Monthly Archives: April 2002

Identity Issues Final Exam

April 30, 2002

(This was written for my “Identity Issues in America” political science class,

and while I think multiculturalism is inherently a racist idea, if you’re going to write about it, might as well do it well.)

POLS 306 FINAL EXAM

DAVID V.

April 30, 2002

 

Question One:

Geoffrey Fox argues that the “Hispanic American” identity is an American construct, and just like any other identity, it is an artificial creation, not an inherent or permanent characteristic of the people it describes. He presents a convincing argument that the history of the Hispanic American is a recent creation, one that is a “statistical fiction being turned into a social reality” (p. 23)

 

On page 16, Fox writes “There is no such thing as authentic identity, ethnic or otherwise. There are only the identities that we make up or that others make up and impose on us, and the one that stick evolves in an ever present process of assertion and reaction.” The heart of an identity seems to be that it is an ever-shifting balance between outsiders assertions and definition of the group and the group member’s own view of their identity. An example of this process is presented in Koreans in the Hood, in which Kwang Chung Kim analyzes in detail the process through which a new identity is shaped. Kim argues that the Korean-American identity was a response to the Los Angeles riots and on page 205, he says “the US society’s ideological constructions of who Korean-Americans are played a pivotal role in their peripheralization” and in response, they “consciously engaged themselves in the (re)construction and politization of their collective identity as a way to challenge the situation.” From Kim’s arguments, we can conclude that while the Korean immigrant population existed as a distinct group and served the role of a go-between minority before the Los Angeles riots, Korean immigrants and their descendants did not feel that they needed to organize and assume a political aspect until the media and general populace formed a negative stereotype of them. In response, they organized as an “official” minority group so that they could participate in the political process and claim victim status as a group when both the looters and the media assaulted its members (the merchants in particular) in the LA riots.

 

For Hispanic Americans, several actors shaped and created their identity, with the US Census Bureau and the Spanish-language media playing major roles. As Fox mentions, the current use of the word “Hispanic” originated as “Spanish-Hispanic” in the 1980 census. Not long after the category was created, politicians began appealing to the “Hispanic vote” and two rapidly expanding Spanish-language television networks began to solidify and redefine the group. Because both Univision and Telemundo were able to reach the great majority of the Spanish-speaking population, they became the “mirror of the community” (p. 46) and function as a medium through which language and news are standardized and presented in a common format that further differentiates Hispanics both from English-speaking Americans and they countries from which they came. Their news stories focus on the concerns of their nations of origin as well as issues influencing Latinos in the United States, and because everyone hears the same stories, a common worldview is created and perpetuated. The language used in Spanish language media is also a standardized and English-influence version of Spanish, and because the same news anchors are seen throughout the US, a standard language is developed among the ethnic group. Thus, not only is the Hispanic political identity a recent creation, but it is constantly being redefined and influenced both by its American and foreign roots.

If identities can be created and adopted, they must also be susceptible to being discarded and destroyed, or at least weakened. Fox gives a great example of such a case with the German immigrant group. Despite 58 million Americans having descended from German immigrants, their status as a distinct ethnic group has all but disappeared except for a few small pockets that celebrate German cultures in a uniquely American way. (p. 240) Just as German –language schools once aroused Anglo fears of an “invading” culture, bilingual education is raising the same concerns. In the meantime however, American language and society seeps into Hispanic culture and language as even Spanish language television is directed and produced in English with many of the staff having only a basic grasp of Spanish, and the anchors themselves using English conventions in their Spanish. While the stream of new immigrants reinforces the Latino identity, the experience of other immigrant groups demonstrates that identity needs to be constantly reinforced or it will be absorbed into the mainstream society. Similarly, the Korean – American identity, while first meant solely to emphasize the “American” part for political purposes is taking on the role of highlighting and educating the public about Korean culture and working with the larger Asian-American movement in a fashion typical of an American interest group. As Fox says: “identities are subject to change and must be actively defended if they are to be preserved” (p. 16) and both the Korean-American and Hispanic movements provide evidence for his claim.

 

In conclusion, a “Hispanic American” or “Korean American” identity is just that – an uniquely American phenomenon that is a response to both outside and inside recognition of group identity that lasts only as long as both sides continue to reinforce such an identity. Both groups originated in response to “home-grown discrimination” as Fox calls it, and both identities will last only as long as there is a perceived need for their use. For Korean Americans, the “American” part of the identity servers as a reminder to outsiders that they consider themselves to be Americans, not temporary visitors. For Hispanics, the “Hispanic” part of their identity reminds of them of a common language and common problems and interest that can be addresses when they organize. Thus, what makes the people that use these identities unique is not their skin color but their shared desire to recognize a certain heritage for specific political and cultural purposes — and their identity will persist only as long as those needs are present and recognized.


Question Two:

The basic principle behind postethnicity is the view that all group associations should be fluid and voluntary and an individual should be able to choose which of the various groups he belongs to, if any as his primary identification. Postethnicity views all identities as constructed, appreciates that an individual may belong to multiple groups simultaneously and encourages a cosmopolitan attitude of being able to borrow different elements from different groups and create new identities in the process. The primary challenges to the postethnic perspective are that groups are often defined by outsiders rather than group members, and that groups often serve a specific function, particularly of redressing past harms, that would be harmed by a view of voluntary group membership.

 

The primary goal of postethnicity is to view identities as constructed and dynamic. As David Hollinger says on page 117 of Postethnic America, “Boundaries between groups deserve more rather than less respect according to the degree to which these groups reflect the will of the people bound to them.” In other words, we can tell much more about a person by looking at the choices they make in joining specific groups than the groups they were born into and had no choice in. Postethnicity states that while we may not be able to choose which country we originate from or which skin color our parents had, we still can decide how much emphasis, of any to give to those factors. This view contrasts with today’s multiculturalism as conservative African Americans are sometimes criticized for being “too white” or “selling out” just as liberal whites fighting racism used to be called “nigger lovers” who betrayed their white skin. The idea that one could somehow “sell out” to a skin color would be equality ridiculous to a post ethnic person whichever way the supposed sellout was. Of course, what one really is selling out to is the idea that race implies a fixed and immutable political identity – which is precisely what postethnicity rejects.

 

Postethnicity adapts the view that a person simultaneously may belong to several groups at once and can choose which ones he identifies within the context of his particular situation. Geoffrey Fox presents the example of the second-generation girl living in a minority area whose parents are Korean immigrants, whose friends are Spanish-speaking coworkers. She may identify herself as Korean-American, Hispanic, a woman or an American depending on the context. An even better example would be my roommate – who was born in Taiwan, moved to and grew up in Honduras and has become thoroughly acculturated with American influence since permanently moving to the States to attend college. Despite his Taiwanese origins, his primary language is Spanish, though he chooses to be an active member of the Chinese Student Association – which to me seems all the more unusual, since Taiwan is on less then friendly terms with China. The sort of cosmopolitan attitude in which a person is able to pick and choose among the various groups he belongs to and may even join new ones is exactly the sort of postethnic attitude that David Hollinger proposes.

 

Postethnicity is not without its challenges, however. There are many politically and financially motivated individuals who stand to lose from a postethnic perspective. The primary problem with postethnicity seems to be that many group identities are formed in response to negative outside stereotypes of groups and may not be so easily discarded even if desired. Hollinger proposes that a couple adopt a child of another race as a postethnic act by virtue of the parents choosing a family bond over a genetic bond, (p.117) but that child will still grow up in a world where he and his parents are viewed as belonging to different ethnic groups whether they like it or not. Similarly, I could not suddenly assume a Japanese-American identity just as I could not discard my Jewish identity because to many Jews I will always be Jewish no matter how secular my daily life is. Nevertheless, Hollinger would reply to this argument by saying that one cannot form a new identity from scratch, and any new identity I assume would still contain elements that originally shaped my personality. Furthermore, the many competing groups in today’s society all clamor for as many members and as much influence as possible and will not easily let go of the notion of fixed identity groups. The Jewish lobby for example, will push for more support of Israel and include me in its count of “voting Jews” when trying to influence politicians – and even thought I live a totally secular life, I might well be biased towards Israel because of the many relatives I have there.

 

Finally, fixed identity groups – the ethno-racial pentagon in particular — serve to address past harms, and in such cases, it makes more sense to view identities are perceived by outsiders rather than individual group associations. It would make little sense to measure discrimination by asking people what groups they feel they belong to rather than asking the public what attitudes they hold about these same groups. However, this is more of a problem of superficial and racist attitudes on the part of the public, and promoting a postethnic perspective may well be the solution to such attitudes. They key would be to distinguish between how an identity is viewed by outsiders versus how an identity is viewed by the person claiming it and then use the outside identity for the purpose of addressing discrimination and the self-identity for the purpose of developing a postethnic sense of individuality and group membership.

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Notes: My OAC and IHS Essays — My life goals, major influences, etc..

IHS:

A list of the five intellectual figures or books that have

most influenced your philosophical and political

thinking, and a single sentence for each stating how it

has influenced you.

Free to Choose – This book was my first introduction to free market concepts and the harmful effects of government regulation and intervention

Murray N. Rothbard – As I learned more about libertarian ideas, I started to read Rothbard from whom I gained a new perspective on the political spectrum and what it meant to choose freedom.

Economics in One Lesson – Henry Hazzlit explained many economic and social fallacies that I had grown up hearing, which confirmed and reinforced my belief in a free market.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand gave me a philosophical argument for free will and the pursuit self-interest and provided a foundation for my ethical system on top of my libertarian political beliefs.

Ludwig Von Mises – Reading daily articles and commentary from the Mises Institute gave me an introduction to Austrian economics and explained its application to current events and upcoming issues.

Dr. Morgan Reynolds – My Law and Economics professor explained the benefits of a free market and limited government from a Chicago-based efficiency standpoint and renewed my faith in academia, even though he has been the only libertarian professor I have ever taken.

A statement of no more than 250 words on your career

goals, immediate and long term, and how the

Summer Fellow Program would help you reach them.

As a political science and economics major, I am interested in graduating as a double major with a minor in Russian and eventually going on to business school to receive an MBA. I am passionate about my message of liberty and free markets and would like to promote market-based ideas in the business world. I am highly skilled in computer technology, and would like to apply those skills in the market while advancing the cause for freedom. I am currently fluent in two languages, English and Russian, and by the time I complete my education hope to be fluent in three. With these sets of skills, I am particularly interested in participating in business ventures in the former Eastern-Bloc which advance private investment and property rights (rather than the more common methods of quasi-government schemes attempting to mimic private firms). I am particularly inspired by the market-based management of Koch Industries, and I would like to use those concepts in my own business pursuits.

A statement of no more than 500 words about which

policy issues and potential host organizations interest

you and why. A complete list of participating policy

groups is available on the IHS web page; however, you

may indicate organizations not on the list.

I am interested in many policy issues, but primarily economic ones such as fiscal and monetary policy. I am also interested in health care and environmental policy – specifically free-market reforms of healthcare and private property solutions. I think that the CATO institute and CEI would be perfect places for me to have my internship. As a former member of the Sierra Club, I was very concerned with environmental issues. Since then, I have read several books on free market approaches to environmental problems, and CEI has been a major source of information for me, from whom I have discovered property rights as a superior alternative to corporate taxation and regulation. As an economics major, I am also very interested in various economic issues, such as social security, monetary policy, and regulation of international trade, which have lead to me to be a regular reader of CATO editorials and reports.

 

  1. A brief essay, 500 words or less, about why you would like to participate in a seminar. You might discuss: what interests you about classical liberal or libertarian ideas; what intellectual figures or works have most contributed to your thinking on political, social and economic issues; or what you hope to learn or gain from the seminar

 

 

I would like to participate in the IHS summer seminar because I am deeply interested in ideas about liberty and would like to obtain the intellectual ammunition I need to support and promote my libertarian beliefs.

I have not always been a supported of classical liberalism. My family emigrated from the USSR when I was ten because my father believed that the things he believed made America great were liberty and self-determination – something I did not come to believe until much later. When I was going through high school, I was exposed to and accepted the dominant liberal ideology that viewed government intervention as crucial in all areas of society and economics. When I started college as an aerospace engineering major, I became involved in political issues that matched the liberal ideas I had been exposed to in high school, but as I read more and more about economics, I started seeing the fundamental incompatibilities of statist policy with reality. Milton Friedman’s _Free to Choose_ was my first introduction to free market concepts and the harmful effects of government regulation and intervention, followed by _Economics in One Lesson_ by Henry Hazzlit, who explained many economic and social fallacies that I had grown up hearing and confirmed and reinforced my belief in a free market.

At the beginning sophomore year, I decided to change my major to economics and political science so I could study my newly discovered interest in economics full time. Dr. Morgan Reynolds – my Law and Economics professor explained the benefits of a free market and limited government from a Chicago-based efficiency standpoint and renewed my faith in academia, even though he has been the only libertarian professor I have ever taken. Reading daily articles and commentary from the Mises Institute introduced Austrian economics and explained its application to current events and upcoming issues. Ayn Rand’s _Atlas Shrugged_ gave me a philosophical argument for free will and the pursuit of self-interest and filled in the ethical system on top of my libertarian political beliefs.

My formal academic education starkly contrasts the libertarian beliefs that I have come to hold — my classes are often a struggle to defend my ideas to myself, my professors and my classmates. Because of this, I would greatly appreciate the chance to learn about ideas on liberty first hand from a group such as the IHS. I have been very active in speaking about classical liberal ideas these last two years and with the help of the IHS, I can learn to present my ideas even more effectively.

 

 

 

*2. A brief essay, 200 words or less, about your career interests. You might explain your career interests and priorities, your plans for the next two years, or your seminar choice

As a political science and economics major, I am interested in graduating as a double major with a minor in Russian and going on to business school to receive an MBA. I am passionate about my message of liberty and free markets and would like to promote it from the perspective of a successful executive, whatever field I end up working at. I am currently fluent in two languages and by the time I complete my education, I hope to be fluent in three so that I can work with international firms and help spread capitalism and liberty around the world.


 

 

OAC:

 

Describe your career goals and how attending the OAC will be of value to you. 500-word limit.

I would like to participate in the OAC Undergraduate Program because I am deeply interested in Objectivism and would like to obtain the intellectual ammunition I need to

support and promote reason on campus and in my future vocation.

 

I will be graduating next year as a double major with a political science and economics double major degree and a minor in Russian and going on to get a Masters of Science in Management of Information Systems. I am passionate about my ideas on reason, liberty and free markets and would like to promote it from the perspective of a successful businessman, in whatever field I end up working at. I am currently fluent in two languages and by the time I complete my education, I hope to be fluent in three so that I can work with international firms and help spread capitalism and liberty around the world.

 

Despite having emigrated from the USSR in 1990 with my family, and experiencing communism firsthand, I became politically involved in the liberal movement in high school, and continued my involvement until my freshman year at Texas A&M, where I was first exposed to free-market economics and began to see more and more inconsistencies in the liberal position. As I became more and more interested in laissez faire ideas, I changed my major to economics at the beginning of my sophomore year. At this point, a friend recommended that I read Ayn Rand, who quickly changed my attitude on life.

 

Since then, I have helped start up and lead the local Objectivist Club where organized and promoted a speech by Dr Yaron Brook. I have promoted my view to several student groups, designed and spread fliers around campus giving rational perspectives on various current issues, and promoted and defended my ideas to my family, my friends, my classmates and my professors.

 

Because my formal academic education starkly contrasts the Objectivist beliefs that I have come to hold, my education is often a struggle to defend my ideas to myself, my professors and my classmates. The OAC would provide the ideas and arguments I need to defend and promote Objectivism in my formal education, my extracurricular activities and in my future vocation.

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