian-Americans. He also discusses the phenomenon of assimilation-- and particularly here draws upon the histories of all immigrants to our country-- as part of the equation. In summary, the conflict is balancing integrating into the "American" culture (something which is itself evolving, if ever so slowly) and maintaining one's own native cultural identity. I got a little bored as Wu delved into the intricacies of the differences between "pluralism" an

A Monumental Tour de Force

This is an incredible eye-opener on the civil rights movement as it pertains to Asian Americans. Professor Wu covers the breadth of the Asian American movement, highlighting the immigration patterns of our forefathers from the Asian continent. He also delves into the civil rights issues of not only the past, but the modern era as wel--such as affirmative action and the perpetual foreigner syndrome afflicting those of Asian descent.

One viewpoint on U.S. race relations

If you have the reasonable expectation that the author of any book on race is unlikely to share all your views, then I'd recommend that you read this book. I like this book because it provides one viewpoint that is unique in many ways and is therefore a good addition to any person's collection of thoughts on race relations (whether you agree with Wu or not). By the way, Wu's opinions are his own, as he points out himself, and do not represent THE "Asian" viewpoint (there's no such thing). The following arguments are particularly interesting:1. Wu argues that Asian-Americans ought to support affirmative action for underrepresented minority groups even if they themselves are not included, saying that this will put the needs of the nation at large ahead of self-centered gain. (Contrast this with the writings of K. Anthony Appiah, Dinesh D'Souza and Shelby Steele, for example, for 4 incredibly disparate views of affirmative action by 4 people of color).2. Wu also presents a case against racial profiling in spite of the fact that he thinks it is sometimes both rational and non-racist (!)3. Wu dissects the question "Where are you really from?" and explains how it reflects the "perpetual foreigner" stereotype of people of Asian descent. Overall, this book was a thought-provoking, sometimes troubling, always interesting read.

A 21st Century Masterwork

I have read most of Frank Wu's popular columns and legal articles over the years, so I thought I knew what to expect when I opened the covers of his new book, "Yellow." Instead of the lawyer, raconteur, social critic, and historian I had thought I knew, however, I met a philosopher poet on par with an Emerson or Thoreau. Weaving back and forth between legal decisions, Shakespearean dramas, SAT scores, and recollections from his childhood, he has produced a masterwork that will shape discussions of race for years to come.Right from the first chapter, Professor Wu lays out the dilemma of being Asian in America in terms that are spare but evocative: "I remain not only a stranger in a familiar land, but also a sojourner through my own life....I alternate between being conspicuous and vanishing, being stared at or looked through. Although the conditions may seem contradictory, they have in common the loss of control. I am who others perceive me to be rather than how I perceive myself to be."Not content to be an idle observer or a pawn in someone else's social drama, however, he draws on a lifetime of involvement in the great issues of our times to write thought-provoking and well-researched analyses of affirmative action, racial profiling, immigration restrictions, anti-Asian violence, interracial marriage, and much more. The beauty of Wu's writing, like Stephen Jay Gould's celebrated "This View of Life" column in Natural History magazine, is that a person who is at once a leader in his field and a person with a strong point of view can take the time to explain how he got to his position by bringing in history, statistics, biography, current events, and popular culture. Despite his mastery of many bodies of knowledge, Professor Wu brings a humility to his endeavor that is refreshing in this era of the know-it-all television pundits. "I am a fraud," he says on page 37. "I am unqualified, because I cannot speak for all Asian Americans." Behind this humility, however, also lies an awareness of the enormity of his task as a person who will be called upon by the media to speak "for the race." Later in the same paragraph, he says, "I doubt that any imposter could do any better or would desire to try that impossible task. I suspect, however, that at every appearance after I give my usual disclaimer, my audience continues to see and hear me as a spokesperson on behalf of Asian Americans.""Yellow" is worth the price simply for its cyclopedic reviews of the model minority myth, the perpetual foreigner myth, and the myths of merit and colorblindness in the debates over affirmative action. Not content with rehashing the same tired sources that appear in many scholarly and popular works on the topics, he has delved into out-of-print treatises, vintage Hollywood films, and speeches by Samuel Gompers, John Adams, and other historical figures. The Notes and Index sections of his book take up almost 50 pages, with the Notes providing avenues of scholars
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