Using Asian-Americans to Justify Racism and Prejudice

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Asian-Americans are Not a Model Minority

Supporters of affirmative action argue that discrimination and racism have held down minorities in the U.S., and that affirmative action is needed to correct it. In response, critics ask: "If blacks and Mexicans are being held down by discrimination, then why do Asians come to this country and do so well for themselves?" According to this myth, Asians immigrate to America with little or nothing, often as boat people fleeing communism, and through hard study and work become even more successful than European-Americans. Their success would suggest that the U.S. does not really discriminate against minorities.

Asian immigrants to the U.S. tend to be already highly educated and from the middle or upper class, for a number of reasons. Thus, they get a completely different start in life in the U.S. compared to other minorities. Although Asians achieve a much greater degree of success in the U.S., the "model minority" stereotype is a myth because Asian-Americans still bump into the glass ceiling, receive lower pay even with the same qualifications, and have higher poverty rates. The image of boat people escaping the ravages of war and communism to take full advantage of American opportunities is also a myth, in that Southeast Asians actually have the lowest success rate of all Asians.

Supporters of the "model minority" myth cite many statistics in their favor. For example, among college-bound seniors in 1989, Asian-Americans had a high school grade point average of 3.25, compared to 3.08 for all other students. A study of 7,836 high school students in the San Francisco area found that Asian-Americans spent 40 percent more time doing homework than non-Asians, a fairly common finding....

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7. Foggo.

8. Ibid.

9. Carolyn Jung, "Asian-Americans Say They Run into Glass Ceiling," San Jose Mercury News, September 10, 1993, p. 1B.

10. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Asian-American rate: P20-459 and unpublished data; U.S. rate: P-60 series; white American rate: P20-480 and unpublished data.

11. Nancy Rivera Brooks, "Study Attacks Belief in Asian-American Affluence, Privilege," San Jose Mercury News, May 19, 1994, p. 1A.

12. Foggo.

13. Harold Stevenson et al., "Cognitive performance of Japanese, Chinese, and American Children," Child Development 56, 1985, pp. 718-34.

14. Charles Lane, "Tainted Sources," pp. 133-5, in Russell Jacoby and Noami Glauberman, eds., The Bell Curve Debate (New York: Random House, 1995).

15. Thomas Sowell, "Ethnicity and IQ," The American Spectator (February, 1995), pp. 32-36.
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