Kim 1999

From Projecting Power
  • Main argument: Asian Americans have a unique position within the racial hierarchy of the United States, where they are benefiting from and being victimized by the racial triangulation between Whites and African Americans


  • Asian Americans have been subjected to racial triangulation from the middle of the 19th century, and in the years following 1965
  • Racial triangulation was openly culturally-racial before the civil rights era while in the post-civil rights era, it happened in a coded manner and became culturally divorced from overtly racial assertions
  • However in both periods, racial triangulation has functioned as a blueprint for what each group should get, in turn, reproducing patterns of white power and privilege

Open racial triangulation: 1850-1950

  • California was faced with a dilemma when they joined the union as a “free” state because they were not receiving the same amount of economic growth as slave states were
  • However when they saw Chinese immigration, they determined that the labor they provided could be used as a solution that would help the state grow economically
  • Racial triangulation reconciled the need for labor by furthering White dominance
    • It made Asian immigrants seem superior to African Americans yet unassimilable to Whites
  • Categorizing Asian Americans as “Mongolian” or “Asiatic” was constructed as a way to reconcile a labor system with the ideal of a pristine White polity

Coded Racial Triangulation: 1965 To Today

  • The Racial hierarchies present in the pre-1965 era remained as the normative social dynamic even as legal changes advanced equality.
  • A "Model Minority" myth placed Asian Americans on a pedestal as a way to continually reinforce color-blind race politics increasingly taking hold in America post-1965.
  • Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, a conservative backlash to the Civil Rights era resulted in the winding down of a lot of racial equality measures throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Racial retrenchment was done by pitting Black Americans and Asian Americans, considered the model minority, against each other. Anti-Blackness among White Americans was most prominently used against anti-racist efforts by centering individual advancement as a success among minority groups. Reactionary forces pitted Asian Americans' perceived success on par with White people as proof that Black people's suffering is a character issue.
  • Tensions between the Korean American community and the Black community exploded in the 1970s throughout major U.S. cities as both disadvantaged communities tried to succeed in the racial landscape of the U.S.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the book delves into researching the social position of Asian American in order to test the simple framework that is usually used to understand race relations within the racial hierarchy of the US. She argues that the Asian american identity is too complex to be able to put it in a boxed categorization. This phenomenon happens because the Asian americans community is seen as something that stands between white and Black communities without being able to fully connect with either. Furthermore, Kim argues that the status that they receive is guided by how useful they can be to the white majority so she finds it wrong when the model "model minority" stereotype is used in relation to them because they also still suffer discrimination and other challenges that minority communities face.