Minority Illusion: The African America-Asian America Gap

By William A. Foster, IV

It is natural to man to indulge in the illusion of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, till she transforms us into beasts. – Patrick Henry

There is a reality that European Americans seem to be aware of and African Americans seems virtually clueless to. America is fast shifting from an European Diaspora controlled country to an Asian Diaspora controlled country. The social and economic crisis in Europe has lowered European immigration and economic resources flowing to the US. This reality coupled with a rapidly declining birthrate of those of European descent in the US has left an opening for a new power to arise. Asia has seen the opening led by China and seems intent on completing a mission Japan attempted with Pearl Harbor. To not only retrench European aggression toward Asia but to have it aborted all together by creating a cold war fought primarily on US soil and limit another resource invasion of the Asian continent.  The term “minority”, an European American construct, which lumps all people who are of non-European descent into the same boat as if their social, economic, and political capital are the same is both dangerous and naive for African American strategy. Somehow it appears we have become so fixated on European Americans that we are completely missing the rise of Asian America. Let us examine a few of the statistics.

Life Expectancy: Asian America – 87.3 Years* l African America – 73.6 Years

% of 25 and older with degrees: Asian America – 50%* l African America – 18%

Median Income: Asian America – $68,780* l African America – $32,068

Median Net Worth: Asian America – $83, 500** l African America – $2,170

Unemployment Rate: Asian America – 4.8%* l African America – 13.4%

Participation Rate: Asian America – 63.7% l African America – 61.7%

*Leads all ancestral groups in U.S.

** Asian America’s median net worth was actually higher than European America’s prior to the 2008 recession.

The graph below, showing Asians as the fastest growing demographic in America not Latinos, coupled with the aforementioned social and economic numbers will have vital future political implications. It is no secret that the more educated and affluent a population is the more civic and politically engaged they are. The chart is showing that not only will they have the education and money but they will have the raw votes in the coming decades to become the new majority with unbridled power and reduce European Americans to the largest minority group in America. One has to assume while some European Americans feels some level of responsibility to African Americans historically speaking – Asians Americans have no such baggage. This leaves one to wonder as Asian Americans assume power where that will leave African America in the power vacuum.

Asian Nation, a journalism site that focuses on Asian America reviewed the top colleges and universities for Asian Americans also took some student interviews. One very interesting quote from an Asian student attending Pomona College in Claremont, CA was “The issue of ‘integration’ is a loaded one in that many white students and staff often accuse students of color, specifically Asian American students, of being anti-integrationist because we feel the need to be politicized and develop leadership within our own community.” Whereas African Americans are obsessed with integration and diversity this suggest Asians plan to secure their strength from inward first and foremost. Ironically, this was the strategy originally of African America coming out of slavery but would fall by the wayside as the civil rights generation would pursue a fruitless strategy of desegregation virtually wiping out all of African America’s institutional strength.

From a geostrategic point of view between the Asian and African Diasporas influence in America one only need to look at the ownership of U.S. debt held by foreign countries. The two largest holders are China and Japan while ten of the top thirty-seven largest foreign holders are Asian countries in the latest Treasury report. There is $5.430 trillion of U.S. debt held by foreign countries and of that 53.7 percent is held by Asian countries while only 0.2 percent is held by South Africa, the lone African country present in the top thirty-seven holders in the report. It becomes clearer and clearer who is establishing influence and control from within and from the outside in America.

African America too often falls into the lull that all “minority” groups are in the same position as we are or want to simply settle for inclusion as we seem to want. As Chinatowns and other Asian enclaves pop up, African Americans continue to abandon our own communities in droves for “better” communities which we tend to deem any community other than our own. When we examine most African American neighborhoods and communities it is Asians and Arabs finding their economic footing by owning the majority of small businesses within our borders while Europeans still control virtually all of the financial outlets via banks or payday loan businesses. It would seem that everyone recognizes the value in our community but us. We continue to search for allies everywhere but from within and have put all of our chips on the illusion of inclusion instead of the reality of control and competition for resources. We are the group with the least but willing to share the most. In the end this lack of awareness about the rise of Asian America will leave African America with the same reality (actually worse) we faced in the early twentieth century when we contemplated putting our loyalty behind Russia  to liberate ourselves from the oppression of America. As it turned out as famously quoted by Dr. John H. Clarke, “We were not in a battle between a liberator and oppressor but between two oppressors with different methods of oppression. In the end Russia no more wanted us to be free any more than U.S. but they wanted us under their control.” The lion must awake because the fire of the dragon appears to be just warming up.

3 responses to “Minority Illusion: The African America-Asian America Gap

  1. Engage Asian Americans, don’t villify us. We’re not the same as white people … except for those who drink the Kool-Aid. You should take comfort in our desire to assert ourselves because it means empowerment for non-whites. Asian Americans also have a long history of discrimination and racism by whites; we can sympathize with the struggle of African Americans. I believe W.E.B. Dubois advocated empowerment of African Americans AND Asian Americans. Unfortunately, Booker T. Washington and the Atlantic Compromise won out and undermined African American political solidarity by caving to the crumbs offered by white people in power; Chinese were just plain barred from entering this country for over half a century. Our beloved president Theodore Roosevelt summed it up in the Sawanee Journal in March 1891 that white people are superior (which is why they occupied the best land on Earth), “negroids” (sorry, I think that’s the term he used) were an inferior relic from past America, and Chinese threatened to taint pure white culture. What a political force we could be if we unite (as in the United States) to bring justice to a society with a racist legacy that fostered misguided notions of white superiority.


  2. Pingback: 90 Percent of HBCU Graduates Have Student Loan Debt | HBCU Money™

  3. Brother (if you don’t mind me using that term), I’m with you in your desire to improve the lives of African Americans and support of HBCUs. But I hope racial stereotypes won’t create political rifts between two powerful demographics. Once upon a time I was getting ready to board a bus in Camden, N.J., when a middle-aged African-American woman called me an ignorant and uncivilized man from China. Little did she know about my profession which involved helping people of all races in this country. I’ve also seen (to my dismay) racism and racial stereotypes go the other way around from Asians towards Blacks. Regarding the latter, I must say I feel very embarrassed and wish I could apologize on behalf of the Asian American community, or at least the Chinese American community.

    Regarding the student debt and competition for resources, I would like to make a couple comments. First, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect someone (anyone) to make the most of their situation especially when opportunities are available to better their lot in life. Many early Asian immigrants started out in poverty. However, I find it dangerous to link the welfare of one (Asian American presence in schools and business) with the welfare of the other (discrimination against African Americans) because it can detract from the true (structural and philosophical) problems and create rifts where rifts shouldn’t exist. Second, my first comment in no way reflects on the challenges faced by African Americans in society. I have seen enough to make me feel that African Americans face some of the worst discrimination in this country, whether overtly or in more subtle ways (like not getting offered a job!). I grew up in a Black community and some of my most memorable mentors in college and the professional world were Black. They were also the most kind to me when I was often one of the few (often the only) Asians in the workplace. I always wished, and still wish, there were more African Americans in the places I work and in academia. This is probably a legacy of a system based on the notion of “white superiority” of the white race and specifically Anglo-Saxons, social darwinism. I think it has become so deeply ingrained on the national conscience that it would take a huge cultural shift to dismantle.

    And that cultural shift has now arrived. White people are fast becoming a minority in a few parts of this country. Minorities can see this as a zero-sum game where it’s winner takes all. But I hope better hearts and minds prevail to build a new society that is truly built on justice and fairness. However, that whole notion of “white superiority” won’t go away without a fight. For new immigrants, part of it is just plain ignorance; they buy into the disingenuous drivel called American History which glorifies the white man and makes “whiteness” a mark of finally making it in America. That’s why I liked your quote from the Pomona College student who didn’t feel a need to become whitewashed. But a huge portion of Asian immigrants will probably drink the white superiority Kool-Aid … and that’s why it’s so important to educate. African Americans can help the Asian American community in this matter.

    I noticed you seem to be in a position of leadership in the HBCU and African American communities. Have you considered partnering with Asian American organizations? We can certainly benefit from learning about African American efforts to bring justice and fairness into society. Perhaps the Asian American organizations can even encourage Asian American participation at Black colleges and universities. http://www.apapa.org/ comes to mind. I say we work together. Wishing you the very best!

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