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Modeling minorities
July 31, 2012 4:47 AM   Subscribe

The Mythical Rise of Asian Americans The model minority myth perpetuated by the Pew research is misleading. At its core, it contains a highly objectionable assumption that other minorities do not work hard enough to succeed. In addition, as others have eloquently argued, the topline numbers and statistics hide wide variance within the Asian American community itself. Finally, insistence on holding up Asian Americans’ “success” often serves as an excuse to overlook the very real challenges that they face.
posted by infini (110 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've met the author of this piece, Vishaka Desai, numerous times via the Asia Society and am very impressed with her. She's maybe one of the most credible people to break the myth of the rise of Asian Americans.
posted by gen at 5:24 AM on July 31, 2012


I'm a little disappointed that the article didn't go into the differences within the Asian-American population. Chinese-Americans from certain backgrounds will generally "outperform" Chinese-Americans from other backgrounds, to say nothing of, for example, Hmong-Americans, Cambodian-Americans, etc.

There's also an interesting thread here:

For example, we have seen from workplace data that time in the US or nativity is a critical factor. Pew’s research finds some fascinating differences between native-born and foreign-born Asian Americans. Simply put, Asian immigrants who arrive in the US at younger ages are more like their native-born counterparts in outlook and perspective.

It's critical to examine the challenges which face immigrants and second-generation immigrants when it comes to industries which require networking, as opposed to those industries where networking is relatively downplayed. Many of these difficulties facing those from outside of the mainstream also affect others who are from outside of the American upper class.

For example, for someone outside of the mainstream culture, it's easier to follow a path where you do well in school, go to med school or pharmacy school or engineering school, and then to "park it" in a stable career, where the barriers to entry are more based on quantifiable metrics of merit.

Contrast this with certain business opportunities in which, even at the lowest levels, it is important to know the right people, play the right games, etc. It is interesting when you track who succeeds in these opportunities, even within the various white populations of the US. While APAs face of course additional challenges with regard to corporate promotion, the fact remains that there are issues here of class and social capital that stretch beyond issues that only affect APAs or racial minorities.

It doesn't mean that this article is "not true," but rather that the issues it addresses are nestled with issues that stretch beyond the APA population.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:35 AM on July 31, 2012 [13 favorites]


The Pew report defines "Asian American" as "Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Indian Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Korean Americans and Japanese Americans."

"Study after study shows the reverse to be true. For example, research conducted by Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics shows that just 30 Fortune 100 companies had Asian-Pacific Islander representation on their boards in 2011. Twenty-nine API directors held 32 of 1,211 total board seats, and two of the 100 CEOs were of API descent."

In other words, apples are not successful because you see so few oranges.
posted by three blind mice at 5:51 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


This study only discussed leadership positions within a corporate setting. I think there would be a very different story if they had examined highly educated professions such as medicine, engineering, etc. Which is absolutely not to say that barriers don't exist, but rather to note that, like other "model minorities," Asian-Americans may have found the achievement barrier easier to crack at this point than the C-suite barrier. Looking at other trajectories, this will likely change a lot over the next few generations as assimilation kicks in and (hopefully) xenophobia and overt racism settles down (note that I am not presenting assimilation as a solution to the latter inequities).
posted by charmcityblues at 6:00 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


In other words: see Jews.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:01 AM on July 31, 2012


I'm a little disappointed that the article didn't go into the differences within the Asian-American population. Chinese-Americans from certain backgrounds will generally "outperform" Chinese-Americans from other backgrounds, to say nothing of, for example, Hmong-Americans, Cambodian-Americans, etc.

This is an issue when looking at all visible minorities: a black immigrant from well-educated family in Nigeria or Ghana will bring very different skills and life experiences to a new country than a well-educated immigrant who has suffered through great violence (as in Somalia) or immigrants who don't have similar levels of education or non-immigrants whose parents didn't finish high school.
posted by jb at 6:10 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate the conflation of Asian and Pacific Islander. I understand the we Pacific Islanders are too few in number to be statistically significant, but Christ, in that case, don't even pretend to include us.
posted by rtha at 6:11 AM on July 31, 2012 [17 favorites]


The model minority myth perpetuated by the Pew research is misleading.

Does the Pew research actually perpetuate this myth? There isn't much evidence in the article, and while the comment that the "topline numbers and statistics hide wide variance" is a fair point, I can't see that the Pew report encourages a different interpretation. Seems like a fairly poor criticism of some interesting and worthwhile research to me.
posted by mattn at 6:16 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think there would be a very different story if they had examined highly educated professions such as medicine, engineering, etc.

Absolutely. What a preposterous omission. You don't have to walk very far to hear the stereotype about Asians wanting their kids to be doctors or engineers.

At its core, it contains a highly objectionable assumption that other minorities do not work hard enough to succeed.

Or it could be that Asians have other cultural values that help them, like incredibly strong valuing of education and extended family.
posted by shivohum at 6:18 AM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I really wish I had some context for the statistics that she cites. If only 42% have an APA role model at their company, what is the % for african americans or hispanics? Heck, what is the number for whites? There is no one at my company that I would consider a role model despite their being many other white people in the corporate hierarchy above me.

Similarly, 9% reported being unfairly denied a job or being fired. I'd guess that most people who are fired believe that they were fired unfairly, but it would be interesting to see how that 9% compares to the population as a whole and broken out.

the topline numbers and statistics hide wide variance within the Asian American community itself
No shit, you can say this just about any single group of people.
posted by nolnacs at 6:20 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really wish I had some context for the statistics that she cites.

Links within the article to the reports from which these statistics are cited. Reports tend to provide context fwiw.

National Asian American Survey

press release of the Asia Society survey (available, apparently on Amazon, for a fee)

NEW Leadership Research Series Report
2011 API Representation on Fortune 500 Boards

posted by infini at 6:26 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Pew report defines "Asian American" as "Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Indian Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Korean Americans and Japanese Americans."

The Pew report's subjects comprised those who self-identified as being "Asian or Asian American, such as Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese." (emph. mine)

Does the Pew research actually perpetuate this myth?

I'd say that the popular interpretation of such data is that which perpetuates that myth. It all depends on what you mean by "myth," however.

It's not a myth at all that, on average, Asian-Americans are wealthier and better-educated than the average American. Where the mythical aspect comes in is with assertions that Asian-Americans have "beaten" racism, or that the reason why Asian-Americans succeed on average is because they work harder, or that all Asian-Americans are inherently smart and successful and a sign of how lazy everyone else is - especially other minorities.

On a nice little liberal place like MetaFilter, hardly anyone would ever believe or say such a thing. However, I assure you that other people, people without handles or blue backgrounds, can and do say such things, all the time.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:27 AM on July 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


This argument doesn't really make sense to me:

Twenty-nine API directors held 32 of 1,211 total board seats, and two of the 100 CEOs were of API descent.

According to the last census in 2010, Asian Americans were about 5% of the population. If you take the percentages above, it comes out to about 2.5% of the boards and 2% are CEOs. This doesn't seem to be too shabby, especially given the small samples of both board members and Fortune 100 CEOs.

Or is her argument that Asian-American representation at the highest level of US companies is much lower than Asian-American representation in the workforce?
posted by C^3 at 6:35 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


What a preposterous omission. You don't have to walk very far to hear the stereotype about Asians wanting their kids to be doctors or engineers.

Um, the author probably is well aware of this, and therefore probably had a good reason for not discussing it in the article.
posted by polymodus at 6:36 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Links within the article to the reports from which these statistics are cited. Reports tend to provide context fwiw.

That survey was only of asian-americans so it doesn't provide the comparison to the rest of the population that is essential for understanding to what degree asian americans in particular are suffering from these issues.

At least, that is as much as I can tell given that much of the survey is behind a paywall.
posted by nolnacs at 6:37 AM on July 31, 2012


Um, the author probably is well aware of this, and therefore probably had a good reason for not discussing it in the article.

Yeah, but if you're talking about economic and professional success, leaving those professions out of the discussion is silly and more than a little misleading.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:44 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think there would be a very different story if they had examined highly educated professions such as medicine, engineering, etc.

Well, she mentions the health care industry as one of the places where you aren't going to find Asian leaders, so I'm assuming that medicine is included in the lack of Asian leaders arena. Some parts of engineering may be lumped under technology, which she also includes in the list of industries without many Asian leaders.

On another note, having the Asian "other" is very much alive and kicking in the US. Why do Asians even have to be a "model minority"? Can't we all just be Americans, especially those who were born here or moved here at a very young age? Why is there an obsession about what type of Asian they are? When people first meet me, one of the first questions many ask is, "Are you Chinese/Korean/Japanese?" Since this question rankles me to no end (does it matter if I'm one of those?), I reply with "I was born and raised in Texas. You know...I'm an American." But that inevitably is followed up with, "But what is your ancestry? Like your parents or grandparents! Where are they from??" The fact that I tell people that I'm an American/Texan has no bearing at all, for the most part. Since I look Asian, I must be separated from being an American, no matter what I identify as personally.

So MeFis: I urge you, when you meet another Asian, don't ask what the fuck they are. It's incredibly annoying and borderline rude because Asians are probably the minority that gets asked this question the most. No one asks or cares what country African Americans are from, what country Hispanics are from, and no one sure as hell cares about what European country whites are from (and many probably can't say for certain anymore).
posted by astapasta24 at 6:49 AM on July 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


or that the reason why Asian-Americans succeed on average..

This report seems to seek to debunk (rather poorly IMHO) the myth that Asian-Americans succeed:

"In fact, Asian Americans remain a relatively rare sight in leadership positions, even in the corporate world, where one would assume that their education and ambition would be most beneficial."

Of course. If you believe the myth that "on average, Asian-Americans are wealthier and better-educated than the average American" in nice little liberal places like Metafilter heads begin to explode looking for explanations which challenge the dogma of white-privilege and racism.
posted by three blind mice at 6:49 AM on July 31, 2012


This report seems to seek to debunk (rather poorly IMHO) the myth that Asian-Americans succeed:

"In fact, Asian Americans remain a relatively rare sight in leadership positions, even in the corporate world, where one would assume that their education and ambition would be most beneficial."


The article doesn't deny that Asian-Americans are generally wealthier and better-educated than the average American. This particular claim is not a myth regardless.

What the article is really debunking is the idea that Asians do not face any serious hurdles as a minority group. The article uses as its primary evidence the underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in corporate leadership roles, which is all the more striking because Asian-Americans tend to be wealthier and better-educated.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:59 AM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


in nice little liberal places like Metafilter heads begin to explode looking for explanations which challenge the dogma of white-privilege and racism.

Asians succeeding means there's no such thing as anti-Asian racism. Got it.
posted by kmz at 7:07 AM on July 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


I hate the conflation of Asian and Pacific Islander. I understand the we Pacific Islanders are too few in number to be statistically significant, but Christ, in that case, don't even pretend to include us.

To be fair, all ethnic-group conflations are pretty much arbitrary ("Asian" among them)
posted by downing street memo at 7:23 AM on July 31, 2012


This alienation is felt in the workplace as well, with just 49% of APA employees in our survey saying that they feel a sense of belonging at their companies. The perception that these employees are “great workers but not leaders,” or that they have “problems communicating or showing assertiveness,” is pervasive.

This could describe any situation.


In fact, Asian Americans remain a relatively rare sight in leadership positions, even in the corporate world, where one would assume that their education and ambition would be most beneficial. If hard work was all it took to rise into the upper echelons of power in corporate America, one would expect to see many Asian American faces at the top, perhaps especially in financial services, accounting, technology, and health care.

really?, please define leadership...business, government?

If hard work was all it took to rise into the upper echelons of power in corporate America, one would expect to see many Asian American faces at the top,

and a fucked up sterotype to boot.
posted by clavdivs at 7:24 AM on July 31, 2012


I actually object to the idea that being a corporate leader is any measure of success.

So, that's just contributing to the stereotype of the model minority for me, really. Not only are Asian-Americans well-educated and hard-working, but they're not morally bankrupt enough to become CEOs or politicians.
posted by MrVisible at 7:24 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


What the article is really debunking is the idea that Asians do not face any serious hurdles as a minority group. The article uses as its primary evidence the underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in corporate leadership roles, which is all the more striking because Asian-Americans tend to be wealthier and better-educated.

Exactly. Unfortunately, a lot of that point seems to get lost. If anything, the example of Asian-Americans can be used to make a larger point about the social hierarchies and other subjective criteria used to fill the upper echelons of corporate America which aren't otherwise spoken about, because if it were as much of a meritocracy as they claim to be, Asians would be rising to the top.

The thing is that when we normally speak about problems of American racial/ethnic minorities, we're looking at issues that demand some kind of legal policy remedy, investment in human and physical infrastructure, or other collective intervention-- whether it be to address poverty, crime, organized and institutional discrimination that block them from the entry-level rungs of the middle class, etc. It's not clear that the same solutions are required in the case of Asian American issues, but the writers dealing with this matter seem to lack a vocabulary to express it in other terms, as though the issues faced by African Americans and Latinos are comparable to problems faced by Asian Americans.
posted by deanc at 7:26 AM on July 31, 2012


In addition, the perception of Asian Americans as the “perpetual other” is alive and well. Indeed, the rise of Asia itself, and US companies’ resulting focus on the Asian market, has in many ways served to amplify it.

We see this when companies hold up their activities in Asia as examples of what they are doing for the Asian American community. There is also the insidious inference that someone who chooses to call herself Chinese-American is clinging to a non-American identity, whereas someone who chooses to call herself, say, Italian-American, is above suspicion

posted by infini at 7:32 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is Pew's little summary.

It is a non-stop parade of positive findings. Compared to the general population, Asian Americans consistently beat the general population in most areas that matter, including general life satisfaction. In fact, Asian Americans as a group appear to actually believe in the traditional promise of "America" more than anyone else with high numbers showing a belief that hard work will pay off and that most things are better in the USA than countries of origin (for migrants).
posted by Winnemac at 7:36 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is also the insidious inference that someone who chooses to call herself Chinese-American is clinging to a non-American identity, whereas someone who chooses to call herself, say, Italian-American, is above suspicion

Wow. This reminds me of an article I was just reading this morning about the new adaptation of Sherlock Holmes that will be on CBS, where Lucy Liu plays Watson, and TV critics asked the exec producer if Liu's ethnicity would be considered in developing Watson.

before the "Elementary" Q&A session got underway, executive producer Robert Doherty took the stage to announce they "officially have a plan" for introducing Doyle's Moriarty character and Sherlock Holmes' father to the show. And, of course, CBS's Holmes is a recovering addict and Watson is his "sober partner" and is played by a woman: Lucy Liu.

One critic was disappointed to learn the writers don't intend to delve into Liu's ethnic heritage in the show, complaining it isn't really exercising ethnic diversity. Doherty explained the show is not about "teaching cultural differences to the audience." Karl Beverly, the other executive producer, jumped in to suggest, "You maximize diversity by not speaking to it. Putting Lucy into the show and not speaking to it is the way we live our lives in society. We don't need to shine a light on it."

posted by discopolo at 7:41 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Asians succeeding means there's no such thing as anti-Asian racism. Got it.

Not quite. Asians succeeding DESPITE THE ASSUMPTION OF ANTI-ASIAN RACISM is the problem for liberals because it invites comparisons to the lack of comparable success among other racial minorities who suffer the same assumed racism yet who are unable, like Asians, to overcome these obstacles. The "belief that hard work will pay off" - essential conservative dogma - must be opposed and debunked by all means possible.
posted by three blind mice at 7:54 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


No one asks or cares what country African Americans are from, what country Hispanics are from

Hello! I am Hispanic of Spanish origin, and this is not my experience, particularly among Hispanics themselves.

I do not know why you are aggrieved when people ask your descent. It does not seem to bother my oriental wife and kids, but perhaps they have not sufficiently internalized the American dogma that to be a visible minority is to be aggrieved. My wife recently related to me an experience when she was shopping in the local grocery store and a little girl greeted her with, "ni hao". This might have been a good time to express offense, I suppose, but instead Mrs. Tanizaki said, "actually, I am Japanese and we say 'kon'nichiwa'." I guess I also missed a lot of opportunity to be aggrieved when I was a visible minority in Japan and people would ask where I was from or *gasp* assume I was America. (guess what - they were right!)

Maybe, just maybe, when someone asks your descent, they are simply expressing interest in you rather than trying to "other" you as they twirl their mustache.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:59 AM on July 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is Pew's little summary.

What's interesting, of course, is what's not being said.

A century ago, most Asian Americans were low-skilled, low-wage laborers crowded into ethnic enclaves and targets of official discrimination ... Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Asian-American adults were born abroad

If most Asian Americans were around a century ago crowded into ethnic enclaves and building railroads, why were nearly three quarters of Asian American adults today born abroad? To understand that, you have to know about things like the Gentleman's Agreement of 1907 and the Chinese Exclusion Act, which pretty much eliminated Chinese and Japanese immigration to the United States until The Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965.

... The educational credentials of these recent arrivals are striking.

The Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 not only opened up Asian immigration once more, but gave preference to six categories, including Professionals, scientists, and artists "of exceptional ability".

So basically Asian immigration was closed off for sixty - eighty years, and then opened pretty much for Asian professionals and scientists of 'exceptional ability'. It is not particularly surprising, then, that these people are succeeding; what the article tries to point out is that given the selected population, you might expect them to be succeeding more. Also that while 'professionals and scientists of exceptional ability' are doing well, other populations within the Asian population are not. (For example the Hmong, who helped America in the Vietnam war.)

Maybe, just maybe, when someone asks your descent, they are simply expressing interest in you rather than trying to "other" you as they twirl their mustache.

With due respect, assuming that somebody who looks Asian cannot be from America is "othering" and fairly irritating if it happens constantly. You do not get to dictate how people react.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:08 AM on July 31, 2012 [13 favorites]


Alright, so I'm Chinese-American born here in the States. Boy does this model-minority nonsense drive me nuts. Invisibility in corporate leadership in addition to politics and culture is pervasive. Before Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming came along, could you name an Asian-American male with significant cultural cachet that wasn't in a kung-fu movie? Everything comes from the fact that we look strange to many Americans.

You know Chris Rock's bit about rich vs. wealthy? That Shaq is rich, but the white guy who signs his check is wealthy? Being a well-educated worker bee isn't really success if you remember that Asian-Americans largely do not own, control, or lead the means of corporate, cultural, and political production in proportion to their population. Asians might not be poor, but they aren't wealthy, and because this barrier is basically invisible it's not regarded as a problem. Especially because the Asian-American community is more of a statistical grouping than an actual unified group.

The Asian community in the US is not yet as well-organized as other minority groups, for historical and linguistic reasons. To be quick about it, the black community had the galvanizing force of the Civil Rights movement, the Hispanic community has awakened as a political movement following immigration reform, but the Asian community is still a bit fractured. The Salvadorean and Mexican immigrants that have just arrived share a language and some concept of Hispanic identity, but the Korean and Chinese immigrants share nothing. There isn't an Asian equivalent to "La Raza", or the shared history of the civil rights movement to unite Asians right now.

What's there to unite the Asian community? Unity is built in crucibles, but the treatment of Asian-Americans has varied so much by ethnicity to the point where it's not really a shared history. Some of the Civil Rights-era cases had roots in the battles fought and lost by Chinese-Americans as the Exclusion era began. Japanese-Americans were rounded up and imprisoned in internment camps while the Chinese were left alone. Vietnamese immigration happened as the U.S. faced defeat in war, an experience not shared by any other Asian group, which shows in the strong Republican Vietnamese vote that flies in the face of the reliably Democratic votes that the rest of the Asian community turns in, but little has happened to all Asians specifically.

Since the vast majority of Asian families can trace their immigration to the US to after the INS Act of 1965 (a debt that I think isn't remembered well enough), most have only been on American soil for one or two generations. This isn't a lot of time to build the essential infrastructure it takes to work your way into a nation's upper echelons, and before those networks can be created, the difficult task of unifying the Asian groups has to be done.

There won't be parity and wide acceptance of Asians in corporate and political leadership positions for a long time, because of the basic otherizing and somewhat atomized nature of the Asian identity. Look at Congress. All but one of the Asian-looking members of Congress (and looking is very important, for example Rep. Bobbly Scott is part Filipino, but voter perception of his identity is still Black) come from California or Hawaii, two states where there has been a longer history of Asians holding political office. A farm team of potential Asian candidates has to start at the local level, and it takes years to develop them. Asians need to start winning white districts to break the "otherizing" lens, so that an Asian politician doesn't get seen as a provincial representative of Chinatown.

There is a ceiling that remains to be broken. It's a little patronizing to pat us on the head and say "Oh look at how well you're doing!", and I'm sure it's equally offensive to Hispanics and blacks to hear that because it implies that they aren't working hard enough.

The point of articles like this is not to debunk the idea that Asians as a whole are doing better on income and education than other minorities, this is actually true. It's that despite this, an Asian leader is still regarded as a strange and wondrous thing, and that the idea that "Asians" in general are succeeding as a monolithic group is very thin because not as much is shared within the group.

Asians on average are "succeeding" as well-educated worker bees, but still aren't in corporate, political, or cultural leadership and are still seen as "Other". Asian success as a whole is largely mythical, because the disparate Asian groups are hardly united or facing the same trajectory.
-----

astapasta24:So MeFis: I urge you, when you meet another Asian, don't ask what the fuck they are. It's incredibly annoying and borderline rude because Asians are probably the minority that gets asked this question the most.

Heh. I can cut people some slack for this. Most of the time I get asked this question by white people in a urban/suburban environment where Asians are common, it's from people who actually understand that Asian is not a monolith. It's an attribute of my identity akin to hair color or height, so it's not offensive to me, and I like talking about it to people that are curious since my family had an especially convoluted path. But...

Tanizaki: I do not know why you are aggrieved when people ask your descent.

There are times I have been asked this question, usually in areas with less of an Asian presence, that it comes with a heavy connotation of "When did your boat get here??!?!" I've moved to a very white town, and have been asked where I was from because they were shocked I spoke such good English. So it's context dependent.

And really, nobody can ask the "Where are they from?" question quite like Chinese family. Two generations removed from Hainan and my dad is still a "Hainan person", distinct from the "Chiuchow people" down the road and the "Guangzhou people" he married into. This distinction is generally lost by the time the ABC generation grows up, but at least the Chinese people I know have a knack for remembering the little patch of village their great-grandparents were born in, and will ask you eventually.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:11 AM on July 31, 2012 [37 favorites]


Before Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming came along, could you name an Asian-American male with significant cultural cachet that wasn't in a kung-fu movie?

Tiger Woods
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:15 AM on July 31, 2012


Asians succeeding DESPITE THE ASSUMPTION OF ANTI-ASIAN RACISM is the problem for liberals because it invites comparisons to the lack of comparable success among other racial minorities who suffer the same assumed racism...

You know, I'm with you on the (mostly online, far-left) liberal refusal to consider that sometimes people work hard for their success. But I think the real liberal contention here is that racism against Asian-Americans is different in quantity and kind from racism against African-Americans and darker-skinned Latinos.

The way I see it, Asian-Americans (particularly Chinese and Japanese-Americans) are being very quickly assimilated into whiteness, as are lighter-skinned Latinos. (Back when the Rick Sanchez scandal was big news, it did not occur to me or anyone I knew that Sanchez was Latino; that wouldn't have been the case 40 years ago).

But anti-African American racism is built into the very structure of the country. It's baked into our financial system, our legal system and our educational system (and those links are just one of the dozens of ways in which that is so.

Asian-Americans simply do not face those barriers, and the comparison is one of apples to oranges.
posted by downing street memo at 8:16 AM on July 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maybe, just maybe, when someone asks your descent, they are simply expressing interest in you rather than trying to "other" you as they twirl their mustache.

As Hollywood Upstairs Medical College points out, it doesn't happen in a San Francisco or some such but in a Pittsburgh, its usually accompanied by "OMG you used the word "chassis" and your English is sooo good" kind of thing, which grates.

Asian-Americans simply do not face those barriers, and the comparison is one of apples to oranges.

Do explain how much life is easier being brown female from one location vs brown female from another?
posted by infini at 8:26 AM on July 31, 2012


suffer the same assumed racism

MorbofromFuturama.jpg: Racism does not work that way! ;-)

There are some commonalities, but there are also vast differences in how ethnic minorities are treated by the majority in this country. I've been utterly bewildered by some of the experiences my Asian and Asian-American friends have related to me, and they've been horrified by some of the things I've experienced and described to them.

For example, my male Asian friends have never told me stories about non-Asian women they've dated saying that their mothers and fathers have warned them that all Asian males are rapists; on the other hand, I've never had people tell me they feel okay with dissing me or inconveniencing me because "you people" are typically well-behaved and non-confrontational.

In the Tiger Mom thread from a while back, I wrote that there were some aspects of the Tiger Mom approach that I wished blacks in America would adopt. But, this whole model minority thing is for the birds. It's such a condescending pat on the head.

And I think it's tied to that non-confrontational stereotype: conservatives aren't just saying that unlike those other others Asians are hard-working, they're also saying, "And they're generally quiet and don't raise this huge ruckus about racism and mistreatment. Why can't the rest of you -- blacks, gays, Hispanics, women: we're looking at you -- be like that?"
posted by lord_wolf at 8:30 AM on July 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


Asians succeeding DESPITE THE ASSUMPTION OF ANTI-ASIAN RACISM is the problem for liberals because it invites comparisons to the lack of comparable success among other racial minorities who suffer the same assumed racism yet who are unable, like Asians, to overcome these obstacles.

These discussion are also a good opportunity to discuss the cognitive dissonance of liberal racism against Asians.

For example, President Clinton felt no hesitation in remarking, “If a university says, ‘Look, we’re only going to let in qualified people, but we think that the life of the university will be strengthened if we had different kinds of people,’ then I think that’s a legitimate thing.”....[otherwise] there are universities in California that could fill their entire freshman classes with nothing but Asian Americans.” Anyone care to imagine the reaction if an American president were to lament if a state university filled its entire class with the right kind of minority?

The discourse regarding Prop 209 really put this on full display. A CNN host felt no hesitation in asking, "If merit — this things, merit, which is most grades and tests are what is used here, would you like to see these UCLA Law School 80 percent Asian? Because at the rate it is going, let me just give you the percentages. The rate it’s going, an increase of 80 students by the year 2007, 80 percent of the UCLA Law School will be Asian. Will that make you happy?"

More recently, the NY Times is aghast at the increase in Asian matriculation at CUNY, and the white parents of Tribeca were outraged last year to learn their kids had been zoned for a majority Asian school.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:30 AM on July 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Asian-Americans simply do not face those barriers, and the comparison is one of apples to oranges.

This statement becomes very problematic when the discussion turns to higher education. In that context, Asian Americans have a higher bar imposed on them to access the most elite institutions. So I wonder to what extent affirmative action (as it relates to placing a higher bar on Asian-Americans) acts to suppress representation of Asian-Americans at the highest ranks of corporate America....since access to elite universities is the most important portal to getting there.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:33 AM on July 31, 2012


The higher education issue is interesting in and of itself. Affirmative action and other diversity programs had been premised on the idea of underperforming minorities. With regard to college admissions, Asian-Americans actually "overperform," as do Jews (like myself). This poses a conundrum.

Setting aside the fact that few find it remarkable that universities in general have more than two percent Jews, the question quickly becomes, what are our goals regarding affirmative action and other diversity programs? Do people want to help out underperforming sections of the populace and to leave alone those who "overperform?" Do existing programs unintentionally (or intentionally?) limit Asian-American candidates? How can these programs be reconfigured to carry out their original goals, while not having these negative effects?
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:41 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This statement becomes very problematic when the discussion turns to higher education. In that context, Asian Americans have a higher bar imposed on them to access the most elite institutions.

I'll grant your premise and say again, a "higher bar" to "access the most elite institutions" is not the same as being born into a formerly-enslaved semi-permanent underclass in a country where very nearly every institution - not just the elite ones - not only put up high bars to your mere presence but actively seek to harm your community socially and financially.

I don't want to play Oppression Olympics, and I think that the points made here about anti-Asian racism are on point (and the examples of it in the wild generally hideous). But let's not pretend that this is at all the same kind of oppression that other minorities in America face, and let's acknowledge that the "model minority" shit is nonsense because it doesn't take into account the deeply-rooted racism against the "non-model" minorities.
posted by downing street memo at 8:42 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


In that context, Asian Americans have a higher bar imposed on them to access the most elite institutions. So I wonder to what extent affirmative action (as it relates to placing a higher bar on Asian-Americans) acts to suppress representation of Asian-Americans at the highest ranks of corporate America

Except that Asian-Americans make up a far larger portion of those classes in elite institutions compared to their overall population (eg, 15-18% of the undergraduates at Harvard, compared to 5% of the overall population) Why does a 15% representation at Harvard translate to only 2% of the CEOs and Board members? That's a good question.
posted by deanc at 8:47 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


if it were as much of a meritocracy as they claim to be, Asians would be rising to the top.

What makes you think they aren't rising to the top? Asian Americans have a higher average income than white Americans. That would seem to be a clearer indicator than looking at a group of a mere 100 CEOs.
posted by John Cohen at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


> It does not seem to bother my oriental wife and kids, but perhaps they have not sufficiently internalized the American dogma that to be a visible minority is to be aggrieved.

I'm not sure I can take your view on racism seriously.
posted by fragmede at 8:55 AM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


when it comes to Asian upbringing, meritocracy is taught and conditioned into you from the day you're born. The article doesn't surprise me.
posted by mike_a at 8:59 AM on July 31, 2012


What makes you think they aren't rising to the top?

The antecedent of "it" in the sentence you quoted from referred to the "upper echelons of corporate America."
posted by deanc at 9:03 AM on July 31, 2012


But let's not pretend that this is at all the same kind of oppression that other minorities in America face

I am not doing that. But please don't suggest that institutional racism against African Americans is practiced today within higher education as far as access is concerned. It is the Asian Americans that have a unique barrier placed on them in this regard. And given that bar and the fact that they are still overrepresented at places like Harvard (thanks deanc) highlights the degree of their success within the K-12 system, where the issue of how racism relates to achievement gaps is certainly an important and complicated one to grapple with.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:03 AM on July 31, 2012


NY Times is aghast at the increase in Asian matriculation at CUNY,

That is a ridiculously misleading characterization of the article to which you are linking. It simply presents the numbers, does not foreground the increase in Asian enrollment and includes one comment from a black student who wonders if the college is biased towards Asians.
posted by yoink at 9:04 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is the Asian Americans that have a unique barrier placed on them in this regard.

Could you cite an instance of this "higher bar" which Asian Americans must pass in order to get access to an elite education? Something akin, for example, to the quota on Jewish admissions to Ivy League universities from the early and mid C20th?
posted by yoink at 9:07 AM on July 31, 2012


But please don't suggest that institutional racism against African Americans is practiced today within higher education as far as access is concerned.

I don't understand how someone can look at the demographic breakdown of all university students - much less the elite universities - and come to this conclusion. But OK.
posted by downing street memo at 9:11 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Could you cite an instance of this "higher bar" which Asian-Americans must pass in order to get access to an elite education?

3 years ago, admission standards were changed at the University of California. It was done under the guise of "increasing diversity", but USA Today reported that the University of California's own internal report estimated a 20% drop in Asian-American admissions.
posted by fragmede at 9:21 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how someone can look at the demographic breakdown of all university students - much less the elite universities - and come to this conclusion. But OK.

By "practicing institutional racism" as far as access is concerned, what I am saying is that universities do not have admissions committees full of racists that are denying admission to qualified students of color because of their color. I am trying to be as specific here as possible. But if you are talking about the sum total of how racism from birth to 12th grade ultimately affects the degree to which people of color are qualified to gain admission, then i agree with you. I hope you see what I mean here.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:22 AM on July 31, 2012


Seymour Zamboni: Tiger Woods

Kind of, except the popular perception of him categorized him as black first regardless of Woods' assertions. He's part Asian, but he isn't seen as Asian.

Despite all those kung-fu movies, Asian males are stereotyped as passive nerdy technocrats. There is a significant masculinity deficit in white perception of us (which is why this Jeremy Lin business is so exciting). This matters: people like "take-charge" attributes in their leaders, and this perception of politeness is extraordinarily damaging when selecting corporate and political leadership. It's damaging to Asian men at work, and it's also damaging to their marriage prospects. Rates of white male-Asian female marriage are much higher than Asian male-white female marriage, for example.

John Cohen: What makes you think they aren't rising to the top? Asian Americans have a higher average income than white Americans. That would seem to be a clearer indicator than looking at a group of a mere 100 CEOs.

That isn't what "the top" means. High income =/= power and wealth. Why aren't all these highly-educated Asians penetrating the elite sphere? It can't just be the lag time between graduating college and the mid-career point where this divide starts to become apparent, and it can't just be the relative newness of Asian-Americans. Invisibility and a perceived lack of "leadership ability" is the subtle racism Asians deal with.

In 2006, only 33% said that America was ready for an Asian president, while 58% said the same for a Black president. I couldn't find any polling that has asked about Asians since then, but I would presume that a gap still exists. The fact that nobody has bothered to even entertain the possibility when the "ready for a Black president" has been polled over and over again since is a bit telling.

Is it because of the "wimpy and strange" view that Americans have of Asian males? Maybe. Asian females have their own set of problems to deal with, as they are especially sexualized and viewed as quiet and submissive. Is it any wonder that Asians have trouble advancing to the top when they have to fight these perceptions?

Sure, it's not the institutional racism that blacks have suffered under. Chinese Exclusion might not have been as bad as slavery. But as stated above, killing the model minority perception is part and parcel to killing racism against other groups. It's patronizing to we Asians because it also says very unkind things about blacks and hispanics. Saying "well, Asians don't have it objectively bad" reinforces the damaging view that "if only those people worked as hard as the Asians did, bless their hearts." It's all linked.

yoink: Could you cite an instance of this "higher bar" which Asian Americans must pass in order to get access to an elite education?

It's not a quota because those are illegal now, but there is evidence that Asians need better numbers to get into colleges compared to other races of up to 140 SAT points.

Affirmative action is an extremely touchy subject among Chinese-Americans. Especially among the immigrant parents of these kids, they aren't really steeped in knowledge of institutional racism against blacks, so when they see their kids getting battered by people with lower objective test scores it enrages them. The younger generation can (quite obviously) be resentful of the fact they need their scores to be higher. The U.C. system story referenced by fragmede is well-known in the Chinese community even out here on the East Coast. (California is home or has been home to by far more Chinese than any other state). Regardless, the majority of Asian-Americans according to a 2012 AALDEF survey suport affirmative action.

All racism is linked.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:26 AM on July 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


Could you cite an instance of this "higher bar" which Asian Americans must pass in order to get access to an elite education?
Slightly older than the report fragmede quoted: Without affirmative action, Asian admission rates rise.

"We'll futz with the rules until we get the numbers we want" is better than "we'll just impose whatever numbers we want", but not by much. See the "our legal system" link above for a non-Asian example: crack-vs-powder-cocaine sentencing disparities are technically color-blind, but the people who came up with them surely weren't.
posted by roystgnr at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2012


I'm not sure I can take your view on racism seriously.

I used "oriental" purposely and wondered if someone would object, and you didn't disappoint. My Japanese wife calls herself oriental, but I guess she hasn't been sufficiently Americanized. And actually, I can predict that you are North American by your offense because the term is not deemed offensive in certain other areas of the Anglosphere.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Could you cite an instance of this "higher bar" which Asian Americans must pass in order to get access to an elite education? Something akin, for example, to the quota on Jewish admissions to Ivy League universities from the early and mid C20th?

Here is an article about how the issue relates to the upcoming Supreme Court Case. It includes other references and some SAT data. You can also get more articles about the issue by searching the Inside Higher Ed site (search for Asian Americans Affirmative Action).
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:37 AM on July 31, 2012


I couldn't give a shit what the representation at the top echelons of business looks like - that's a rigged game from day one. You don't get there by merit, you get there by family contacts and skulduggery. You want to be a Fortune 100 CEO? Not until you learn where all of the bodies are buried (a few because you were the one who buried them), and your Dad has markers he's calling due on half the Board members, sorry. We need fewer of everyone up there, not more of one particular ethnicity or other.

What does the middle class look like?

Not terrific, but not bad at all. Despite lower starting pay for educated professionals compared to their white peers, Asians earn a higher average income than whites. On the other hand, they suffer a much higher poverty rate, mostly in ethnic enclaves (typically home to new immigrants.)

While there are continuing problems with cultural representation, I'd put that way low on the priority list - ask an African American if they'd prefer to have Michael Jordan and Will Smith, or a middle-class upbringing for their kids.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:37 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


3 years ago, admission standards were changed at the University of California. It was done under the guise of "increasing diversity", but USA Today reported that the University of California's own internal report estimated a 20% drop in Asian-American admissions.

That isn't what I asked. At no point, ever, in the formulation of the revised admissions policy at the UC was "reducing the number of Asian students" an explicit or implicit goal. You put "increasing diversity" in scare quotes and seem to suggest that it was a mere flag of convenience under which to pursue an anti-Asian agenda. You are simply wrong.

It's not a quota because those are illegal now, but there is evidence that Asians need better numbers to get into colleges compared to other races of up to 140 SAT points.

No, there is evidence that at a very few elite colleges a purely numbers-driven admission system would admit more Asians than are currently admitted. This is because, for example, the African-American, Hispanic and lower socio-economic group students who are admitted tend, on the whole, to have slightly less strong academic records on a purely numbers-based analysis. None of the colleges in question have ever claimed, however, to admit students based solely on the numbers. They did not claim to do so long before the rise in the numbers of super-qualified applicants of Asian backgrounds, and it's ridiculously disingenuous to suggest that this policy of reviewing the entire application--which, again, long predates the enormous rise in Asian enrollments--is designed to artificially limit the numbers of Asian students admitted to these universities. One can make reasonable (I think incorrect, but reasonable) arguments against affirmative action admission policies, but to pretend that they are secretly based on the desire to limit enrollments of Asian students is not one of them.
posted by yoink at 9:38 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


With regard to college admissions, Asian-Americans actually "overperform," as do Jews (like myself). This poses a conundrum.

Yes, universities have been dealing with this conundrum for some time. It seems that when universities were looking at academic qualifications in days of yore, too many Ashkenazim were getting admitted. Well, we couldn't have that, so they decided it was more important to look at the "whole student".
posted by Tanizaki at 9:39 AM on July 31, 2012


I used "oriental" purposely and wondered if someone would object, and you didn't disappoint.

... so you used it because you knew some people didn't like it and then they would fall into your little trap where you call people stuff they don't like being called?

You seem very expert on Asian people with your 'oriental' wife and your having been to Japan. Why are your experiences more valid than those of actual Asians?
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:42 AM on July 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


Speaking as a former (yet Asian born) member of the American University Admissions system at the graduate level, I remember clearly that this was 'an issue' with regard to disproportionate over achievers. Just like how it became a pattern to see disproportionate GMAT or GRE Verbal vs Math scores or an Asian applicant's TOEFL score was suspect if too high, there many codes in communication used to ensure the incomeing class is "balanced". I'll see if I can dig up the debates around this issue from earlier years.
posted by infini at 9:42 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is an article about how the issue relates to the upcoming Supreme Court Case. It includes other references and some SAT data. You can also get more articles about the issue by searching the Inside Higher Ed site (search for Asian Americans Affirmative Action).

Yes, that's a very good article you link to which once again shows that it is not, at all, a case of quotas being applied or of Asian Americans being held to a "higher standard" or anything remotely like that. It is simply the same old "hey, that black kid is holding a spot that my kid could have got!!!" anti-affirmative-action crap. If you're going to argue against affirmative action have the honesty to just argue against it; dressing it up as some sort of fight against "anti-Asian prejudice" is just offensive.
posted by yoink at 9:43 AM on July 31, 2012


Yes, universities have been dealing with this conundrum for some time. It seems that when universities were looking at academic qualifications in days of yore, too many Ashkenazim were getting admitted. Well, we couldn't have that, so they decided it was more important to look at the "whole student".

No, they imposed a quota. Looking at the whole application file is not remotely the same thing as imposing a quota on Jewish admissions--and it's offensive to suggest that it is.
posted by yoink at 9:44 AM on July 31, 2012


I used "oriental" purposely and wondered if someone would object, and you didn't disappoint. My Japanese wife calls herself oriental, but I guess she hasn't been sufficiently Americanized. And actually, I can predict that you are North American by your offense because the term is not deemed offensive in certain other areas of the Anglosphere.

This is a bit of derail, but you used the term and you indicated you were American. The term "oriental" is generally considered to be offensive in the US when used to describe a person of Asian descent (whether you like it or not, that is a statement of linguistic fact). So, either you were (i) clueless about the loaded use of that term to refer to people or (ii) deliberately being provocative. You've resolved this conundrum by gleefully telling us you were being provocative. The only question left is, what point were you trying to make by saying "oriental?"
posted by Falconetti at 9:44 AM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yes, universities have been dealing with this conundrum for some time. It seems that when universities were looking at academic qualifications in days of yore, too many Ashkenazim were getting admitted. Well, we couldn't have that, so they decided it was more important to look at the "whole student".

No, they imposed quotas on Jews (not just Ashkenazim).

Full disclosure: my grandfather was a Jew who went to Harvard during the quota era.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:46 AM on July 31, 2012


Nobody is calling it a quota. Quotas were banned in Regents v. Bakke, later upheld in Grutter v. Bollinger. Just because a method of doing something was banned doesn't mean the something went away.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


You've resolved this conundrum by gleefully telling us you were being provocative. The only question left is, what point were you trying to make by saying "oriental?"

The "gotcha!" point-scoring thing is a shitty rhetorical tactic. You're not the only one who ever does this here, but that doesn't make it less shitty. If you wanted to make a point about how different populations (immigrants, first- vs second-generation, whatever) use or view different terms differently, okay. But you seem to want to use it to bludgeon "us" (Americans? Which Americans? All of us, regardless of racial or ethnic or immigration background?) about our alleged over-sensitivity and how much more enlightened you are. Or something. Your point was unclear, which means your tactic was a poor one.
posted by rtha at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nobody is calling it a quota. Quotas were banned in Regents v. Bakke, later upheld in Grutter v. Bollinger. Just because a method of doing something was banned doesn't mean the something went away.

Choosing to weigh all aspects of an applicant's file--and not simply to look at headline numbers like GPA and SAT--is not at all the same thing as imposing a quota. It isn't doing the "same thing" via a different mechanism. To pretend that it is--as you and many others in this thread are doing--is simple intellectual dishonesty.
posted by yoink at 9:54 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, one could have a valuable debate on the pros and cons of political correctness just sending things underground, having experienced this from both ends of the spectrum on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
posted by infini at 9:55 AM on July 31, 2012


Why are your experiences more valid than those of actual Asians?

I didn't say anything about the validity of anyone's experience.

However, I do have an interest in the future of my Asian children and even now worry about their college admissions process because they are not the the right kind of minority.

The only question left is, what point were you trying to make by saying "oriental?"


The point was that the term is not a pejorative. People who claim otherwise strike me as Michael Scott when he asked Oscar if he preferred to be a less offensive term than "Mexican". If you would like more discussion on whether or not the term is pejorative, let's take it to MeMail to avoid further derail.

No, they imposed quotas on Jews (not just Ashkenazim).

The Ashkenazim were the ones scoring too high on admissions tests.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:55 AM on July 31, 2012


Choosing to weigh all aspects of an applicant's file--and not simply to look at headline numbers like GPA and SAT--is not at all the same thing as imposing a quota. It isn't doing the "same thing" via a different mechanism. To pretend that it is--as you and many others in this thread are doing--is simple intellectual dishonesty.

I have sat there with the faculty debating over who gets scholarships, who gets admitted from the 'grey' (neither an obvious star nor an obvious reject) and why do we have so many Chinese applicants again ... Is it intellectual dishonesty to not bring this up because no law controls conversations inside the staff room?
posted by infini at 9:57 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, they imposed quotas on Jews (not just Ashkenazim).

The Ashkenazim were the ones scoring too high on admissions tests.


Yep. And then they imposed quotas on Jews (not just Ashkenazim).
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:59 AM on July 31, 2012


Yes, universities have been dealing with this conundrum for some time. It seems that when universities were looking at academic qualifications in days of yore, too many Ashkenazim were getting admitted. Well, we couldn't have that, so they decided it was more important to look at the "whole student".

No, they imposed quotas on Jews (not just Ashkenazim).

Full disclosure: my grandfather was a Jew who went to Harvard during the quota era.


It's funny to imagine some High WASP Harvard dons sipping sherry and discussing the relative achievement potential of Ashkenazim vs. Sephardim vs. Mizrahim vs. "Gentlemen, what the fuck is a Mizrahi Jew?"
posted by clockzero at 10:29 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Found this excellent comment with links to all the subsections in a former FPP on SAT scores.

But he's not far off the mark. There is considerable history in the Ivy League and University of California system of implementing policies that have the effect of severely capping or reducing the Asian American student population.

"After Bakke, racial preferences in college admissions left the headlines for a few years. But by the late 1980s, admissions policies at the University of California again came under fire, this time for allegedly discriminating against Asians. In November of 1988, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights announced it was investigating admissions procedures at UC Berkeley and UCLA after receiving complaints that the schools were capping admissions of Asian students.

The complaints centered on statistics that showed a sharp drop in the percentage of Asian applicants throughout the decade, even though a higher percentage of these applicants met UC's admissions standards than those from other racial groups. Critics blamed the drop on the school's subjective admissions policies, which they said placed too much weight on extracurricular activities. The government also announced plans to investigate similar claims at Harvard.

In April of 1989, UC Berkeley Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman publicly apologized for the drop in Asian admissions at the school. Though he denied that policies had been put in place to deliberately restrict Asians, he vowed to make changes to correct the error. In May, the University announced changes to admissions standards that placed more emphasis on academic achievement, and agreed to make its admissions process public for the first time."

-------------------------

"They point to a UC projection that said the new standards would sharply reduce Asian-American admissions while resulting in little change for blacks and Hispanics, and a big gain for white students."

------------------------

"A recent study of the applicants to seven elite colleges in 1997 found that Asian students were much more likely to be rejected than seemingly similar students of other races. Also, athletes and students from top high schools had admissions edges, as did low-income African-Americans and Hispanics.

Translating the advantages into SAT scores, study author Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton sociologist, calculated that African-Americans who achieved 1150 scores on the two original SAT tests had the same chances of getting accepted to top private colleges in 1997 as whites who scored 1460s and Asians who scored perfect 1600s."

---------------------------------------

"SAT SCORES aren’t everything. But they can tell some fascinating stories.

Take 1,623, for instance. That’s the average score of Asian-Americans, a group that Daniel Golden - editor at large of Bloomberg News and author of “The Price of Admission’’ - has labeled “The New Jews.’’ After all, much like Jews a century ago, Asian-Americans tend to earn good grades and high scores. And now they too face serious discrimination in the college admissions process.


Notably, 1,623 - out of a possible 2,400 - not only separates Asians from other minorities (Hispanics and blacks average 1,364 and 1,276 on the SAT, respectively). The score also puts them ahead of Caucasians, who average 1,581. And the consequences of this are stark.

Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade, who reviewed data from 10 elite colleges, writes in “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal’’ that Asian applicants typically need an extra 140 points to compete with white students. In fact, according to Princeton lecturer Russell Nieli, there may be an “Asian ceiling’’ at Princeton, a number above which the admissions office refuses to venture."

-------------------------------

"As admissions strategists, our experience is that Asian Americans must meet higher objective standards, such as SAT scores and GPAs, and higher subjective standards than the rest of the applicant pool," he said. "Our students need to do a lot more in order to stand out."

-------------------------------


As for anecdotal data, I remember in the late 90's, amongst middle class Asian American parents in Southern California (arguably the gossipy-est population on earth regarding their children and college), it was a bigger deal for a son or daughter to make Princeton than Harvard. It was understood that Princeton was much harder to get into than any other school in the US. I knew of people who received major scholarships to Caltech, MIT, and Yale but were denied admission to Princeton. Although I can't seem to find any links to this, I recall that Princeton undergrad had only about a 9% Asian American population, while Harvard undergrad had about a 20% Asian American population.

Full disclosure: I am an Asian American that went to college, and still a rabid supporter of affirmative action based on race

posted by infini at 10:29 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I didn't say anything about the validity of anyone's experience.

However, I do have an interest in the future of my Asian children and even now worry about their college admissions process because they are not the the right kind of minority.


Well, whether you realize it or not, you're dismissing the experiences of actual Asian Americans and telling them that they're wrong to feel a certain way about things.

Look, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you mean well, and if you're not, then hey, you got me. One day your children will grow up and, depending on how Asian they look, people will make all sorts of strange assumptions about them. One of the assumptions that people will make is that there's something inherently not American about them. One of the ways this gets reinforced is that people will ask them where they're from, no, obviously you're not from there, Americans are from there, where are you really from. And once or twice, hey, it's some guy who probably means well and is trying to be friendly, but when it's done over and over and over again, it's just irritating.

And when that happens, I hope you're not as dismissive with them as you are with some of the people in this discussion.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:34 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


None of the colleges in question have ever claimed, however, to admit students based solely on the numbers.

Correct. All of the articles that attempt to quantify how affirmative action may or may not impact Asian students only talk about test scores. So I agree that the claim that Asian Americans have a "higher bar" for admissions is very difficult to prove without access to the other subjective criteria that enter into those decisions. But if you agree that there is a higher bar for Asian Americans in terms of the objective criteria (as the available data appear to show) then I guess we need to conclude that Asian Americans are under performing on the subjective criteria compared to other groups. Is that what you believe?

Yes, that's a very good article you link to which once again shows that it is not, at all, a case of quotas being applied or of Asian Americans being held to a "higher standard" or anything remotely like that. It is simply the same old "hey, that black kid is holding a spot that my kid could have got!!!" anti-affirmative-action crap. If you're going to argue against affirmative action have the honesty to just argue against it; dressing it up as some sort of fight against "anti-Asian prejudice" is just offensive.


Why are you so hung up on quotas? Nobody here is talking about quotas. But the article does (contrary to your assertion) discuss higher standards with regard to specific objective criteria such as test scores. But I agree that this isn't the only criteria--as I said above. I don't expect you to agree with me but I was hoping we could have a cordial back and forth. I didn't appreciate the tone of this response or your implication that I am here dishonestly with nefarious intentions regarding affirmative action. That is not correct.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:34 AM on July 31, 2012


people will ask them where they're from, no, obviously you're not from there, Americans are from there, where are you really from.

Yes, this happens constantly. CONSTANTLY. I tell people my parents are from India, no matter how much people ask where I;'m really from. I've been to India. I am not "from" there at all. The culture is so very different from what I know.
posted by sweetkid at 10:43 AM on July 31, 2012


I have sat there with the faculty debating over who gets scholarships, who gets admitted from the 'grey' (neither an obvious star nor an obvious reject) and why do we have so many Chinese applicants again ... Is it intellectual dishonesty to not bring this up because no law controls conversations inside the staff room?

If you hear colleagues saying "oh, we can't give that person a scholarship because we've given too many scholarships to Chinese people" then they are breaking the law and you should immediately report that conversation to someone in a position to act on that legal breach.

I have participated in many faculty discussions about admissions (and sat on my university's admissions committee). I have never, once, heard anyone ever make any reference whatsoever to being dissatisfied with how many Asian-American students we enroll (over 50% of our admits) or any desire to decrease those admissions. If I heard such a thing in the course of any official or quasi-official deliberation relating to admissions or scholarships I would not only be shocked and offended I would report the comment to the appropriate authorities. Your department sounds, to me, like a rather bizarre outlier and one which needs some remedial training a.s.a.p.

Why are you so hung up on quotas?

Because people are, in this thread, expressly comparing the current situation to the quotas on Jews that the Ivies used to impose. You'll notice, however, that in quoting my comment on quotas you ignore the second half "it is not, at all, a case of quotas being applied or of Asian Americans being held to a "higher standard" or anything remotely like that." The claim I was disputing is that Asian Americans are held to some kind of "higher standard" in order to gain admission. That claim is simply false. It is asserted because those who wish to see fewer African American and Hispanic students in the university population (and wish to see their places taken by Asian students) realize that being honest about what they want is politically unpalatable. They realize that proclaiming themselves to be the victims of "discrimination" (hence the language of "quotas" and "higher standards") is not only politically palatable, but hits their enemy (proponents of affirmative action) in their weak spot ("Oh no! I thought I was being anti-discrimination--now it looks like I'm actually perpetuating discrimination!"). That is why it is insidious and intellectually dishonest.

If you wish to have a "cordial back and forth" then make an honest argument against affirmative action--which is the actual position you are advancing. Don't dress it up in this entirely invented dress of "anti-Asian discrimination."
posted by yoink at 10:52 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


yoink:The claim I was disputing is that Asian Americans are held to some kind of "higher standard" in order to gain admission. That claim is simply false.


It is congruent to state both that Asian Americans have to pass a higher standard and that affirmative action is a good thing. Affirmative action does this by definition to correct for institutional racism. It does not create more slots, so those slots do have to come from somewhere.

I support affirmative action like you, as do most Asian-Americans (the paranoid parental set notwithstanding). However, it's a bit dishonest to say that affirmative action doesn't increase the standards required for whites and Asians because it's completely impossible not to if the affirmative action is actually happening. I admit that affirmative action tightens admissions for whites and Asians because, uh, that's what it is doing.

The pro-affirmative action argument is not that it won't affect White and Asian admissions, because it by definition has to, the pro-AA argument is that Blacks and Hispanic scores are depressed through institutional and cultural biases that affected them over the course of their entire lives.

The specific nuance in story of the UC systen is that the system seemed to be hurting Asians in favor of whites instead of the truly under-represented minorities. As Asian enrollment at UCs fell after the abolishment of affirmative action, whites took those slots while Black and Hispanic students stayed the same.

So what I'm saying is that affirmative action broke along the way, and became a program to put in white students in the UC system at the expense of Asians whether intentionally or not (I'm just discussing the effect).. Affirmative action is necessary, but the implementation at the UC system left a lot to be desired, and contributed strongly to the confusion and rage of Asian-Americans.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:05 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, whether you realize it or not, you're dismissing the experiences of actual Asian Americans and telling them that they're wrong to feel a certain way about things.

Well, not every emotional reaction is justified. I am the parent of actual Asian-Americans, so I would find it pretty hard to be dismissive. I did not say that anyone was wrong, only that it was possible that sometimes, no mal intent is present when someone asks about background.

Look, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you mean well, and if you're not, then hey, you got me. One day your children will grow up and, depending on how Asian they look, people will make all sorts of strange assumptions about them. One of the assumptions that people will make is that there's something inherently not American about them. One of the ways this gets reinforced is that people will ask them where they're from, no, obviously you're not from there, Americans are from there, where are you really from. And once or twice, hey, it's some guy who probably means well and is trying to be friendly, but when it's done over and over and over again, it's just irritating.

Since you asked, my older child is seven and has been very aware of his looks for some time. There was a time not too long ago where he was crying because he does not have green eyes like me. Being a child of mixed background is very much on his mind, and thank God for the current Olympics because I was able to show him Apolo Ohno as an example of a person with an American parent and a Japanese parent. (my son is very athletic) My daughter is a few years younger, so she cannot articulate her thoughts to this extent, but last month she asked me why I am white. I don't have to wait for them to grow up because they are already asking these questions about themselves.

And, I've been a visible minority, too. Any foreigner in Japan has been through the same drill over and over again. Can you eat X? Can you use chopsticks? Can you read? There was a time when I would rankle at it, and I would sometimes say or do angry things in response to a person who was not being mean-spirited to me in the slightest. I have come to regret that behavior on my part because I think it is not the good way. I would not wish for others to repeat my mistakes.

So, to answer your question, I hope that I mean well. I apologize if this is deemed a derail. I am happy to continue via MeMail.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:05 AM on July 31, 2012


Erm, not the "abolishment of affirmative action", but the implementation of the new system at the UC. That...is a very bad jumble.

Essentially, the UC system is using AA not to give Asian slots to Black and Hispanic kids, but to White kids.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:08 AM on July 31, 2012


I have participated in many faculty discussions about admissions (and sat on my university's admissions committee). I have never, once, heard anyone ever make any reference whatsoever to being dissatisfied with how many Asian-American students we enroll (over 50% of our admits) or any desire to decrease those admissions. If I heard such a thing in the course of any official or quasi-official deliberation relating to admissions or scholarships I would not only be shocked and offended I would report the comment to the appropriate authorities. Your department sounds, to me, like a rather bizarre outlier and one which needs some remedial training a.s.a.p.

yoink, I will not make any assumptions on your role while you participated, but was it as an observer, a student member, a faculty member or staff person ? I was the Director of Graduate Admissions. Yes, the school has broken bits but its not unusual in this particular regard. When I worked there, the aim was to balance the class out 50:50 on mix of gender, background (educational speciality), country of origins et al. Reading through your comments today makes me wonder whether you're still exploring and learning about the world imho.
posted by infini at 11:14 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


So MeFis: I urge you, when you meet another Asian, don't ask what the fuck they are. It's incredibly annoying and borderline rude because Asians are probably the minority that gets asked this question the most. No one asks or cares what country African Americans are from, what country Hispanics are from, and no one sure as hell cares about what European country whites are from (and many probably can't say for certain anymore).

I completely agree with you: it's annoying and betrays conscious or unconscious racism if they don't accept "Texas" as an answer. 

That said, when I ask someone, "Where are you from," what I'm asking is "Where did you grow up/ live most recently?" and if someone says "Texas", I'll say, "That's nice, I've heard that it's a very large state" or (more likely) "That's nice? where in Texas?". Because where people grew up/lived makes for nice small talk. 

Whether people of other races are asked depends on where you live. Perhaps in some area of North America no one would a white person, but in immigrant-dominated Toronto, white people are just as likely to be asked where they are from (especially by recent immigrants).  I'm white, and I've had the "no, where are you really from?" when my first response is "Toronto" or "Canada" - but usually because the asker themselves is a recent immigrant who may not know many native born Canadians. I can imagine that people in New York are similar.  
posted by jb at 11:20 AM on July 31, 2012


Essentially, the UC system is using AA not to give Asian slots to Black and Hispanic kids, but to White kids.

At some point, AA started to be used not to correct past injustices or take into account the more challenging circumstances that certain applicants faced, but to create an overall student body that "looked like the community" or "created a diverse campus", while admissions committees were more-or-less blatantly saying that they didn't want a campus entirely full of [insert achievement stereotypes here].

it's annoying and betrays conscious or unconscious racism if they don't accept "Texas" as an answer.

Like religion and politics, you're not "supposed" to talk about race and ethnicity, so the question "where are you from... no, where are you really from?" is an attempt at asking about your ethnic background without actually saying it up front because You Do Not Say Stuff Like That.
posted by deanc at 11:23 AM on July 31, 2012


Essentially, the UC system is using AA not to give Asian slots to Black and Hispanic kids, but to White kids.

If I'm not mistaken, what changed in the UC system was not AA at all, but the now-abandoned requirement to take easily-gamed, low-predictive-value SAT Subject exams. Many Asian-American families had made the rational choice to invest time and energy into preparing their children to take these SAT exams, but after the UC system had decided to do away with this requirement, that time and energy was retroactively wasted.

The question remains, then, what do we want AA to look like? It had been premised on the idea that minorities always underperform academically, but we know that that's not true. "Overperforming" minorities will continue to get dinged so long as AA exists. So, how can AA keep pace?

Further, what should a student body look like? What is the "right" percentage of each ethnic group? If there is no single right answer to that question, then what other guidelines and standards can we use to be fair?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:27 AM on July 31, 2012


...people will ask them where they're from

I'm asked all the time if I'm Irish or Polish or Portuguese... I'm an all-american Mutt, but I still say "Scottish on my Mother's side, German on my Dad's" even though that's nowhere near the complete picture. People like knowing where their immigrant forebears came from, and they tend to be curious about other people's. I know this drives a lot Asians right up a wall, but the white folks ask the same question of each other constantly.

They're not saying you don't belong, they're saying you're from somewhere, and are asking if you're proud of the somewhere your family is from? The correct answer is yes. It's a good opening to make smalltalk about food and geography, local and far away. (Then they'll ask something actually stupid, like if you know kung-fu or are good at math and/or chopsticks.)

At least Asians have the benefit that most Americans know there's more than one Asian country, and they have different cultures - if you're Hispanic, you come from Mexico. Period, the end. No-one's even going to bother to ask. Likewise black immigrants - you are from Africa, which is a country that has jungles where there is war and deserts where people starve and you can't be from South Africa, because people there are white.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:29 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you wish to have a "cordial back and forth" then make an honest argument against affirmative action--which is the actual position you are advancing. Don't dress it up in this entirely invented dress of "anti-Asian discrimination."

But I am not trying to argue against affirmative action here. You keep insisting that is my position but it is not. So yes, a cordial back and forth will not be possible. Congratulations. You win. I am done here.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 11:30 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know this drives a lot Asians right up a wall, but the white folks ask the same question of each other constantly.

I'm white, and I'm almost never been asked anything like this. People have gone years without even figuring out that I'm Jewish...
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:31 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


A huge problem is the whole concept of what I call hyphen-Americans... it probably had rational roots in fairness and justice and visibility but now it creates its own divisions. Y'all are Americans, full stop. Y'all carry an American passport.

And that's why saying 50% of the students are Asian Americans =! 20% are XX ethnicity because Asian American, as has been stated many times in this thread =! an ethnicity but instead peoples from the world's largest continental mass. Put a group of people together - Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Indians, Malays, Polynesians, Sri Lankans and Thai and you get a very diverse group of people, not the mass lumped as "Asian".
posted by infini at 11:38 AM on July 31, 2012


A huge problem is the whole concept of what I call hyphen-Americans.

Really, this concept drives me up the wall-- the concept that it's a "huge problem." It's not a huge problem-- it's the way people have identified themselves for a long, long time in the USA, and they've only ceased to do so when confronted with such blatant (and sometimes violent) prejudice that they made efforts to actively hide it (eg, the instance of the German-American community during WWI).

It's only when I'm feeling particularly snarky and passive-aggressive that I'd respond to a question like "what kind of name is that?" with "it's an American name."
posted by deanc at 11:48 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Further, what should a student body look like? What is the "right" percentage of each ethnic group? If there is no single right answer to that question, then what other guidelines and standards can we use to be fair?


There isn't one if you use race/ethnicity as a measure for how "diverse" the student body is. Schools really should concentrate on cultivating intellectual diversity: fostering a student body that holds widely differing opinions so that students can not only learn from their classes and professors, but also from each other about different world views. I feel schools should care more about how their students think and less about how they look when they're trying to put together an incoming class.

With the current system, you still end up with schools known for being very liberal or very conservative even though they have students of every single color. At the same time, racial tensions are also exacerbated during the college application process because of the perceived disadvantages of Asians, especially male Asians, and the perceived unfair advantage given to African Americans and Hispanic groups.

Don't ask me how to gauge the intellectual diversity of a high school senior though. This is just a pipe dream.
posted by astapasta24 at 11:49 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Then they'll ask something actually stupid, like if you know kung-fu or are good at math and/or chopsticks.)

Or when you say you're Chinese the person asking will look disappointed and go, 'Oh, I thought you were Japanese - I wanted to practise my Japanese on a real Japanese person. Japan's really cool, don't you think?' and then you start wishing for more vodka because you know this evening is going to be full of memorised dialogue from anime series.

(Sailor Moon and Inuyasha, if you're interested.)
posted by zennish at 11:52 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of the reasons the "Asian-Americans are richer than white people so it means black and Hispanics are angry" argument is its complete dismissal of the factor financial background and social strata plays in immigrant success. Due to immigration laws from decades ago Asian-Americans, on average, tended to come from wealthy and/or professional classes. You mean growing up in a rich, successful household gives you more advantages than someone growing up in a poor household? UNPOSSIBLE!
posted by schroedinger at 12:13 PM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of the reasons the "Asian-Americans are richer than white people so it means black and Hispanics are angry" argument is its complete dismissal of the factor financial background and social strata plays in immigrant success.

I don't really understand this sentence, is it missing a word?
posted by Danila at 12:31 PM on July 31, 2012


Whoops, it is missing a word and another one is wrong!

"One of the reasons the "Asian-Americans are richer than white people so it means black and Hispanics are lazy" argument is ridiculous is its complete dismissal of the factor financial background and social strata plays in immigrant success.

Next time need to use that preview window . . .
posted by schroedinger at 12:35 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for clarifying schroedinger :)

And of course you're right, there are significant differences in the manner in which ethnic and national groups arrived in America which can have a lasting effect for generations. This can lead to differences in outcomes, but I think the mainstream narrative in America is "the ethnic myth" that different outcomes stem primarily from cultural values tied to ethnicity. What this does is make it easier to blame the victims and refuse to do anything that will really help lift people out of poverty. I think this also renders invisible the many Asian ethnic groups whose emigration story is that of refugees or fleeing rural poverty. I went to high school with a large population of Vietnamese and Thai Americans, mostly 2nd generation, and we were all from the ghetto.

At the same time, and this is I think the point of the FPP article, even those groups who had more advantageous middle and upper middle class origins face racial discrimination in the United States, significant discrimination in the form of the bamboo ceiling. White supremacy continues to be the defining institutional and cultural bias of this country. As much as class and money do matter, it's not everything.
posted by Danila at 1:01 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh for sure--I figured the article's point is that the people with advantageous backgrounds are doing well compared to other minority groups, but they would be doing a lot better if racial discrimination wasn't inhibiting them.

I think this also renders invisible the many Asian ethnic groups whose emigration story is that of refugees or fleeing rural poverty.

I would like to see a socioeconomic analysis of the success of Asian-American immigrants that distinguished between an engineer who immigrated from India and a Cambodian farmer escaping the Khmer Rouge. Hell, it would be nice to see a multi-level study that accounted for these differences and compared success between minority and majority groups based on these backgrounds. That is, how does a poor white person do compared to a poor Asian or African immigrant? Does the difference between Asian-American and African-American socioeconomic success dissipate when you stop comparing kids of doctors and lawyers to a kid from Camden and use the kid of a rural Hmong refugee instead?
posted by schroedinger at 1:19 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not a conspiracy theory that looking at the "whole applicant" emerged as a workaround of enforcing quotas when explicit discrimination became too culturally distasteful. For the history of elite admissions see "The Half-Opened Door: Discrimination and Admissions at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, 1900-1970", and to see how this history has motivated the current system see "The Price of Admission". The basic idea is that supposedly meritocratic measures (grades, SAT, etc.) had 'failed' in the eyes of admissions committees by letting in too many Jews. Therefore, emphasis would be placed on All-(RICH, WHITE)American *cultural* attributes -- things that the Jews were not inclined to undertake -- such as football and rowing. By attacking any one type of performance that stands out in the search for 'diversity', admissions can effectively weed out minorities that share cultural preferences (e.g. violin) thereby advantaging the majority. This is now accepted cultural truth: you don't want any more of those soulless ethnic robots that have high scores and do "X,Y,Z", after all!

The notion of "well-roundedness" as academic merit has now become so ingrained in society that its dark underpinnings have been entirely forgotten. It's an extension of earlier history. Hobbies are an intentionally expensive social signal (time and money to dick around in many things) for the aristocracy. At first, having any hobby would mean you were part of the rich leisure class. When the middle class emerged they became the best of specific events (baseball, piano, etc.) so the new "cool" was to be a jack-of-all-trades -- merely skilled at expensive games, but not enough to become professional.

I support affirmative action as a second-best solution to actually providing good infrastructure for downtrodden minorities, but this is a separate issue from what is basically negative action against Asian-Americans. The attempt in certain media to conflate the two issues and pit minorities against each other is disgusting.
posted by helot at 2:26 PM on July 31, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'd like to add an observation on one other aspect that I do have some personal exposure, from my time in the United States.

It was indeed the opening of the green card to qualified immigrants that led to the big wave of immigrant doctors, engineers and scientists from South Asia (as opposed to the earlier days before the laws prevented non born residents from becoming citizens) back in the 1960s and early 70s and due to the requirements, most were from upper middle, educated families. However, since then, the influx of immigrants were increasingly from lower and lower down the 'class' strata as the educational path via the IITs to scholarships in grad schools was increasingly seen as the way out and the way to make it for many, particularly those supporting families back home culminating in just about any Tom, Dick or Hari with a computer certificate who came in for the Y2K bug 'gold rush' of body shopping and what not.

This striation can be seen within the South Asian community as the old guard turned up their noses on the "FOB" (fresh off the boats) and very soon, the bottomline became that one didn't tend to immigrate unless one's own background and resources impelled one to - the simultaneous rise of economic activity and opportunity back in India only supported this aspect.

So while there's been discussion earlier in this thread about the background and class of the educated immigrants, I'd just like to point out that from the context of their own communities and countries (speaking here from the Indian perspective) they are certainly not the cream of the society back home who never needed to immigrate in the first place, if that makes any sense, or else it was second sons or some such who did so.

Many of these may have also been the first in their families to go on to professional education much less higher degrees, still speaking the vernacular at home and feeling constrained in the American workplace due to their unfamiliarity with and exposure to the world, international travel and other cultures and foods. I'd say that we may be expecting more than what may be reality by classifying them along with other 'middle class' professionals already existing in their new homeland without giving these aspects due credit as well as constraints that hold one back from upward mobility.

As someone said above, it will be the ABCDs who will be the game changers - Anil Dash and his ilk, for example - than most who will keep their heads down in their new home as they seek to support their families and give their children better opportunities.
posted by infini at 2:50 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a pretty good thread despite the amount of staggering stupid foisted upon it.

To RTHA: It's my understanding that API language was initially based on places like Hawaii, where PIs are a big enough chunk to merit their own letters.
posted by klangklangston at 4:49 PM on July 31, 2012


Yeah, that's my understanding as well, and in someplace like Hawaii, it makes total sense. Elsewhere, not so much. And that it's used so broadly - in politics, in public health, in school demographics - just makes it even more meaningless. And annoying.
posted by rtha at 5:18 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only folks that use it that I deal with regularly are API-Equality, and I know they've got some PIs who identify with that.

But yeah, it's a bit of a mishmash, especially because PI doesn't include places like Malaysia or Indonesia (or even Japan) despite those being islands in the pacific.
posted by klangklangston at 5:34 PM on July 31, 2012


People like knowing where their immigrant forebears came from, and they tend to be curious about other people's. I know this drives a lot Asians right up a wall, but the white folks ask the same question of each other constantly.

They're not saying you don't belong, they're saying you're from somewhere, and are asking if you're proud of the somewhere your family is from?

Huh, that is not my experience at all. I grew up in suburban Chicago. I never, ever heard white people ask this of each other in get-to-know-you small talk. It's always, "Where are you from?" "Minnesota." There's never a "Where are you really from? Denmark?" follow up.

At least Asians have the benefit that most Americans know there's more than one Asian country, and they have different cultures - if you're Hispanic, you come from Mexico. Period, the end. No-one's even going to bother to ask. Likewise black immigrants - you are from Africa, which is a country that has jungles where there is war and deserts where people starve and you can't be from South Africa, because people there are white.


So, are ya Chinese or Japanese?

A friend of mine's mother thought that everyone in Asia spoke Chinese - just different dialects. Not kidding.

As funny as this stuff in the retelling, like Hollywood Upstairs Medical College mentioned, it always came with some bullshit assumptions about your behavior and capabilities, and that's why people bristle at that stuff.
posted by ignignokt at 10:52 PM on July 31, 2012


Doh. This part was supposed to be non-italicized:
Huh, that is not my experience at all. I grew up in suburban Chicago. I never, ever heard white people ask this of each other in get-to-know-you small talk. It's always, "Where are you from?" "Minnesota." There's never a "Where are you really from? Denmark?" follow up.
posted by ignignokt at 10:54 PM on July 31, 2012


Huh, that is not my experience at all. I grew up in suburban Chicago.

Well, I didn't grow up in Chicago, but my impression of the place (the city, anyway), was that every person and neighborhood gets pegged by ethnic background (eg, "that Polish family"/"that Greek guy"/"the Jewish neighborhood") moreso than other places.
posted by deanc at 5:31 AM on August 1, 2012


There's certainly ethnic neighborhoods in the city, but there are plenty of them are not ethnic enclaves at this point. Most of the suburbs are mostly populated by long-assimilated people of European origin, and their ancestral origin does not color their interaction with each other.
posted by ignignokt at 8:25 AM on August 1, 2012


I'd say its a commonality among fresh arrivals - my friends in Chicago were a Bosnian lawyer now a doorman and a Polish history teacher now cleaning offices. It was natural to share our pasts and heritage upon meeting/getting to know you stage. Perhaps this may have more bearing among those more recent than in the context of the established neighbourhoods?
posted by infini at 8:42 AM on August 1, 2012


Re: the "where are you from" thing, I'm a white USian in Beijng, and "where are you from" is obligatory on meeting me. Often (not always, but really, 80% of the time) followed by 1) complimenting my Chinese, 2) asking if I like the NBA, 3) asking if I'm a student or a tourist or working, 4) some suggestive statement about my love of Chinese women after asking if I have a girlfriend.

My answers: 1) I'm a translator, yeah, this is what I do all day every day, it's how I pay my bills, thank you, 2) no, I hate sports ("WHAT?! Americans love sports!" "Not this one, sorry. Nothing against it, just find it boring." "Oh, well do you like soccer?"), 3) remember when I just told you I was a translator 2 sentences ago? (no shit, I tell people I'm a translator and they ask this), 4) On a good day, I say, "You'd think, given how most women in China are Chinese and I'm not a racist, that numbers would favor them." On a bad day, I cut off the conversation right there.

It's such a rare occurrence that someone talks to me about something other than my skin color that when they do, I'm actually grateful.

Don't EVER talk to people about where they're from. Save that conversation for later, as a joke, and you can raise all the bullshit assumptions you want and ask me all the earnest questions you want. I'll take the time. But don't make that your opening line. It's rude, it's tiresome, and in a world with the internet and so many bilingual/trilingual people, so much mixing of cultures, and so many different realities so public, there's no excuse but wilful, patronizing ignorance to not know better.

Re: article, interesting niche data presented as sweeping generalization. This is my dismissive face.
posted by saysthis at 9:04 PM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just reading this, I'm wondering: why is it verboten to say that affirmative action has problems, including creating a higher bar for non-affirmative-action minorities, and maybe that means we should stop doing it? I see a lot of people painstakingly trying to justify that these things are wrong and negatively impacting Asians, but that doesn't mean we should even think of stopping affirmative action.

I am unclear on why some types of racial discrimination are bad, and others are totally fine, and no one can even question that without getting a very angry response.
posted by corb at 8:41 AM on August 3, 2012


Some types of racial discrimination:

"Hey you! Fuck off and sit at the back of the bus and also? You only get to go to shitty schools because of your skin color."

Other types of racial discrimination:

"Hey you! In determining whether or not you're worthy of being considered smart and capable, we're going to take into account that we've been making you sit at the back of the bus and given you a shitty education."

And yet other types of discrimination:

"We want the incoming class to be as well-rounded and representative as possible, therefore we are not going to admit only people from New England with GPAs of 4.0."
posted by rtha at 11:23 AM on August 3, 2012


I am Asian-American; I am also pro-Affirmative Action (these are not mutually exclusive).

I've enjoyed the thread. Two stray thoughts come to mind:
1. Socioeconomic class plays a huge role. I am the daughter of highly-educated professionals who immigrated to the US and settled in the wealthy suburbs of the East Coast, so I had a very different childhood compared to those of my San Francisco Chinatown-raised colleagues.

2. I have come to recognize the incredible white privilege I have with my typical East Asian phenotype. I can see now that, though I am not white-skinned, the lightness of my skin color is less of a barrier than if I were a browner-hued Asian. (My ABCD friends joke about being "brownies," which just cannot be used to describe me).
posted by honey badger at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


why is it verboten to say that affirmative action has problems, including creating a higher bar for non-affirmative-action minorities, and maybe that means we should stop doing it?

It's not "verboten" to say that-- it's said every single day among Republicans and those who wish to style themselves "moderates who understand both sides!" So it is not a verboten idea. It is simple a bad idea.

Unfortunately, explaining the history of our national class and racial caste system, how it was established, and the official and unofficial institutions we put in place to perpetuate it, along with the long-term consequences of any country having a permanent underclass would take to long to explain in a metafilter comment, particularly if someone came to the US without being intimately connected to that entire infrastructure.
posted by deanc at 6:14 PM on August 4, 2012


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