Distinctions between Covering and Personal Choice

by ursavoice

A reflection on Professor Kenji Yoshino’s book Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights.

Irina Trasovan
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

On January 20, 2011, Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow led the reading group Perspectives in a discussion on Professor Kenji Yoshino’s book Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights.

Through an autobiographical narrative, Professor Yoshino introduces readers to the demands for assimilation forced upon minorities. He shares his experiences as a gay Asian American by discussing the demand for conversion, passing, and covering. Professor Yoshino makes the argument that the three-part framework applies not only to him or in instances of sexuality discrimination, but to discrimination based on various classifications including race, religion, gender, and disability. He makes the argument that all individuals are asked to cover, or tone down, their identity to some degree at some point. Specifically, individuals are compelled to cover on the basis of appearance, affiliation, activism, and association.

Perspectives participants questioned the assumption that a decision appearing to downplay some characteristic of identity performance is necessarily covering. Individuals make a number of decisions about their physical appearance, cultural affiliations, political activism, and personal or professional associations everyday. Are people constantly covering or are they just being themselves? Does labeling personal decisions as covering impinge on the individual’s agency? Professor Yoshino addresses some of these quetions in his book, specifically discussing his own choices at various stages in his coming out process.

Please join Perspectives next month (February 17th) for a discussion on duardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism Without Racists led by Professor Trina Jones. The book discusses continuing existence of racism and the role of colorblindness in perpetuating inequality.