Culture Stories

The Asian Advantage

Recently Nicholas Kristof, one of
the acclaimed authors of Half the Sky
and A Path Appears and a New York Times
columnist had published a New York Times article on “the Asian advantage.”
First of all the title is insensitive and ignorant, there is no such thing as
“the Asian advantage.” The first question he poses, “why are Asian Americans so
successful In America” is coveted in ignorance. He reduces Asian Americans to
nothing more than the stereotypes that have troubled us for decades.

He completely misinterprets thecensus data that he argues defends his statements. Income is not a valid factor in determining how successful Asian Americans are. First of all it’s misleading, because there is typically more than one provider in Asian American
households. In addition when you break down the statistics of income by
ethnicity, it becomes more misleading. Southeast Asians tend to be more
impoverished. Kristof argues that Asian Americans are successful, because of
income. But is this statement valid? No, unless somehow poverty defines success.
Not only that, Kristof manages to lump every single Asian ethnic group into one
category.

I will now move onto one of the comments that personally bothered me in Kristof’s column, “an A- is an Asian F.” As an Asian American student that joke causes more pain that amusement. The myth that Asian Americans are naturally intelligent in every academic subject has caused many Asian American students to fall behind in school. I remember constantly struggling to pass math in high school, and failing to receive the
help I needed. I remember being told it wasn’t possible for me to be bad at math,
because I’m Asian. But statements like that do cause pain. When we fail to see
past the stereotypes, we leave students behind.

Kristof asks “Does the success of Asian Americans suggest that the age of
discrimination is behind us?” That question is beyond disturbing, the
model minority myth of Asian Americans being successful does not prove
discrimination is behind us. We are not all successful. There are still
boundaries for us in the career field based off of our race, no matter how hard
we work.

Eventually Kristof addressed his column on Facebook in response to the mass criticism of it. I didn’t personally buy it. He failed to apologize for his ignorance, rather he
apologized for a “lack of data” impacting his statements. He did manage to
address the disadvantage of Hmong Americans, but still Kristof’s ignorance kept
going.

image

“That’s certainly true,” Kristof writes. “But the same is true of every race
or ethnic group. There’s tremendous diversity within the African-American
community, and among whites and among Latinos, and it’s not obvious to me that
there’s greater diversity among Asian-Americans. Just because plenty of whites
are struggling in Appalachia doesn’t mean that it’s meaningless to talk about
median white incomes or the black/white education gap.”

Although Kristof admitted a lack of exploration of the discrimination against Asian Americans, he still continued on with refusing to acknowledge how wrong he was. He went on to state how his column was merely about the “black disadvantage.”  I fail to see how any of the article was about “black disadvantage” when the article’s title was The Asian Advantage.  Kristof did not apologize for anything, rather he proved how white privilege in many ways is very real. His position as a white male with Asian colleagues somehow made him think he could be xeno-antagonistic without worrying about backlash.

Finally I leave you with one question, how do we live in a post-discriminatory society when articles like Kristof’s The Asian Advantage exist?

The Asian Advantage

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