Assimilation at the Cost of Authenticity: Kenji Yoshino's 'Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights'

15 Asian Am. Pol'y Rev. 59 (2006)

4 Pages Posted: 22 May 2017

See all articles by Rebecca K. Lee

Rebecca K. Lee

Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Date Written: 2006


Writing from a place of courage and conviction lifted from doubt and pain, author Kenji Yoshino emotively sheds layers of his covered self to make real his case for human authenticity in his book "Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights." Yoshino offers us a work that infuses cultural insight into legal argumentation, interlaced with his own exquisitely narrated story as a gay, Asian-American man. In his book, Yoshino elaborates on the concept of “covering” as termed by sociologist Erving Goffman, explaining that covering is the act of downplaying a disfavored identity—even when this identity is known or apparent to others—in order to present oneself more palatably as part of the so-called American mainstream. Yoshino begins his discussion from the vantage point of gay covering as this relates most closely to his own experience, followed by a broader examination of other forms of group identity–based covering: racial covering, sex-based covering, disability-based covering, and religious covering. All of these behaviors may seem harmless, and even beneficial in the name of American assimilation, but Yoshino maintains that the cultural imperative to conform to dominant-group norms is the under-noticed harm of assimilation—a harm that impedes the full advancement of historically marginalized groups. Yoshino acknowledges that assimiliation is, to some extent, a necessary part of social life. He nonetheless wants us to seriously consider the ways in which assimilation serves to undermine the goals of the civil-rights movement by maintaining the cultural status quo of dominant groups.

Keywords: employment discrimination, racial norms, gender norms, group identity, dominant norms, workplace culture, workplace equality

JEL Classification: J70, J71, Y30

Suggested Citation

Lee, Rebecca K., Assimilation at the Cost of Authenticity: Kenji Yoshino's 'Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights' (2006). 15 Asian Am. Pol'y Rev. 59 (2006), Available at SSRN:

Rebecca K. Lee (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

1155 Island Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4268 (Phone)

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