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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010

Tax and Race: The Impact on Asian Americans


The literature on the effect of tax laws on minorities overwhelmingly looks at one minority group: blacks. In this context, “‘race’ means, quintessentially, African American,” a manifestation of what has been called the“black–white paradigm” or the “black–white binary.” Because race is such a complex issue, it is easier to identify the black experience as the minority experience. “The risk [of this narrow identification] is that non-black minority groups, not fitting into the dominant society's idea of race in America, become marginalized, invisible, foreign, un-American.” In the context of tax law, blacks appear the most negatively affected, especially within the context of their economic reality. In addition, given the de facto segregation of black and white lives, it is understandable that a system developed almost a hundred years ago by wealthy white men would benefit whites more than blacks. When tax and economics are so intermingled, Asian Americans appear too well off to be negatively impacted by the tax laws. Asian American households earn[ed] an average annual salary of §53,635 in 2001, compared to a white household's §46,305. But the empirical data may not always provide a complete picture into the economic situation of Asian Americans. When the data is examined a little closer, the factors that support a disparate impact on blacks could also support a disparate impact on Asian Americans.

In the mid-1800s, Asians began to immigrate in substantial numbers to the United States. Not long after that, taxes were used against them to subordinate and expel them. A study of Asian American history reveals a long legacy of racism from the white mainstream society.

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