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Partly ColoredAsian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South$
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Leslie Bow

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814791325

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814791325.001.0001

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White Is and White Ain’t

White Is and White Ain’t

Failed Approximation and Eruptions of Funk in Representations of the Chinese in the South

(p.91) 3 White Is and White Ain’t
Partly Colored

Leslie Bow

NYU Press

This chapter looks at narratives articulating Chinese caste elevation in the Mississippi Delta within academic studies, popular culture, film, and memoir. James Loewen's The Mississippi Chinese argues that when faced with a binary racial system that had no accommodation for a third race, the Chinese engineered a shift in status from “colored” to white in the course of one generation. The chapter highlights what becomes repressed in positing racial uplift in response to intermediate status. In contrast to European immigrant groups, the Asian's supposed caste rise can only be characterized as a registered incompletion, as near-whiteness. This incompletion is likewise reflected in the discourses that have sought to represent such status, the scholarship surrounding and generated by Loewen's thesis, including the 1982 documentary film Mississippi Triangle. The chapter thus examines what discursive contradictions were generated in the incomplete attempts to convince of African American disassociation, specifically, the repression of Chinese-Black intimacy.

Keywords:   Chinese caste elevation, Mississippi Delta, James Loewen, The Mississippi Chinese, binary racial system, third race, Mississippi Triangle, Chinese-Black intimacy

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