Identity in the United States
Identity is a major challenge in the society today, including the developed countries. Identity can be related to differences in ethnicity, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or any other markers. In Ronald Takaki’s article “The Harmful Myth of Asian Superiority,” and Stanley Fish’s “When ‘Identity Politics’ Is Rational,” they discuss the identity issues in American society in relation to the aforementioned markers. While the first article compares the Asian American to other Americans in terms of economic prosperity such as income levels, Stanley Fish compares the differences in identity politics across American populations with major inclination toward African American and White American as well as gender differences in the vote for Barrack Obama and Clinton. While some people would vote for Obama because of his African American origin, other voters might be divided along gender lines. In this article, I will analyze the two essays as they relate to the identity in American society.
Tribal identity in the United States is one of the polarizing issues, which has divided most people, especially in the allocation of resources. Takaki asserts in his essay that Asian Americans have been viewed as a model minority since they are believed to be successful compared to the other minorities in the United States such as the African Americans. However, Takaki claims that making such claims always pit minorities against each other. Nevertheless, he indicates that these statistics about the Asian Americans are misleading since they live in neighborhoods such as California, Hawaii, and New York, where they earn much money, but spend it all due to the high costs of living. Additionally, he compares the jobs that the Asian Americans do when they eventually come to America. For instance, Asian American immigrants with college education, teachers, engineers, or administrators get jobs in the United States as shopkeepers, clerks in grocery stores, service workers in restaurants, janitors in hotels, and seamstresses in garment factories (p. 21). They never make it to the top management positions in the United Sates. These activities represent favoritism of the White Americans.
According to Stanley Fish, identity politics refers to voting for an individual based on the previously mentioned markers independent of their ideas or policies. He asserts that such politics is an affirmation of the tribe against the claims of ideology (para. 1). While drawing from the presidential elections between Clinton and Obama, he asserts that there are two types of identity politics, which include tribal and interest identity politics. He describes tribal identity politics as that, which is based on who the candidate is rather than what he believes or argues for, and interest identity politics as basing on the assumption that the individual might pursue an agenda that might advance the voters’ interests due to gender or ethnic orientations. Fish asserts that there is no problem with voting on the basis of interest because there is no alternative to this. “All interests are special, and none is generally human (para. 11). Therefore, he confirms in his article that identity interest constitutes a perfectly respectable reason for awarding a candidate a vote, as long as these interests are ideological and not merely tribal.
Both articles address favoritism and conflict between different groups in the United States based on either tribal or interest identities. While Asian Americans are considered a successful minority in the United States, they receive little consideration as compared to the White Americans. The immigrants get jobs below their qualifications. Even if the minority in the United States got equal pay for the same job with the majorities, they would be required to have a higher educational qualification and work for extra hours (p. 21). Equally, Fish asserts that, in the presidential elections, some people would vote for Clinton because they belong to the same gender: they are women. Voting on these grounds imply that, the voter is inclined to vote independently of Clinton’s policies. On the other hand, he gives two rational voters, who would either vote for Clinton because they believe she would devote resources to the solution of problems faced by women in the society; or vote for Obama because he would fight for changes that could remove barriers a white candidate would not see. These rational voters would represent the interest identity politics, which Fish supports in his article.
However, Takaki in his article presents the negative aspects of interest identity politics. The examples used of the Korean, Japanese, or African Americans working in less paying jobs or in lower positions imply that the White Americans have the interests, which Fish call in his article tribal interests. These interests have been used in the society to the disadvantage of the minorities. The latter feels neglected in the society, and always strive for equality, which brings about the conflicts between racial groups in the United States. In my opinion, these articles present the best description of identity differences in the United States, and provide the best solutions, which include giving equal opportunities without considering skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Fish, Stanley. “When ‘Identity Politics’ Is Rational.” The New York Times. Web February 17, 2008 http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/when-identity-politics-is-rational/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=2
Takaki, Ronald. “The Harmful Myth of Asian Superiority.” The New York Times. June 16, 1990, p. 21