The essay begins by examining amicus briefs submitted in Fisher v. Texas by Asian American organizations in support of and in opposition to affirmative action. What does it mean when groups that purportedly protect, advance, and represent the interests of Asian Americans invoke the historical treatment of Asian Americans and present facts about Asian Americans but end up advocating for opposite outcomes? This Essay starts with the competing Asian American perspectives and assertions of authority expressed in these briefs to explore the theme of a Symposium at the UC Irvine School of Law, provocatively entitled, Reigniting Community: Strengthening the APA Identity. The Symposium theme makes two assumptions: (1) there is a community to be reignited; and (2) there is an APA identity that exists to be strengthened. These assumptions in turn beg two questions: Why do we want to reignite community? To what end do we want to strengthen APA identity? To posit these as goals indicates that these are political projects. Describing them as political projects does not undermine or discredit them — it merely acknowledges the aspirational dimension of the Symposium theme that necessarily invokes identity politics. But group identity presumes a group. Part I provides context for the discussion of the Asian racial category. Part II discusses the construction of the Asian racial category that serves as the basis for Asian American communities and Asian American identity. Part III examines the relationship between individuals to the group in order to understand better what leads individuals to identify as members of a racial group and racialized community. Part IV returns to the politics of affirmative action and the role that Asian Americans play in this debate. Included in this discussion is the dynamic of racial triangulation and the role it plays in helping to consolidate identity as well as coalitions.
Robert S. Chang,
The Invention of Asian Americans, 3 U.C. IRVINE L. REV. 947