Shifting Identities

by Karen Mori

The new type of racial approach which ignores the salience of race, claiming that there is no such thing as race and racism can be observed in Latin America and the author is predicting that this “Latin Americanization” can occur in the United States.

This Latin Americanization will form a complex racial stratification system developing a triracial system with whites at the top, an intermediary group of honorary whites, and the nonwhite group at the bottom, according to the author. Rank ordering of groups and members of groups are defined according to phenotype and cultural characteristics. As a result, these groups of races are not cleanly delineated, and unlike biracial system, intermediary group will play a role as buffer of racial conflicts. Nevertheless, the idea of racial mixing or racial democracy adopted by this racial approach does not challenge the white supremacy in colonial or post-colonial Latin America. For example, the social practice of whitening, gives a goal to move upward in hierarchical movement, instead of showing racial flexibility, so the result is white supremacy.

The authors are arguing that America will become like Latin America because racial minorities have increased, and race relations are becoming globalized in United States. While some analysts welcome Latin Americanization as a positive trend, others questions that if it is to maintain a white supremacy.

On the other hand, Japan is now believed that it is a homogeneous country, but this is an illusion. Japan used to have extended definition of Japanese during the time of Japanese colonialism. Under Japanese empire, all people in colonized country became Japanese. Japan educated Korean and Chinese to be Japanese, and gave Japanese citizenship. However, some people claim that there were racial stratification discriminating Chinese and Korean.

After the Japanese Empire collapsed, Japan started to claim Japanese uniqueness and homogeneity of shared blood, culture and language, so definition of Japanese became narrow. What we call Nihonjin-ron is a product of the war and increased a sense of Japanese identity and pride as well as the visibility of “Others”, particularly resident Koreans. Kana and I think this definition of Japanese(ness), either prewar definition or postwar definition, has some similarity to the situation of Latin America or the United States.

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