I thoroughly dislike when Asian Americans are compared to African Americans/Blacks. Perhaps Asians are more comparable to Latinos, who are able in some cases to “pass” for white (ex. Italian). African Americans/Blacks carry the weight of the reputation of their ethnicity wherever they go. They can seldom “pass.”
I know from first-hand experience that even when you do not act in accordance to your race’s stereotype, there will be some white people who wonder why you don’t, and they will look at you as though you are some sort of defective person or oddity. I’ve been told that I do not sing like a black person because I prefer pop music, don’t “act” like a black person, don’t talk like a black person. It is infuriating.
The reason I find the comparison highly insulting is that African Americans/Blacks, unlike Asians, have endured hundreds of years of discrimination (and torture) of a physical and psychological nature.
Asians didn’t have their families bought and sold like cattle. They were allowed to keep their familial relationships. They were not overwhelmingly hung from trees, denied the right to vote, denied the right to think of themselves as human, have their churches burned, etc.
These events caused damage to the psyche of a community by increasing frustration and lowering self confidence and the belief that you can meaningfully affect change in your life. So it angers me when we are supposed to “get it together” and collectively become “puritanical” scholars and entrepreneurs when education and ownership (business and private) denied to us for YEARS.
Whites like Asians because they are capable of embracing the white way of thinking as the norm. They often don’t challenge white society. I’ve noticed that Asians are often okay with denying certain parts of their culture to completely assimilate into the mainstream white culture. You don’t hear Asians complain as much as other minorities about being underrepresented in film, for example. I’ve heard some Asian women prefer white men, because they find Asian men “unattractive.”
Yes, a good work ethic is great. Agreed. But when talking about the black community, people forget that it is as if an atomic bomb was dropped on a populace and no one cared. Instead, white people are scratching their heads and wondering why there are mutations in the subsequent generations. The United States government has done very little to rectify the fact that almost everyone else (except Native Americans) have had a healthy head start in terms of education, privilege, and entrepreneurship when compared to blacks. Some whites have failed to be empathetic on these points.
The civil rights movement just happened people; let’s be realistic.
Despite immigrant status, racism affects every black person; so I was hoping for more of an optimistic takeaway from the book—a way forward through this mess. Instead, the book is depressing and cynical. Whites are allowed to retain their optimism, hope, happiness, nationalism and God; blacks are left to be cynical, depressed atheists waiting for a secular deity (the law? the government?) to save them. It reads to me as resignation.
More on that “hope vs. despair” debate here, here, and here. Another reader on the “model minority”:
The perception that some cultures value education and success more than others feeds into dangerous stereotyping. As a Latino who has spent most of his life in majority Latino communities, I can say with confidence that Latinos don’t suffer a cultural deficiency in wanting their kids to succeed. I have a hard time believing that the achievement gap exists because some cultures don’t have enough honor.
Ta-Nehisi Coates has done a great job of drawing a line through slavery, Jim Crow and mass incarceration to show how conscious policy decisions can benefit one race of people while casting out the other. While there’s no doubt that many in the Asian American community have overcome racism and discrimination to find success, it isn’t because they rose to the top of a meritocracy. There’s always help along the way. The reparations made to the Japanese Americans after World War II is a good example of that.
How to achieve educational equity is debatable, but it won't be accomplished by telling blacks, Latinos and other underachieving minorities that they don’t have their priorities straight.
The highly selective UC campuses are known, sometimes bitterly, to serve especially disproportionate numbers of Asian students; Asians famously make up half of the undergraduates at UC Irvine, for example, which was No. 1 on Leonhardt’s list. By highlighting economic diversity in lieu of its race-based cousin, this year’s Upshot and Washington Monthly rankings may support arguments that the state’s ban on race-blind admissions discriminations has shortchanged blacks and Latinos in favor of whites and Asians. While that may very well be true, the rankings offer an opportunity to highlight nuances to the “model minority” stereotype and the ways in which it hinders economic equality in education.
The irony being the people most “bitter” about the Asian-American students are so-called progressives who claim to care about minority groups.
Why is Asian achievement in the UC system so quickly dismissed? As any reader of The Atlantic knows, these Asian kids live in a country founded on “white supremacy,” a country where “white privilege” rules and where they experience microaggressions. You would think people who claim to care about minorities would celebrate this accomplishment. But they actually describe the UC system—a system where whites are underrepresented relative to the white population of California—as a system with an admissions policy based on “white privilege.” They must go through a lot of mental gymnastics to come to that conclusion.
A countervailing view from another reader:
Asians don’t go through nearly as many microaggressions as other minorities. They aren’t put down and treated as if they’re thugs or criminals purely because of skin color. They also haven’t been nearly as oppressed as other groups. There are still African Americans alive from the time when they weren’t allowed to vote or go to good colleges.
Asians in California are typically pretty wealthy, and the average Asian family might even be wealthier than the average white family.
That’s true, according to this data from the Public Policy Institute of California:
Because of this wealth disparity, Asian Americans live in better neighborhoods with better schools and can afford all the tutoring and extracurriculars they did. Most Hispanics and African Americans have much lower income, resulting in getting the shorter end of the stick by needing to go to lower quality schools because they have less money and resources to be as competitive.
For example, SAT workshops are expensive (I did a few about four years ago) and nearly everyone else except myself were wealthy Asians. They can afford to be taking those classes/workshops for four or more years, whereas the average Hispanic/African American family can’t afford the four digit cost to even do one. You don’t think that makes a difference on the end result?
Another reader doesn’t buy that argument:
Asians don’t go through as many “microaggressions” as other minorities TODAY because Asians behave differently, have different values, attitudes and behaviors, and therefore different socioeconomic outcomes. Asians went though more micro AND macro-aggressions that any other minority at the turn of the 20th century, and certainly during WWII. But they triumphed over racism and poverty because of their intelligence, honor, value systems, and their cultural priorities, combined with a work ethic as strong as the Puritans’.
It is 100 percent cause-and-effect. And when we’re finally willing to publicly admit it, THEN we can earnestly attempt to close the achievement gap. But the only possible way to do it is for the under-performing minorities to change their cultures.
Disagree? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get a debate going. But here’s some quick historical context to go along with that last reader’s point about Asian Americans being macroaggressed during WWII—the most egregious example being internment, of course:
In 1988, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, [which] provided financial redress of $20,000 for each surviving detainee, totaling $1.2 billion. The question of to whom reparations should be given, how much, and even whether monetary reparations were appropriate were subjects of sometimes contentious debate within the Japanese-American community and Congress.
On September 27, 1992, the Civil Liberties Act Amendments of 1992, appropriating an additional $400 million to ensure all remaining internees received their $20,000 redress payments, was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. He issued another formal apology from the U.S. government on December 7, 1991, on the 50th-Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attack, saying:
In remembering, it is important to come to grips with the past. No nation can fully understand itself or find its place in the world if it does not look with clear eyes at all the glories and disgraces of its past. We in the United States acknowledge such an injustice in our history. The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.
A controversial video of Catholic students clashing with American Indians appeared to tell a simple truth. A second video called that story into question. But neither shows what truly happened.
In a short, viral videoshared widely since Friday, Catholic high-school students visiting Washington, D.C., from Kentucky for the March for Life appeared to confront, and mock, American Indians who had participated in the Indigenous Peoples March, taking place the same day.
By Saturday, the video had been condensed into a single image: One of the students, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, smiles before an Omaha tribal elder, a confrontation viewers took as an act of aggression by a group of white youths against an indigenous community—and by extension, people of color more broadly. Online, reaction was swift and certain, with legislators, news outlets, and ordinary people denouncing the students and their actions as brazenly racist.
Next time there’s a viral story, I’ll wait for more facts to emerge.
Like many people who spend too much time on Twitter, I watched with indignation Saturday morning as stories began appearing about a confrontation near the Lincoln Memorial between students from Covington Catholic High School and American Indians from the Indigenous Peoples March. The story felt personal to me; I live a few miles from the high school, and my son attends a nearby all-boys Catholic high school. I texted him right away, ready with a lesson on what the students had done wrong.
“They were menacing a man much older than them,” I told him, “and chanting ‘Build the wall!’ And this smirking kid blocked his path and wouldn’t let him leave.” The short video, the subject of at least two-thirds of my Twitter feed on Saturday, made me cringe, and the smirking kid in particular got to me: His smugness, radiating from under that red MAGA hat, was everything I wanted my teenagers not to be.
How Fyre Fraud and Tidying Up With Marie Kondo capture a precarious cultural moment
The fifth episode of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, Netflix’s effervescent new reality series, deals with Frank and Matt, a couple living in West Hollywood, California. Both writers, they have a touching love story involving Tinder, a too-small apartment filled with detritus from past roommates, and a burning desire to prove their adulting bona fides. They are, in short, the archetypal Millennial couple. The dramatic hook of the episode is that Frank’s parents are coming to visit for the first time, and Frank wants to impress them, to make them see “that the life we’ve created together is something to be admired.”
Frank and Matt, in other words, want their home to reflect their identities and sense of self (as opposed to the cutlery preferences of the people Matt lived with after college). They’ve internalized the idea that the signifiers of success are primarily visual. “I don’t know that I’ve given [my parents] any reason to respect me as an adult,” Frank agonizes at one point, which is absurd, given his apparently successful career and adorable relationship. “I’m organized in some aspects of my life. Like, professionally, my email inbox is organized, I’m great. And I just get frustrated with myself that I haven’t translated that into my home life. It feels like I give it all at work and then I come home and am like, pmph.” He makes a gesture like a deflated balloon.
Home to vibrantly colored, tiny creatures, the ecosystems floating on the ocean’s surface remain all but unknown.
Imagine you’re on a small boat in the middle of the open ocean, surrounded by what looks like a raft of plastic. Now flip the whole world upside down. You remain comfortably attached to your seat—the abyss towers above you, and all around, stretching up from the water’s surface, is an electric-blue meadow of life. What you thought was plastic is actually a living island. This meadow is made up of a diverse collection of animals. The most abundant are blue buttons and by-the-wind sailors, with bright-blue bodies that dot the sky like suns, and deep-purple snails found in patches so dense one scientist described collecting more than 1,000 in 20 minutes.
This is the neuston, a whole ecosystem living at the ocean’s surface. I once stumbled upon a raft of neuston when a storm blew it ashore in California. Many neustonic animals are vibrant highlighter colors, and the sand was saturated in bright blues and pale pinks. Together, these small creatures may function like upside-down coral reefs: an oasis of shelter and life far out to sea. As far back as the Cold War era, scientists were describing these colorful and important ecosystems, yet they still remain all but unknown. But now, as efforts to clean the ocean of plastic start up, our ignorance is putting this ecosystem at risk.
Insights into the little-studied realm of last words
Mort Felix liked to say that his name, when read as two Latin words, meant “happy death.” When he was sick with the flu, he used to jokingly remind his wife, Susan, that he wanted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” played at his deathbed. But when his life’s end arrived at the age of 77, he lay in his study in his Berkeley, California, home, his body besieged by cancer and his consciousness cradled in morphine, uninterested in music and refusing food as he dwindled away over three weeks in 2012. “Enough,” he told Susan. “Thank you, and I love you, and enough.” When she came downstairs the next morning, she found Felix dead.
During those three weeks, Felix had talked. He was a clinical psychologist who had also spent a lifetime writing poetry, and though his end-of-life speech often didn’t make sense, it seemed to draw from his attention to language. “There’s so much so in sorrow,” he said at one point. “Let me down from here,” he said at another. “I’ve lost my modality.” To the surprise of his family members, the lifelong atheist also began hallucinating angels and complaining about the crowded room—even though no one was there.
From West Virginia to Los Angeles, educators are ushering in a new era of labor activism.
In Los Angeles, more than 30,000 teachers remain on strike; it took union and city officials more than a week to eke out a tentative agreement that, they announced Tuesday morning, will likely bring them back to their classrooms this week. Last Friday, teachers from a handful of public schools in Oakland, California, staged a one-day walkout, too, and they’re planning for another demonstration this Wednesday. Meanwhile, a citywide strike is brewing a few states over in Denver, as could soon be the case in Virginia, where teachers are gearing up for a one-day rally in Richmond later this month. An educator uprising is even percolating in Chicago, where the collective-bargaining process is just getting started: “We intend to bargain hard,” the teachers’ union’s president told the Chicago Tribune last week.
The 2020 candidate is pitching herself as the one who can actually put together a winning coalition of voters, a goal Democrats have obsessed over since their shocker loss in 2016.
Kamala Harris is a half-Jamaican, half-Indian woman from Oakland, California, the daughter of two UC Berkeley grad students. She went to high school in Montreal. She married a wealthy, white, Jewish lawyer later in life, and didn’t have kids of her own. When she’s not in Washington, she splits her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Her first name is Sanskrit and gets mispronounced all the time. She was being mentioned as a front-runner presidential candidate before she’d even headed over to her Senate victory party, all of two years and two months ago.
She is not, by biographical measures, representative of what most would see as the typical American experience. But Harris launched her presidential campaign Monday with a challenge to the rest of the field that—as she put it to me at the press conference she held in the afternoon in the lobby of the Interdisciplinary Research Building at her alma mater, Howard University—candidates who want to win have to speak to “the complexities of each of our lives, and pay equal attention to their needs.”
Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs.
On January 20, 2017,Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.
Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.
The internet once made it easier to slip from one domain to another. Is there a way to preserve that vital freedom?
Has the internet afforded humans more freedom, or less?
That’s a question I’m pondering anew thanks to the University of Michigan philosophy professor Elizabeth Anderson, who provoked the thought while being interviewed by Nathan Heller for a recent profile in The New Yorker.
After Europe’s religious wars, Anderson mused, as centuries of conflicts between Catholics and Protestants gave way to a liberal, live-and-let-live order that tolerated freedom of religion, something remarkable happened:
People now have the freedom to have crosscutting identities in different domains. At church, I’m one thing. At work, I’m something else. I’m something else at home or with my friends. The ability not to have an identity that one carries from sphere to sphere but, rather, to be able to slip in and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining one’s identities in other domains? That is what it is to be free.
I am familiar with the ambiguities of video evidence—for example, through this piece I wrote from Israel more than 15 years ago, “Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura,” about the battle over the meaning of an inflammatory video there; or these two separate Twitter threads, first here then here, in the past few days from James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor for America magazine, about the meanings of the multiple videos from the confrontation on the National Mall this past weekend.
I now believe that the “meaning” or “truth” of this recent encounter is likely to remain as contested as anything in the al-Dura case. The more additional evidence comes in, the more clearly it is taken to “prove” one interpretation of the case, or its opposite. “You must not have seen the full videos” is meant to be a conclusory statement, either way.