I’m on the phone with an associate history professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, named Ellen Wu. We’re talking about skin color, identity and how people like us — Americans of East Asian descent — can describe ourselves.
Wu and I agree that there are many words we could use: Asian American, East Asian, East Asian American. People with roots from South Asia or Southeast Asia sometimes refer to themselves as brown, which seems like a useful shorthand. But for a bunch of reasons, brown doesn’t work for East Asians. I’m wondering if there’s a parallel word for us.
I pose this question, a little hesitantly: What about yellow?
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