Racial Triangulation, Interest-Convergence, and the Double-Consciousness of Asian Americans

39 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2021 Last revised: 11 Aug 2021

See all articles by Vinay Harpalani

Vinay Harpalani

University of New Mexico - School of Law

Date Written: March 17, 2021


This Essay is part of the 26th Annual Georgia State University Law Review Symposium, "Social Equality and Racial Justice: What's Next?" It integrates Professor Claire Jean Kim’s racial triangulation framework, Professor Derrick Bell’s interest-convergence theory, and W.E.B. Du Bois’s notion of double-consciousness, all to examine the racial positioning of Asian Americans and the dilemmas we face as a result. To do so, it considers the history of Asian immigration to the U.S., the model minority and perpetual foreigner stereotypes, Asian Americans’ positioning in the affirmative action debate, COVID-19 related hate and bias incidents, and Andrew Yang’s 2020 Democratic presidential candidacy. The Essay examines how racial stereotypes of Asian Americans have emerged through historical cycles of valorization and ostracism, as analyzed through the racial triangulation framework. It analyzes how the political interests of the U.S. government converged with those of educated professionals in Asian countries, leading to changes in immigration policy and the emergence of the model minority stereotype. The Essay considers various ways that Asian Americans have been simultaneously valorized as model minorities and ostracized as perpetual foreigners. It highlights the affirmative action debate, where Asian Americans have been cast as high-achieving victims of race-conscious university admissions policies and pitted against other groups of people of color, culminating with the current Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard lawsuit. Finally, the Essay focuses on Andrew Yang’s presidential bid—particularly how his navigation of racial stereotypes reflected a double-consciousness that parallels the dilemmas faced by many Black Americans. The Essay concludes by arguing that to build coalitions and work towards racial justice, Asian Americans, Black Americans, and other people of color need to recognize their own double-consciousness and also see how it relates to the double-consciousness experienced by others.

Keywords: Critical Race Theory, Asian Americans, affirmative action

Suggested Citation

Harpalani, Vinay, Racial Triangulation, Interest-Convergence, and the Double-Consciousness of Asian Americans (March 17, 2021). Georgia State University Law Review, Forthcoming, UNM School of Law Research Paper No. 2021-06, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3806339 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3806339

Vinay Harpalani (Contact Author)

University of New Mexico - School of Law ( email )

1117 Stanford, N.E. MSC11 6070
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States

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