Ethnic and Race Formation and the Internet

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Stephanie Luu
Soc 0835, Sec 002
Yuichi Moroi
November 9, 2010
Ethnic/Race Identity Formation and the Internet
                Throughout the course of American history, immigration from around the world has been occurring. The result from the different people emigrating from such varying parts of the human race creates the diversity in American society. As different ethnicities come into America, racial discrimination and stereotypes are created. Ethnic identity starts to become an issue where immigration, sexuality, religion, politics, and social change begin to shape how race and ethnicity are constructed and perceived in the American culture. In contemporary society, the internet serves as an additional element of the construction and shaping of these social identities. People are capable of using online networks and databases to learn about different cultures. By pressing a few buttons and clicking search, information is instantly displayed and questions can be immediately answered. The concern of the matter lies behind the authentication of the content; information posted on the web does not have to be validated by academic scholars to be published. Knowing the criteria for assessing web pages, the obtaining of misleading information can be avoided.

Stereotypes generally occur among races that appear to differ from one’s own. It happens as a result of a person’s subconscious mind to group and generalize a person by their descriptions and physical attributes. These classifications can be positive or negative, which creates an issue with the construction of social identities of different racial and ethnic groups. Being that the first groups to arrive to America can be generally stereotyped as “white”, people of other descents are known to be minorities. Some of these groups include black people, Hispanic people, Indian people, Asian people, and more. The focus of this paper will be on those of Chinese descent; in particular, the stereotypes of Chinese people and how information on the internet perceives them.

Despite if a person is Chinese or Korean, the individual is likely to be stereotyped as Asian. Their skin color may be similar to those considered “white”, but their hair color and facial attributes differ in the sense that they cannot be stereotyped as white. Nazli Kibria, author of an article in Sociological Perspectives, examined further into the dynamics between Asians and non-Asians by studying the interaction of everyday social encounters between the two. Kibria aimed to explore two central aspects of the common stereotypes: “sameness” and “foreignness”. She shares of an incident where she was watching “M*A*S*H” and saw that a supposedly Korean character was wearing a Vietnamese-style hat wandering around in a village that appeared to be Japanese-oriented (Kibria 81). She was outraged by the fact that was evident that the show created an “Asian scene” based on a stereotypical idea of what an Asian person looked like and what was presumed an Asian environment. Such incidents are absurd to those who come from different backgrounds, while those who are not able to differentiate race and ethnicity do not find any offense to these encounters. She also noted that a family was asked to pose for a picture in the town paper wearing native garb without regards to what the occasion was. The picture turned out to be on the front page of a small daily newspaper next to recipes of egg rolls in celebration of Chinese New Year. “We were their token Oriental family—Chinese, Korean, it was all the same” (Kibria 82). Even differentiating the two, the town had no remorse. “Korean” and “Chinese” seemed to be synonymous with the term “Asian” because both could be generalized into that. Another incident occurred where an American company was about to make a deal with a Japanese company, and workers asked a fellow Asian worker, “Hey Karen, tell us how we should deal with Japanese so that we get what we want.” Her response...
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