Is It Time to Abandon the Idea of an ‘Asian American’ Identity?
Produced by ‘The Argument’
Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, and understanding their representation in culture, politics and society is getting increasingly complex.
In the New York City mayoral election this month, the Republican candidate, Curtis Sliwa, won 44 percent of the vote in precincts where more than half of the residents are Asian, a rate higher than for any other racial group tracked. This came as a surprise, given the popular belief that Asian Americans, particularly the younger generation, are largely liberal.
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One of our guests on this week’s show argues that the conversation surrounding the Asian American identity is often limited to upwardly mobile immigrants with careers in highly skilled sectors like tech and medicine. But a term as vague as “Asian American” includes everyone from an Indian lawyer to a Hmong refugee, and with that comes the complication of identifying with a phrase that is meant to define such a wide range of experiences.
Jane Coaston speaks to two Asian Americans who look at the term in different ways: the writer Jay Caspian Kang, who thinks it ignores class differences and so is meaningless, and his podcast co-host E. Tammy Kim, who believes there’s value in building political power by organizing around the identity and even across these class differences.
Mentioned in this episode:
“Time to Say Goodbye,” a podcast hosted by Jay Caspian Kang, E. Tammy Kim and Andy Liu on Asia, Asian America and life during the coronavirus pandemic
Kang’s new book, “The Loneliest Americans”
Kim’s essay “Asian America,” in The London Review of Books
“An Asian American Poet on Refusing to Take Up ‘Apologetic Space,’” on “Sway,” a New York Times Opinion podcast
(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
Credit…Photographs by Evan Groll and Sarah Shatz
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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha and edited by Sarah Geis; fact-checking by Andrea López-Cruzado; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; additional engineering by Sonia Herrero; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Matt Kwong.