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Pseudo-racism among Chicano(a), Asian and African Americans: implications of the black/white dichotomy.


The black/white dichotomy in America has dictated conventional concepts of racism. People of color are consistently portrayed as victim and the Euro mainstream as perpetrator. In fact, following years of Euro colonization and/or domination Chicano(a), Asian and African Americans act out racist behaviors. The result is pseudo-racism whereby those lighter-skinned assume the psychological demeanor of a dominant group. The reluctance of scholars to acknowledge its existence is reinforcing. Resolution will require that people of color confront and dialogue directly with one another about their role in the racist aftermath.

1. Introduction

As an historical phenomenon, racism has persisted in stagnating the evolution of certain groups. Its tenacity is not peculiar to Euro ethnics. For the purpose of analysis racism is thus defined as: "the efforts of a dominant group to exclude a dominated group from sharing in the material and symbolic rewards of status and power" (Tidwell, 1990-1991). It differs from other forms of discrimination in that qualification is based upon observable and assumed physiological traits (Wilson, 1992). In America the Euro version implies the inherent superiority of European ethnics which are then rationalized as a natural order of the biological universe (Brinson, 1995). It is otherwise characterized as "white supremacy."

Among people of color "racism" has been all but ignored in the scholarly literature. In fact, such persons manifest racist behaviors on the basis of color whereby those light-skinned presume the social and psychological demeanor of a dominant group (Randolph, 1995). It is more aptly defined as secondary racism in which victims act out behaviors normally associated with the perpetrators of primary racism. Notwithstanding, to then characterize racism as black/white dichotomy does disservice to the scientific method. It enables the rhetoric of hierarchy within a single species and in fact provides a conduit for the continued social economic, and political oppression of all. However, their deserving of sympathy, manifestations of "racism" among people of color cannot be ignored. Investigating their role may not be popular or "politically correct," but to do so regardless is what distinguishes science from quackery (Aro, 1995; Morris, 1992).

A cursory review of the scholarly literature affirms a bias in the analysis of racism (Christodoulou, 1991; Garcia & Swenson, 1992; Longres & Seltzer, 1994). Not only are Euro Americans consistently regarded as perpetrators but people of color are consistently regarded as victims. Nonetheless, people of color enable their own victimization (Lancaster, 1991).

Among people of color manifestations of "racism" are a direct result of Euro conquest, colonization and/or domination. Following conquest, colonization enabled Europeans to export their norms, which people of color internalized. The uppermost in status became those people of color whose skin approximates that of the European norm, the least being an extreme opposite (Sorensen, 1993). It enabled a value system that is in many ways not only physiologically alien but psychologically brutal (Soule, 1992). Under the circumstances those darkest suffer the most acute forms of racism reflected in marital patterns, family disjointure and social status.

As expected, intermarriage represented the most dramatic display of racism. Attitude studies of Chicano(a)s in Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and San Antonio further confirm these findings, with all groups overwhelmingly opposing intermarriage (Dyer, Vedlitz, & Worchel, 1989). Given the lack of any significant historical confrontations between Chicano(a) and African Americans, the rejection of African Americans by Chicano(a)s is arguably pseudo-racist (Stoddard, 1973).

The idealization of light skin by Asian Americans conforms to Euro domination and has a long, established history (Banerjee, 1985; Bond & Cash, 1992; Gopaul-McNichol, 1988; Montalvo, 1987). It precludes their manifestation of pseudo-racism. Japanese Americans, migrate bringing notions pertaining to light skin that exacerbate racist ideas regarding dark skin (Washington, 1990). When they begin the assimilation process, the belief that light skin is superior and dark denotes inferiority imposes upon their ability to interact socially with darker-skinned Americans (Kim, 1990; Washington, 1990). It may in fact have contributed to the recent tensions between African and Korean American communities in Los Angeles and various other parts of the nation (Hartman, 1992; Kim, 1990; Norman, 1994; Pearson & Kirby, 1993). It is a reflection of domination whereby Asians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who once settled in America constantly seek ways to prove themselves "white" (Mazumdar, 1989).

Perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of pseudo-racism among people of color is referred to as "brown racism." According to Washington (1990), brown racism is perpetrated by Mestizos, Chinese, Filipinos, and South Asians against persons of African descent. It is a variation of Euro racism that probably occurred as a result of colonization. The behaviors are obvious but seldom addressed given the superfluous characterization of racism as a black/white dichotomy.

Among African Americans, consistently the ultimate objective of domination, the manifestations of pseudo-racism prevail no less (Lakshmanasamy & Madheswaran, 1995). Their darkest skin has evolved a "master status." It differentiates them from the Euro mainstream and dark-skinned African Americans from light-skinned as an inferior element of the population (Garcia & Swenson, 1992; Herrnstein & Murray, 1994). So potent is this "master status" that it has recently served as grounds for litigation between African Americans of light and dark skin color belonging to the same ethnic group (Hiskey, 1990; Morrow vs. IRS, 1990). A resort to legal tactics is an indication that for some, racism has been particularly painful. In the aftermath, African Americans develop disdain for dark skin because the disdain is a by-product of domination (Anderson, 1991; Martinez, 1993).

Given the increasing variation of skin color indicative of today's American population, the scholastic community must educate itself and acknowledge the victim dimension of racism. It is a necessity of the person-in-the-environment approach to enable the comprehension of environment from the perspective of those previously colonized/dominated. It will also counter the assumed prejudice students bring to the classroom.

In conclusion, the aforementioned suggests areas for future research, education, and training. Hitherto unexplored, light skin internalized by people of color as a norm is no less pathological than Euro racism. People of color must confront such an issue directly if they are to understand its overall implication for their oppression in toto. It is a person-in-the-environment phenomenon capable of exalting the analysis of racism wherever and under whatever circumstances it exists.


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Ronald E. Hall *

* Tel.: +1-517-353-3014.

E-mail address: (R.E. Hall).

Ronald E. Hall is a research assistant in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University.
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Author:Hall, Ronald E.
Publication:The Social Science Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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