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An Affirmative Action Memoir

... The schools obviously categorized my girlfriend [a Mexican American] as an underrepresented Hispanic and me [a Filipino American] an overrepresented Asian. The categories assumed that I belonged more with my Japanese American classmates than with my Mexican American prom date.

This assumption, however, captured just part of my story. Though I shared certain values with Asian Americans, I also shared certain customs with Latinos. In some respects, especially where Catholic and Spanish influences were concerned, I arguably had more in common with Latinos. On Sundays, for example, I occasionally attended Spanish-language Mass and followed the homily, which contained words that Tagalog speakers understood. Yet these commonalities seemingly went overlooked.

This article is an interesting comment on the crudeness of standard racial categories in capturing a person's experience. I wonder to what extent there's a feedback from categorization to identity (though certainly a milder one than in an official-racial-classification-dominated situation like aparteid South Africa). Does the existence of the category of "Asian" lead someone like the author to feel more commonality with his Japanese-origin peers than he would in a situation in which Filipino and Japanese were totally separate categories, creating a larger degree of justification for the classifications after the fact? I recall hearing that such an effect was deliberately produced by the creation of the "white" racial category, bridging what had been a fierce divide between Anglo-Nordic people and the Irish, Italians, etc.

UPDATE: The author, Robert Tagorda, points to a post on his blog that elaborates further.


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