Thursday, January 02, 2014

"White on the inside"

Once more, I'm going to comment on this post:
In the nature of the case, I have to resort to some generalizations. No doubt there are many exceptions.
i) What does Leon mean by "white on the inside"? To begin with, I think there's something we might call the immigrant work ethic. Immigrants are motivated to succeed in the new country. That's why many of them move here in the first place. To get ahead. By the same token, they motivate their kids to succeed. 
To the extent that many Asians are recent immigrants, they may have more of an immigrant work ethic. A strong incentive to move up the social ladder. 
Is that "yellow on the outside, but white on the inside"? Are they acting white? Or is this a case of acting American? Adapting to the new culture? 
Assimilation is a common feature of immigrant kids. If you come here at an early age, you learn to blend in. Master the social skills you need to survive and excel in the new culture. 
If, by contrast, you're born here to immigrant parents, then you're not acting American. You really are bicultural. That's second nature. 
ii) By contrast, take Cuban Americans in S. Florida, especially the first generation who were escaping the Castro revolution, after Battista was overthrown. Were they acting white? Were they even acting American? Or was it just a case of the Cuban business class relocating? They transplanted their preexisting entrepreneurial culture to America.
Same thing with Jewish Americans. Are they acting white? Or does this reflect Old World values? European values? Jews already value education. Academic excellence. Lucrative jobs. 
iii) By contrast, many black and white Americans have been here for generations. They don't have to adapt. And there's not the same sense of having to start from scratch, on the bottom rung of the social ladder. They were born into a certain social status. Say, if they were born to middle class parents. Socioeconomic stasis may be sufficient. They don't necessarily aspire to a higher standard of living. They already have what they need. It's a matter of doing just enough to maintain their lifestyle. 
A more analogous comparison would be Americans born poor who resent poverty, who work their way up the social ladder. Pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Phil Robertson and Mike Huckabee are two examples. 
iv) To the extent that the Asian-American culture values social mobility, I doubt "acting white" carries the same stigma as it does in segments of the black community, where that has invidious connotations with the national mythos of the master/slave relation. 

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