What images come to mind when the words “Asians,” “Asian Americans” and “African Americans” are mentioned? Do the images revolve around negative racial stereotypes of the various groups, beginning with a portrait of African Americans, as “noncitizens,” and as “discredited outlaws,” as noted by Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison in her categorization of “race talk”? Conversely, when images of Asians are conjured, is what comes to mind a picture of pig-tailed Chinese immigrants, along with recent Asian newcomers, eager to maintain social distance from discredited black outlaws? Do the images, which the groups often carry of one another, extend to their histories of shared diminished racial status and stereotyping, recalling a period in history when a significant segment of African American men were mocked as “George,” “Sam” and “Rastus,” and Chinese immigrants were ridiculed as “John.” How have these images shaped relations between the groups?
Are there elements of commonality between Blacks and Asians in America? What historical forces have shaped their interactions? This volume, edited by Hazel M. McFerson, brings together a diverse group of scholars to address these questions. Their chapters are as diverse as their backgrounds, yet they all contribute without pessimism or naivete to a view of the varied interactions, which symbolized the crossings, commonality and conflict between Asians and African Americans during different periods, and to their prospects for future interactions.
This book is divided into three parts. Part I examines relations dating from the mid-18th century to the late 1940s. Part II of the book examines contemporary issues and explores changes in Asian and Asian American communities and outlooks often characterized by “race talk and social distance” from African Americans. Part III of the book focuses on the international dimension of Asian/African American interactions and crossings. The book concludes with an assessment of the implications for contemporary economic interests and solidarity in Africa and Asia today.