Interminority racism in the United States

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Interminority racism, also known as interminority bullying or interminority hatred, is prejudice or discrimination between racial minorities. This article strictly addresses interminority racism as it exists in the United States.

Racial tension[edit]

There has been long-running racial tension between African Americans and Latino Americans.[1][2] In several significant riots in California prisons, Latino and black inmates targeted each other specifically, over racial issues.[3][4] There have been reports of racially motivated attacks against African Americans who have moved into neighborhoods occupied mostly by Hispanic Americans, and vice versa.[5][6]

There have also been inter-racial tensions between African Americans and Asian Americans.[7]

Current US policy advocates a multiculturalist discourse to acknowledge multiracial difference. Multiculturalist theorists like Claire Jean Kim criticizes that this contemporary policy because it still refuses to acknowledge the interminority inequalities and antagonisms generated by this new diversity.[8]

Tensions between African Americans and Asian Americans[edit]

Despite both African Americans and Asian Americans suffering from racial prejudice, there exists tension between each other. Often during discussions of racial tension in the United States, the focus has been on black-white relations, while failing to include the perspective of Asians in the racial discourse.[9] This has left Asian Americans stuck in limbo, as both ethnic groups avoid identifying with them. Yet among minority groups in the United States, Asian Americans are extolled as the “model minority”, given their statistically high reported educational scores and incomes, leaving other groups left as the “others”.[9] Despite a shared history of facing discrimination between African Americans and Asian Americans, there is a modern underlying tone of tension between the two groups.


Due to the United States’ Naturalization Act of 1790, only “free white person(s)” were eligible to be naturalized as American citizens with the full rights that accompany them.[10] While the intention at the time was to avoid granting African slaves the same privileges as European American colonists, this left all future immigrants and ethnic minorities, including those from Asia and Africa, without full naturalization.

The 19th century divided and then tied the fates of African Americans and Asian Americans together. Before the 1870 Census, Asian Americans marked themselves as “white” in the official census and began to first be called “model minorities” given a societal reputation for "hard work".[11][9] Yet legally and politically, the judicial system found Asian Americans to be considered the same as African Americans. In the California court case, People v. Hall,  the court found that people of Asian descent could not testify under existing legal acts that prohibited testimony from people of African descent. According to the California Supreme Court, the court ruled“[T]he words ‘Black person’...must be taken as contradistinguished from White, and necessarily excludes all races other than the Caucasian”.[12] As the 19th century progressed, Acts of Congress such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Geary Act of 1892 effectively barred further immigration of Asian Americans till the 20th century.[13]

The beginning of a mass movement of Asians immigrating and naturalizing into the United States came through the Immigration and Naturalization Law of 1952, which repealed previous barriers on Asian immigration.[13] While this allowed for the de jure protection of the formation of Asian immigration into the United States, this did not protect them from the de facto prejudice and segregation faced by ethnic minorities.

As Asian Americans established their niches in society, they faced discrimination from white Americans who treated them like they did African Americans at the time. With members of organizations like the Ku Klux Klan intimidating, assaulting, and attacking Asian Americans (particularly Chinese Americans), the arrival of the Civil Rights Movement and its successive laws helped codify the rights and protections of ethnic minorities.[9] Despite facing similar nativist attacks on their culture and people, Asian Americans and African Americans found themselves divided and clashing within the 20th century.

Asian Americans' Role as Explained by the Middleman Theory[edit]

This tension and divide can be best explained not as an analysis of two ethnic groups, but as an analysis of the role ethnic minorities have played as a whole within American society. As more ethnic groups began entering the civil discourse in the United States, main media and social figures began painting these groups as subdivisions of the white-black divide. Western American society views Asian Americans’ successes as lumped together with European Americans. This is often used as a comparison to the economic struggles of African Americans often negating their struggles. Comparatively, they are seen socially as part of the same minority culture as other ethnic groups compared to “white” culture. The divisions are even more pronounced through what has been identified as “middle man theory".[14][15]

This idea has been used to describe the relationship that Asian Americans often play between European Americans and African Americans, and is centralized around the idea that one group acts as a linking partner to other groups, where these groups are typically divided by class or race. In terms of the Asian American-African American relationship, Asian Americans have played the role of middlemen between African Americans and European Americans, cultivating a niche as shopkeepers and merchants.[15]

Within this relationship, Asian Americans are seen to be profiting from both ethnic groups, which can fuel the stereotype of the “model minority” from European Americans, as well as a distrust from and of African Americans. From this viewpoint, Asian Americans from their societal privileges can be viewed as being the same as European Americans by African Americans in terms of having a larger median income as well as receiving on average lighter punishments from the American judicial system.[9][15] Meanwhile, a significant percentage of Asian Americans share a view with European Americans that African Americans “aren’t capable of getting ahead” according to a study conducted by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.[16] This sentiment flared especially during the era of racial tension in Los Angeles surrounding the Rodney King case.

Rodney King Riots[edit]

Los Angeles leading up to 1992 had a large number of Korean Americans.[17] As people migrated from Korea during and after the Korean War, many moved to settle in Los Angeles, but could not work in the same traditionally white collar jobs they held back home.[15] Instead, many opened up businesses in areas where the rent was cheap in predominantly African American communities.[9] Korean American and African American community leaders soon realized that tension existed predominantly due to differences in culture as well as a language barrier. This came to a head during the era of the riots as Korean grocer Soon Ja Du shot and killed a black teenage girl in her store, and received a remarkably milder sentence compared to other sentences given by judges at the time to African Americans in the judicial system.[15]

Relations worsened during the Rodney King Riots, as riots and protests hit 2,200 Korean small businesses.[18] African Americans felt cheated by the judicial system, as they had faced much more stringent punishments for charges involving an armed weapon, while Korean Americans felt targeted and attacked by the African American community for having their businesses destroyed.[15] This led to Korean Americans being divided by those who felt abandoned by the police and those who felt threatened by African Americans in their community.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Race relations | Where black and brown collide |
  2. ^ Riot Breaks Out At Calif. High School, Melee Involving 500 People Erupts At Southern California School - CBS News
  3. ^ JURIST - Paper Chase: Race riot put down at California state prison Archived 2010-03-07 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-23. Retrieved 2007-08-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Gang mayhem grips LA | World news | The Observer
  6. ^ BAW: The Hutchinson Report: Thanks to Latino Gangs, There’s a Zone in L.A. Where Blacks Risk Death if They Enter Archived 2007-01-17 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Psy’s “Hangover:” Challenging Asian American and African American Relations
  8. ^ Kim, Claire Jean. "Imagining race and nation in multiculturalist America" in Ethnic and Racial Studies. Nov 2004. 27:6.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Ancheta, Angelo (2008). Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813539027.
  10. ^ "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875 Statutes at Large, 1st Congress, 2nd Session". Library of Congress. 1790. Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  11. ^ W., Loewen, James (1988). The Mississippi Chinese : between Black and white (2nd ed.). Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press. ISBN 0881333123. OCLC 17808912.
  12. ^ People v. Hall, 4 Cal. 399, 405 (October 1854)
  13. ^ a b Holland, Kenneth M. (August 2007). "A History of Chinese Immigration in the United States and Canada". American Review of Canadian Studies. 37 (2): 150–160. doi:10.1080/02722010709481851. ISSN 0272-2011.
  14. ^ Kitano, Harry H. L. (November 1974). "Japanese Americans: The Development of a Middleman Minority". Pacific Historical Review. 43 (4): 500–519. doi:10.2307/3638430. JSTOR 3638430.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Park, Kyeyoung (September 1996). "Use and Abuse of Race and Culture: Black-Korean Tension in America". American Anthropologist. 98 (3): 492–499. doi:10.1525/aa.1996.98.3.02a00030.
  16. ^ National Conference, Taking America’s Pulse: A Summary Report of the National Survey on Inter-Group Relations  (New York: National Conference, 1994), 5.
  17. ^ Ban, Hyun; Adams, R.C. (June 1997). "L.A. Times Coverage of Korean Americans before, after 1992 Riots". Newspaper Research Journal. 18 (3–4): 64–78. doi:10.1177/073953299701800305. ISSN 0739-5329.
  18. ^ "25 years after LA riots, Koreatown finds strength in 'Saigu' legacy". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-02-28.