Immigrant communities: conforming into the majority culture and breaking down anti-Black racism

Professor Jooyoung Lee recently spoke to CBC News about anti-Black racism in immigrant communities.  He spoke of his own experience as a Korean American in Southern California who studied hip hop culture. Professor Lee is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto with teaching responsibilities on the St. George campus. He is also a faculty member in the Centre for the Study of the United States, situated within the Munk School of Global Affairs. He is a Senior Fellow in the Yale University Urban Ethnography Project. His research focuses on race, ethnicity, hip-hip culture, gun violence, and youth justice.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below. The full story is available on the CBC News website here.

For these Asian Montrealers, breaking down anti-Blackness starts at the dinner table

June 15, 2020

By Jennifer Yoon

…As a Korean American growing up in southern California and immersed in hip-hop culture, Jooyoung Lee witnessed anti-Blackness first hand.

Now an associate professor of sociology at University of Toronto who studies how gun violence affects the health of young Black men, Lee says he is not aware of evidence that Asian Canadians are any more anti-Black than Canadians from other ethnic backgrounds. But he has a deep understanding of the historical and socio-cultural roots of anti-Black sentiment in Asian immigrant communities.

Growing up, Lee witnessed the way older generations talked about racial stratification, tinged with colourism — that is, preferential attitudes toward people with lighter skin — even within different Asian communities.

Many Asian immigrants to North America, Lee said, tend to be well-educated and were able to establish small businesses soon after their arrival. There is a lot of pressure on the next generation to succeed.

There’s a belief that to achieve that success, you need to do more than just work hard, Lee says: you also need to assimilate, to position yourself close to the culture of the majority.

That means “following the rules,” Lee said, “adopting a white name, trying to align yourself as close as possible to the dominant group, so that your kids can have an easy life — a good life.”

Many Asian immigrants buy into the idea that you should “pull yourself up by the bootstraps,” said Lee. As long as you work hard, you should be able to recover from setbacks without any outside help….

Read the full article…