Among the patriotic artifacts preserved on USS 393, the former Highway 16, is this morale poster from World War I.

Note: not Franco-American or German-American or Greco-American.  Americans All.  Even German-born immigrants by way of Ukraine to Wisconsin who get drafted and killed in France.  There was a brief attempt after September 11 to revive the idea.  But institutional identity politics is so entrenched that we have all manner of hyphenated Americans, which might better be thought of as Asterisk-Americans and Privilege-Americans.  How else interpret the latest identity-politics folly, in which (some) Americans with Asian ancestry become de facto white people? (But not, apparently, Cambodian, Hmong, and Samoan physicians, whose numbers are not in proportion to the general Californian population.)

Here's more from Eugene Volokh.
Calling Asians white also creates new lines, possibly very dangerous ones.  "White" has stopped meaning Caucasian, imprecise as this term has always been, and has started to mean "those racial groups that have made it."  "Minority" has started to mean "those racial groups that have not yet made it."  (A recent San Francisco Chronicle story even excludes non-Mexican-American Latinos from the "minority" category.)  This new division is as likely as the old to create nasty, corrosive, sometimes fatal battles over which racial groups get the spoils.  So long as we think in terms of "white" and "minority," we risk disaster, no matter which races are put in which box.
It's less constructive, precisely because of that "not yet made it,"  to think of "privilege" and "asterisk." But then, those Mediterranean and Slavic gentlemen drafted into General Pershing's army had children who passed for white.  Perhaps for lack of any better alternatives, Americans All.

No comments: