“Uncovering Talent: The Case of Asian Americans” – Lecture by Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law Kenji Yoshino

At the 14th Annual Korematsu Lecture Series, presented by the NYU Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law Kenji Yoshino spoke about the phenomenon of ‘covering,’ discussed at length in his first book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. The Korematsu Lecture Series, since 2000, has recognized Asian Americans whose work challenges legal boundaries and serves as an inspiration to all people of color.

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Professor Kenji Yoshino touched upon his extensive research regarding the frequency of incidence and perceived impact of covering. As opposed to “passing,” the practice of concealing a part of one’s identity in order to present as a member of the dominant major, “covering” differs in that a person who covers is unable to completely conceal that part of his or her identity so must instead downplay qualities associated with it. In Prof. Yoshino’s words, “covering” is a tax that minorities have to pay in response to a much less visible second-wave discrimination. Examining both the demand and the performance of covering, the research explores whether certain professional organizations live up to their stated values of inclusion. Asking the question of whether certain groups feel as though they must cover in order to be successful and have their successes attributed to their personal qualities rather than their race, Prof. Yoshino identified four kinds of covering: (1) appearance-based covering (e.g. a black woman straightens her hair to downplay her race), (2) affiliation-based covering that avoids behaviors associated with identity (e.g. a mother avoids talking about her children because she does not want her co-workers to believe she is less committed to work), (3) advocacy-based covering that determines how much a person ‘sticks up’ for their group (e.g. a veteran lets a military joke slide lest he or she be seen as strident), and (4) association-based covering (e.g. a gay man does not bring his partner to work functions so as not to be seen as ‘too gay’).

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In many ways, Prof. Yoshino’s research brings together many groups who feel the need to cover their identity, including the often elevated or demonized straight white males who feel they have to cover other factors, such as their socioeconomic background or their veteran status. At the same time, his findings also reveal the differences in impact respectively felt by members of different groups. Whereas most people feel the impact of covering, racial groups feel the impact to a greater degree, with no one impacted more than women of color who must simultaneously play down both their gender and race.

Here are some of the ways you could say I am “white”: 
I listen to National Public Radio. 
I have few close friends “of color." 
I furnish my condo a la Crate & Barrel. 
I vacation in charming bed-and-breakfasts. 
I have never once been the victim of blatant discrimination. 
I am a member of several exclusive institutions. 
I have been in the inner sanctums of political power. 
I have been there as something other than an attendant. 
I have the ambition to return. 
I am a producer of the culture. 
I expect my voice to be heard. 
I speak flawless, unaccented English. 
I subscribe to Foreign Affairs. 
I do not mind when editorialists write in the first person plural. 
I do not mind how white television casts are. 
I am not too ethnic. I am wary of minority militants. 
I consider myself neither in exile nor in opposition. 
I am considered “a credit to my race.”

– Eric Liu, The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker

"The loudest duck gets shot,” laughed Prof. Yoshino. Underscoring a dark history of discrimination, Prof. Yoshino explained how Asian Americans occupy a liminal space in which they are seen both as “honorary whites” and perpetual foreigners. Asian Americans cover or reverse-cover in numerous ways, either feeling pressure to live up to the model minority myth or feeling pressure to perform and act in certain ways to emphasize their Asian American identity. Professional Asian women are the least likely to have children. Asian Americans cover on the issue of age, often engaging in behaviors like wearing glasses or dressing conservatively in order to appear older and more authoritative. 

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(Above: Prof. Kenji Yoshino and former student and AABANY member George Hang.)

“Covering” gives a name to the phenomenon, which gives a person the tools to self-diagnose and consciously uncover. What is called for now by Prof. Yoshino’s research is self-reflection within organizations and communities. Having leaders who do not have to downplay their identities works to dismantle the harmful associations which might lead a person of color, mother, or other marginalized person to cover. 

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Prof. Yoshino closed with his own uncovering story: his own title, previously the “Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law” at NYU, had been a delicate issue in accepting his position. A Japanese American, Kenji Yoshino had been wary of taking on the title of the man who as Attorney General commissioned the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. After much deliberation, the offer was again extended to Prof. Yoshino, appending the words “Chief Justice” – after the initial confusion, Prof. Yoshino learned that later in life as Chief Justice, Earl Warren had recanted and expressed his deep regret that he had ever done such a dishonorable action. In the spirit of the Chief Justice, Prof. Yoshino accepted the position – his research works to change perceptions and increase cultural awareness for the better, and that deeply matters, even over the course of one lifetime. 

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Special thanks to Prof. Kenji Yoshino, the NYU Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, and Hanah Kim and Ted Kim of the Korematsu Committee for continuing the tradition of education and inspiration! 

Prof. Kang to Lecture at NYU on Implicit Bias and Stereotype Threat

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On behalf of The Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law & Justice, you are cordially invited to attend a lecture, part of The Straus Public Lectures Series:

“The Grand Challenges of Implicit Social Cognition and the Law”

presented by
 
Jerry Kang
Straus Fellow, David M. Friedman Fellow, NYU School of Law; 
Professor of Law and Asian American Studies (by courtesy), UCLA
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Date:
Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
 
Time:  6:00-7:30pm Lecture
7:30-8:30pm Post-lecture Reception
 
Location: 
Faculty Library
Vanderbilt Hall, 3rd Floor
40 Washington Square S.
New York, NY 10012
 
Please kindly RSVP,  if you would like to attend.

Lecture Synopsis: Recent findings in experimental social psychology have demonstrated the existence of “implicit biases”–attitudes and stereotypes that we are neither aware of nor necessarily endorse. Social scientists have also discovered “stereotype  threat”–that negative  stereotypes can undermine performance when an individual believes that by doing poorly she will confirm those very stereotypes about the groups to which  she  belongs. In this talk, Professor Jerry Kang will survey the science of implicit biases and stereotype threat with emphasis on real-world consequences. Then, he will explore their implications for law, policy, and legal theory. Along the way, Prof. Kang will outline what he sees as the field’s “Grand Challenges” for the next quarter century. 
 
The lecture is open to the public; please feel free to spread the word about the event.

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After a full day of CLE sessions and other programs, attendees at the NAPABA Northeast Regional/AABANY Fall Conference enjoyed a cocktail reception, sponsored by Day Pitney. Attendees from AABANY and the northeast affiliates, including from Canada, met, mingled, connected and re-connected over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. 

At the reception, the AABANY Law Review, which was launched at the 2011 Fall Conference, presented its first Scholarly Paper Prize to Greg Robinson (Professor of History at l’Université du Québec à Montréal)  for his article, In Defense of Birthright Citizenship: The JACL, the NAACP, and Regan v. King. Prof. Robinson accepted the award and offered brief remarks about his published work, to be released in the upcoming issue of the AABANY Law Review.

Also during the reception, Key Sponsor Hudson Court Reporting and Video and Elite Sponsor Baker Tilly held drawings for prizes. Congratulations to the raffle winners, and thanks to Hudson and Baker Tilly for being such strong supporters of AABANY!

Following the reception, several committees hosted dinners: The Real Estate/Solo Small Firm Committees hosted their dinner at S Dynasty, sponsored by Bank of America. The Litigation/Young Lawyers Committees had a wonderful Italian dinner at Aperitivo. The Bankruptcy/Corporate Law Committees had their dinner at Banc Café, thanks to sponsors UBS and Donlin Recano. Thomson Reuters sponsored the Intellectual Property Committee dinner at Fusia.

Right after the committee dinners, energetic attendees convened at Rare View Rooftop for the afterparty. The attendees enjoyed drinks and each other’s company while admiring panoramic views of the New York City skyline, at least until the rain came down. Not to be deterred by the downpour, guests took the party downstairs to Rare Bar & Grill on the ground floor to continue their post-conference celebration.

We hope everyone who came to the 2013 NAPABA Northeast Regional/AABANY Fall Conference had an enjoyable and productive time. We hope to see you at the 2013 NAPABA Annual Convention in Kansas City in November!