Table of Contents
Lisa Lowe focuses on the concept of identity of Chinese Americans. The author studies the shifts that have happened or are still happening in the definition of Asian American, and especially – Chinese American woman. The author also describes the binary concept and states that it has a number of complications and limitations.
The concept of binary thinking is based on categorizing everything in two groups. Usually it is the division into “us” and “others” using one category. In this way one group can form and ostracize everyone who is different. Usually people form a majority using this type of thinking. Consequently, a minority is formed simultaneously. For example, the two groups could be ‘heterosexuals’ and ‘homosexuals’. In binary thinking any feature or quality can be a defining one – ethnicity, religion, race, etc. The greatest danger of binary thinking is the existiance of dominant and subordinate groups. This is exactly what Lisa Lowe warns about in the article: “Binary constructions of difference use a logic that prioritizes the first term and subordinates the second” (p. 684). It means that in binary thinking the two groups can never be equal. One will represent the dominating majority and the other – the subordinating minority. Therefore one can never talk about binary thinking and equality.
The brightest example of binary thinking in the US history was the segregation depending on race, which existed up till the middle of the 20th century. The dominant White population of America has discriminated the Black minority. African Americans were not only deprived of their basic civil rights, but this segregation existed in public transport (different parts of busses for different races), universities, and even public WCs. Segregation has probably become the most organized result of binary thinking in the US history. Along with being an integral part of the US history for centuries, this form of binary thinking has been forming the mentalities of American citizens. As a result, the color of one’s skin is probably the first factor, according to which people judge each other. Segregation as a result of the binary thinking and the following human rights movement ha shaped many domestic policies in the 20th century. This binary construct has stimulated the development of such notions as positive discrimination and hate speech.
Geopolitics affecting domestic race relations
Carol Anderson’s book focuses on the fight for human rights, making emphasis on the post-World War II era. The author presents a thorough study of the discrimination and violent treatments of African American population in the post-War era. The book also presents all the main actors from both sides, such as congressman James Byrnes, who openly supported lynching, or the Executive Director of the National Negro Congress Revels Cayton.
The Cold War has stopped the development of human rights for African American population of the US. During this era the notion of ‘human rights’ became synonymous to ‘communism’. As a result, even such political figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a supporter of ‘Black Equality’ movement, ceased her actions and restricted herself to a very limited amount of supported rights. She made a clear distinction between political and legal equality on one hand and economic and social rights, which were seen as creations of communist ideology. And the Cold War with the Soviet Union led to the denial of all notions that were even a bit related to the communist ideas. In this case those were economic and social rights, which, as a result, were immediately denied to the Black population. Thus African American organizations were not only deprived of the support of politician in their struggle for social rights, but could even be considered communists and thus punished for their beliefs.
This is a useful lesson that can be used in current attitudes to other racial minority – the Arabs. Now the US is faced with a similar problem – the Iraq wars and the possible location of nuclear weapons in Iran have shaped a very external politics in terms of the Arabic world. But these external politics also influence the attitudes towards US citizens of the Arabic origin. These people are being discriminated only because of their ethnicity, which should no be happening, as they still remain the US citizens, as well as African Americans were in times of the Cold War.