Education

Professor Argues Asians Are Guilty Of ‘Colorblind Racism’

White people are not the only ones in trouble with social justice professors, as Asians are the latest demographic to be accused of racism — this time in the form of “colorblind racism.”

An Asian American Studies professor at the University of Illinois says that interactions between Asian American students and international Asian students carries the risk of reinforcing so-called “colorblind racism.” Soo Ah Kwon says that students reinforce that form of racism in their attempts to reach out to their international counterparts.

Discovering that international students self-segregate by nationality, professor Kwon says that efforts to integrate them into the local community reflect the pervasiveness of “normative whiteness” on campus.

“We problematize this schema not only because it places undue responsibility upon Asian American students but [because] it also renders the experiences of racial marginalization and discrimination invisible for international and domestic racial minority students,” writes Kwon.

Kwon says “colorblind racism” happens when people do not take race into account when confronting issues, which she argues is problematic because it ignores “structures of power that privileges whiteness and white supremacy.”

Campus Reform reported on Tuesday that the professor and two co-authors made their comments in a special issue of Race, Ethnicity, and Education (REE).

“In other words, efforts to mitigate racial difference is understood and marked as belonging to non-white students in a colorblind society,” Kwon said.

Campus Reform reports that the professor and her co-authors based their conclusion on interviews with students at Midwestern University, as well as data from a four-year research project, which focused on Asian American cultural clubs. The clubs have, in recent years, made efforts to integrate foreign students due to their influx into Chicago-based colleges.

Kwon found that despite efforts to integrate these students, many of them preferred to self-segregate among their own nationality. The international students described their decision as a “preference,” a notion Kwon found troubling. Instead of taking their word for it,  the professor believes that their choices were based on “past historical injustices” and “contemporary racism under normative whiteness.”

Kwon theorizes that “normative whiteness,” rather than personal comfort and preference, is what causes international Asian students to self-segregate. Citing a student named Sam, who had an “inability to make friends beyond his fellow circle of Asian Americans,” Kwon observed that the student didn’t consider that the issue to be caused by “forms of racial discrimination.”

She argues that the fact international students didn’t see self-segregation as a problem only served to “reinforce colorblind racism,” as they chose not to blame their personal choices on anything else.

To combat “colorblind racism,” Kwon says students’ preference for self-segregation must be contested by college administrators. She argues that it “must be an institutional responsibility that takes serious stock of racism and marginalization of domestic minority and international students on campus.”

The professor does not offer any suggestions on how to force students to recognize that their personal preferences are dictated by white supremacy.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.