Race-Based Coalitions in Three Chinatowns, with Jae Yeon Kim
Today on Scope Conditions: when is racial status a unifying force in politics?Shared experiences of prejudice and discrimination can sometimes help create shared political identities within and across racial minority groups and strong incentives for collective mobilization. But as our guest today points out, neither race nor racial-minority status maps neatly onto patterns of political coalition-building. Consider, for instance, the lack of an enduring political alliance between African-American and Afro-Caribbean communities in places like New York City or the absence before the 1970s of a Latino political identity encompassing Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and Puerto Ricans.Dr. Jae Yeon Kim, a senior data scientist at Code for America, has been thinking a lot about the conditions under which groups with shared experiences of racialization and discrimination join forces politically, and when political action is organized instead around other social markers like class and ethnicity. In his article “Racism Is Not Enough: Minority Coalition Building in San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver,” published in Studies in American Political Development, Jae unpacks a revealing comparison in patterns of mobilization and alliance-formation across the Chinatowns in these three cities. These cities all shared a long history of pervasive and violent anti-Asian racism – which one might have thought would generate a collective race-based political identity. But while Asian coalitions formed to fend off the gentrification of San Francisco’s Chinatown, Vancouver’s ethnic-Chinese population allied with their southern European neighbors, rather than fellow Asian-Canadians, in their fight for affordable housing.Jae tells us why that is by comparing patterns of residential segregation versus integration that shaped the logic of coalition-building in these three sites. We discuss how he gained analytical leverage for this comparison by looking at different exogenous shocks – natural disasters and duration of Japanese internment – that generated different patterns of settlement.We also talk with Jae about his broader work on how the experience of racism affects political identities and behaviors. We discuss a study he conducted with Nathan Chan and Vivien Leung that shows how Donald Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric affected Asian-Americans’ partisan leanings. Jae also tells us about a paper with Reuel Rogers that problematizes the concept of “linked fate” and that analyzes the formation of race-based political identities as contingent processes that hinge heavily on elite strategies and historical dynamics.Works discussed in the episode:Chan, N., Kim, J., & Leung, V. (2022). COVID-19 and Asian Americans: How Elite Messaging and Social Exclusion Shape Partisan Attitudes. Perspectives on Politics, 20(2), 618-634. doi:10.1017/S1537592721003091Dawson, Michael. A Black Counterpublic?: Economic Earthquakes, Racial Agenda(s), and Black Politics. Public Culture 1 January 1994; 7 (1): 195–223Dawson, Michael. Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics (Princeton 1994).Kim, Jae Yeon. "Racism is not enough: Minority coalition building in San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver." Studies in American Political Development (2020): 195-215.