Part of the Race Problem is the Problem with Race

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Race vs. Ethnicity.

I’ve observed a tendency for many people to lump all people of Asian descent into one large monolithic “Asian” group. There are 42 countries in the continent of Asia–all with their own languages, customs, and culture. Of the Asian groups that have immigrated to the states and specifically found their way to this portion of the map, there is a vast diversity amongst us. Chinese people are different from Japanese people, Japanese people are different from Filipinos, Filipinos are different from Vietnamese people, Vietnamese people are different from Indians and so forth. There is a rich cultural diversity that this label could never capture. I find this problematic.

To add another layer of nuance, often when people are referring to Asian, really they mean East Asian (Korean, Japanese, and Chinese). This reduces the idea of Asian to this specific region which erases a lot of people.

This led me to think about the notion of race in general and how this ethnic/cultural erasure isn’t exclusive to the Asian experience. Not all Black people are African American. Not all Latinos are Mexicans. Not all Indigenous peoples come from the same tribe. Before they lost their culture to assimilation and melded into one large nebulous mass, there was even diversity amongst white people.

The consequence on labeling large groups of people is that we lose the intricacies of our humanity. This categorization of people is done out of a combination of convenience and necessity. Though I believe this simplification is needed at times, it becomes an issue when we forget that we also hold inside of us complexities as vast as the universe.

I think in order for a person to become more racially conscious and socially aware, they must be able to successfully navigate this binary between the oversimplification of race and the tremendous complexity of ethnicity. Both play essential roles in this society. If you solely focus on race, then you’ll be missing an ocean of cultural and ethnic wealth out there in the world. If your concentration lays exclusively in ethnicity, then you’ll fail to comprehend a critical component of our society.

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