What's the New Black? Shifting Sands of Race

October 5, 2008

Earlier, we mentioned Jeff Yang's musings that Obama might be categorically Asian American in a way that transcends biological race.

In interesting counterpoint to that is a conversation I recently had with a friend who speculated that Vijay Singh -- and not Tiger Woods -- may be professional golf's "colored person," if by that we mean a category that renders invisible, unwelcome, or second-class those who are tarred with it. Singh has been cast as an uppity and hypermasculine threat to a gentleman's game; he gets a fraction of the press he deserves, and seems to be the guy that the establishment would love to watch fall on his face. So, pointed out my friend Sameer, might it be said that Singh is categorically Black in a way that also transcends biological race?

See here for Sameer's recent, deftly measured article on Singh for SI's golf issue. And come back if you'd like to comment on the shifting meanings of race in a world that "postmodern" seems almost too quaint a term to describe anymore. It's not that race has disappeared or become null and void; but the categories are certainly more supple now, in ways that both give us a lot more freedom of movement, and make it incredibly hard for us to tell where the sand-traps ahead of us lie.


erin K Ninh

contributing editor & blogger

erin Khue Ninh is a former blog editor and onetime publisher of Hyphen, who won't seem to go away. She now teaches literature in the Department of Asian American Studies at UC Santa Barbara. Aside from Hyphen, erin believes in recycling, Planned Parenthood, and Type A first-borns.



South Asian-American is the new black?hahahahahaha!Tell you what: we'll trade you all our felons, ex-cons, workers that have been permanently ostracized from the workforce via discrimination, victims of police and peer violence, etc. for your doctoral students, physicians, economists, small business-owners and everyone else that quite willingly falls into the white-by-default category.Get.a.clue.
Not the kind of stance that wins allies, Anonymous.Well, nuances are not for everyone.
so it was like how they said Bill Clinton was like the first black prez cause he grew in a predominantly black neighborhood?
yes, something in the vein of what Toni Morrison said of Clinton. intended not literally, of course, but to demonstrate something of what our racial categories are made of, and how they work.
In an effort to explore racial categorization, you are perpetuating a negative and already pervasive stereotype. Singh's treatment in the golf world is racism, pure and simple; there should be no allowances (implied or otherwise) due to his perceived adoption of the "colored" man role. Any time of racism (or sexism or any other harmful -ism) demands a clear and intolerant stance-- regardless of the situation or environment, categorizing and compartmentalizing people based on physical characteristics is wrong, always, each and every time.And as for Anonymous: shockingly, South Asian Americans are also "felons, ex-cons, workers that have been permanently ostracized from the workforce via discrimination, victims of police and peer violence," etc..Also, regardless of one's socioeconomic class, a South Asian American will never fall into the "white-by-default" category, and I think that's a great thing. Personally, I don't want to be treated "like I'm white." I want being "brown" in this country to be redefined in such a way that demands the respect and courtesy white people in this country take for granted.