April 19, 20178:32 AM ET
by Kat Chow
She’s just trolling, right? I dare you to make an insensitive joke about the unfortunate nickname I use!
The perception of universal success among Asian-Americans is being wielded to downplay racism’s role in the persistent struggles of other minority groups, especially black Americans.
A piece from New York Magazine’s Andrew Sullivan over the weekend ended with an old, well-worn trope: Asian-Americans, with their “solid two-parent family structures,” are a shining example of how to overcome discrimination. An essay that began by imagining why Democrats feel sorry for Hillary Clinton — and then detoured to President Trump’s policies — drifted to this troubling ending:
“Today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?”
Sullivan’s piece, rife with generalizations about a group as vastly diverse as Asian-Americans, rightfully raised hackles. Not only inaccurate, his piece spreads the idea that Asian-Americans as a group are monolithic, even though parsing data by ethnicity reveals a host of disparities;
This might be the hundredth time over the decades I’ve read this general “But what about” argument from an aggrieved Asian-American activist.
for example, Bhutanese-Americans have far higher rates of poverty than other Asian populations, like Japanese-Americans.
But they usually cite Hmongs or Cambodians. This may be the first time I’ve seen reference to the Bhutanese-American community, so Kat Chow deserves points for originality.
(Thanks to commenter Martin for this.)
By the way, are you familiar with comedienne Ali Wong’s distinction between Jungle Asians (Vietnamese, Filipino, etc.) and Fancy Asians (Japanese, Chinese, etc.)?