The above is a map which illustrates life expectancy for white males and females by county in the United States from the paper Eight Americas: Investigating Mortality Disparities across Races, Counties, and Race-Counties in the United States. I’m reproducing it because it shows the wide variation in life expectancy for white Americans. Second, the results show the huge disparities in life expectancy by ethnic group:
When race-county combinations are considered, life expectancy disparities are dramatically larger. For example, Native American males in the cluster of Bennet, Jackson, Mellette, Shannon, Todd, and Washabaugh Counties in South Dakota had a life expectancy of 58 y in 1997–2001, compared to Asian females in Bergen County, New Jersey, with a life expectancy of 91 y, a gap of 33 y.
Life expectancy is important because it can’t be contextualized and reinterpreted with sophistry. Asian Americans tend to live longer than white Americans. How’s that a model for you? (yes, I know, the immigration systems selects for longer lived Asians!)
The whole issue is on my mind because of a post over at the Aerogram, Debunking the Model Minority Myth with Humor: The Rise of the South Asian Comedian. How exactly does the piece illustrate how South Asian comedians are “debunking” the model minority myth? Honestly I have no idea. The piece itself states:
…The stereotypical “American Dream” for South Asians includes children equipped with an above average education. As the model minority, 64 percent of Indian-Americans had a Bachelor’s degree or higher according to the US Census of 2004. In addition, 60 percent of Indian-Americans had management or professional jobs, compared with a national average of 33 percent.
First, what the hell is with the quotes? Shouldn’t the American dream be about equipping children with above average education? The author of the piece herself has a biography which runs like so:
Born and raised in California, Lakshmi is a journalist and educator currently based in Berkeley. Over the past few years, she has worked with newspapers, radio and magazines from Gaborone, Botswana, to Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Pitzer College where she studied global communications and studio arts. She is presently pursuing her master’s at UC Berkeley School of Journalism.
“She” sure seems “educated” to “me” (I have no idea why I put quotations here). Second, she is honest enough to straight up admit that Indian-Americans have social statistics which are perfectly in keeping with the idea that on average they are a model minority.
What’s going on here? The problem here is simple: a particular class of educated Asian Americans schooled in post-colonial critical race theory posits a model of the world where everything is dichotomized into white people with privilege and poor oppressed “people of color.” Another symptom of this tendency to think in a binary is to talk about the “Global North” and “Global South.” No matter the word games which might be offered to obscure the overall thesis, this model removes most agency from “people of color”, and makes white people the movers and shakers of the world’s phenomena (e.g., stuff like facial symmetry is asserted to be Western beauty standards). But, critical race theory inverts the moral valence which one finds among white supremacists and their ilk, with whom they share key presuppositions (e.g., white people are sui generis). Where the model for white supremacists is that white people have a particular virtuous genius, for critical race theorists white people are the “Ice People” who introduce the contagion of bourgeois oppressive patriarchal values. It is in many ways a resurrection of the theory of the Noble Savage, as the idyll of nonwhites was shattered by the all consuming nature of the colonial experience which the white devils imposed upon them.
You can see how then that the Asian American model minority is “problematic.” Asian Americans do better on a host of social statistics than white Americans. But since white privilege is the all determinative variable which explains all social phenomena this outcome is perplexing. The solution from what I can tell is a long campaign of obfuscation, lying, and outright propaganda. Asian American activists schooled in critical race theory simply assert that the model minority concept is a myth, and trust that their sympathetic audiences will ascent to their knowledge of this domain. Mind you, they do bring up examples such as the Hmong to highlight how Asian-Americans are diverse, and not all are Taiwanese or Indian professionals. But the fact is that the Southeast Asian refugee experience is a secondary narrative numerically. The inversion of weights in this case is purely in the service of propaganda, which is persuasive to their innumerate audience. It would be like debunking white privilege by pointing out the reality of the whites of Appalachia, and much of rural America. All of a sudden these race hustling sophists would point out the importance of averages.
Of course theory is information for free. And a false theory can implant false information in the minds of many. Another paper, The White Ceiling Heuristic and the Underestimation of Asian-American Income:
The belief that ethnic majorities dominate ethnic minorities informs research on intergroup processes. This belief can lead to the social heuristic that the ethnic majority sets an upper limit that minority groups cannot surpass, but this possibility has not received much attention. In three studies of perceived income, we examined how this heuristic, which we term the White ceiling heuristic leads people to inaccurately estimate the income of a minority group that surpasses the majority. We found that Asian Americans, whose median income has surpassed White median income for nearly three decades, are still perceived as making less than Whites, with the least accurate estimations being made by people who strongly believe that Whites are privileged. In contrast, income estimates for other minorities were fairly accurate. Thus, perceptions of minorities are shaped both by stereotype content and a heuristic.
Basically those whites who are very conscious of white privilege as an idea underestimate Asian American income. This tells us that the propaganda is working, though that’s not a surprise as most people are stupid and uninformed, and use theory to explain the world.