The Place of Honorary Whites: Asian Americans and New Conceptions of Race

OCT 19, 2018 | 3:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


6112: Sociology Student Lounge


October 19, 2018: 3:00 PM




Pawan H. Dhingra

Professor of American Studies, Amherst College

As scholars formulate race beyond the black-white binary, immigrants classified as “honorary whites” have proven both crucial and elusive. Professor Eduardo Bonilla Silva posited three main racial categories: whites, honorary whites, and collective blacks. Whites and collective blacks represent the binary poles of race and racism, where practically all attention to race has fallen. Honorary whites, however, are minorities who approximate or even surpass whites in terms of many measures. In the category are many Asian Americans, light-skinned Latinos, and Middle-Eastern Americans. What are the meaning and relevance of race for such groups? Contrasting points of view frame them as either victims of extreme racial discrimination or as assimilating. Drawing from primary and secondary data on Asian Americans, this paper elucidates how honorary whites experience racial ideology and racial structure. Such groups blur the boundaries of whiteness and create significant separation from other minorities. But, it is a mistake to interpret such trends as signaling the declining significance of race or of white supremacy. Race matters even as, and arguably especially when, some groups appear to threaten whites’ privileged status.

For more information on Professor Dhingra's research interests, see: