Struggles of a Model Minority

A recent Portland Tribune article, which also appears on the Koinlocal6 website, tries to claim that Portland Asians are being held back by institutional racism and stereotypes. This article shares the front page with “Cully builds on diversity, community” and “Investors lining up for green cards”. In other words, the entire front page is devoted to diversity. They might as well call themselves “The Portland Diversity Tribune” since that’s all they seem to care about.
Are Portland Asians subject to pogroms, anti-Asian quotas, housing restrictions or inferior medical care? Must they use separate drinking fountains or sit in the rear of the bus? Not exactly… but there was a “Chinese Exclusion Act” – back in 1882. Apparently, some Asians are still haunted by that, even though few of them had ancestors in the United States at the time.
The article points out that Asians, nationwide, earn an average of $66,000/year compared to $50.000/year for all Americans. But then it goes on to say:

But as far as Ying and other leaders of the local Asian-American community are concerned, Portland’s Asians are facing a completely different environment. Sure, successful Asian faces make it appear that Asians are the model minority here as well. But for most Asians in Portland, they say, the Model Minority image is a damaging myth perpetuated by institutional racism and the Asians’ own cultural bias.

After claiming that a 205-page study by Portland State University social work professor Ann Curry-Stevens supports the “institutional racism” hypothesis, the article goes on to quote Stevens as saying:

“My default position is there’s a lot of racism that goes on…”

In other words, Portland is more racist, toward Asians, than other parts of the country. Considering that Portland is one of the most liberal cities in the country, it’s an odd accusation coming from a leftist rag such as the Tribune. According to Wikipedia:

The state is broken up into two main geographically separate political areas: the Portland metropolitan area and Eugene, liberal centers of the state, and the rest of the state…

I can vouch for that from my own personal experience. Portland is, indeed, a liberal hotbed. It’s interesting how liberals love to accuse the most liberal segments of society, such as school teachers, of also being the most biased against “people of color.”
One of the theories, that Curry-Stevens rejects, is that Portland has more new Asians than other parts of the country:

Next, she thought that perhaps Portland had more new Asians than other cities. New arrivals take time to learn the language and assimilate into American culture. But Curry-Stevens says Multnomah County has fewer new arrivals than the national average. Nearly half of the current Multnomah County Asian population was born here, compared to four out of 10 nationally.

Aside from the fact that “nearly half” and “four out of 10” is about the same, Curry-Stevens should have looked at the overall number of Asians in Portland. It’s also unclear what qualifies as a “new arrival”. A company I worked for had an Asian engineer whose command of the English language was sorely lacking. Part of his job was to compose company documents – and the results were shocking. When I suggested he have somebody else proofread his documents, he took it very personally. He had lived in the country for many years and might not have been considered “newly arrived”, yet his limitations were obvious for all to see.
Stereotypes do not materialize out of thin air; they develop in response to real-world experience. They flourish when there are large numbers of that specific group around. The Chinese don’t have stereotypes about Jews – since very few Jews have lived in China. Europeans do have stereotypes about Jews because many Jews have lived in Europe. The South has historically had stereotypes about blacks because most blacks used to live in the South. Once most of them migrated to the North, the South’s stereotypes became weakened.
Curry-Stevens’ study is 225 pages long. Unlike her, I do not get paid to churn out such studies. I certainly don’t have the time, resources or inclination to defend the liberals of Portland from charges of racism. However, it is quite clear that Curry-Stevens is biased in favor of the “racism” theory, as she admitted above. When it comes to government grants, and career advancement, charges of “institutional racism” is tried and proven. A Wikipedia article on the Vietnamese may provide a hint of other explanations for the economic disparities between Multnomah County (which includes Portland) and the rest of the country:

Vietnamese Americans’ income and social class levels are quite diverse. Many Vietnamese Americans are middle class professionals who fled from the increasing power of the Communist Party after the Vietnam War, while others work primarily in blue-collar jobs. In San Jose, California, for example, this diversity in income levels can be seen in the different Vietnamese American neighborhoods scattered across Santa Clara County. In the Downtown San Jose area, many Vietnamese are working-class and are employed in many blue-collar positions such as restaurant cooks, repairmen, and movers, while the Evergreen and Berryessa sections of the city are middle- to upper–middle-class neighborhoods with large Vietnamese American populations—many of whom work in Silicon Valley‘s computer, networking, and aerospace industries. In Little Saigon of Orange County, there are significant socioeconomic disparities between the established and successful Vietnamese Americans who arrived in the first wave and the later arrivals of low-income refugees.

Thus, it’s possible that the Vietnamese (as well as other groups) who settled in the Portland area are not the same Vietnamese who settled in Silicon Valley or Little Saigon. Indeed, there are so many affluent Vietnamese in California that they could easily skew the “national average” and make Portland appear poor in comparison. California may have siphoned off the well-connected and educated Asians, leaving the dregs for Oregon. Once a community of immigrant Asians becomes established, it might serve as a magnet for other like-minded/connected Asians. For any number of reasons, the Portland area never developed in the same way.
Be it as it may, the Tribune article makes some questionable assumptions. Among them:

The afternoon’s festivities will be held to celebrate the passage of resolutions by the U.S. Congress this summer formally apologizing for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which denied citizenship and basic rights to Asians. – That whites are obligated to apologize for policies, meant to protect against invasion by foreigners, of past centuries. Have other races made similar apologies?
“Our voice is just kind of silenced,” says Ying, “There are so many other people speaking louder.”
It doesn’t help when your minority is seen by many as problem-free. Or, that statistics appear to back up that sentiment. – That whites are always racist; whether they consider a minority problem-prone or problem-free, they’re “racist” either way.Incidentally, I’ve never heard of any group of people that is problem-free.
A recent Pew Research Center Study, “The Rise of Asian Americans,” reveals an astounding level of material, educational and cultural success among Asian immigrants nationwide. They are the most highly educated group of immigrants in U.S. history. More than half of all Asian Americans have obtained college degrees, nearly double the national rate for U.S. citizens. The average income for Asian-American families is about $66,000, compared to $50,000 for all Americans. – That “institutional racism” only works one way. When whites make less than Asians, it’s not a problem. But when Asians make less than whites, it’s a problem.
Crime and gangs in the Asian community are often ignored, they say, because they do not typically involve violence and the types of gangs behavior police associate with black and Hispanic gangs. – That violent gang behavior is not “associated with black and Hispanic gangs” but rather it’s the police who associate it with said gangs. In other words, the police are racist for noticing this pattern.
Asians in Portland haven’t spoken up to compete with other minorities for attention and resources, says Stephen Ying, Helen Ying’s husband and president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, citing cultural taboos which make that nearly impossible. – That all minorities are entitled to “attention and resources” – while whites are not. If any minority is denied its share of the booty, it’s “institutional racism.”
But noise is starting to be made. Local Asian-Americans in the last few years have begun to form organizations such as the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon to organize and lobby on their behalf. And this year, those organizations found a rallying point — a 205-page study by Portland State University social work professor Ann Curry-Stevens, who says institutional racism still exists throughout Multnomah County, and it’s keeping Asians down. – That non-whites can form racial lobbying groups and they’re expected to do so. We all know what happens when whites try the same thing.

I hope I live to see the day when similar articles, and studies, can be done about whites in America. When such articles will not only be widely published, but when people will be paid to write them. That such a thing is unthinkable in today’s America speaks volumes about who is truly being oppressed.


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2 Responses to Struggles of a Model Minority

  1. SD says:

    This article at the Atlantic is interesting. “The Secret to U.S. Growth is More Asians.”
    More interesting is a comment a little ways down in the comments thread. Look for one “soincognito” replying to “hmunkey.” It’s a second or third generation Asian complaining about the insidious racism he must face daily, such as people asking how he learned to speak English so well, asking about his heritage, and his boss expecting him to obey orders.
    My theory is that this kind of bizarre anti-racist discourse never develops among immigrants themselves; it develops among later generations as they try to break away from their family’s heritage; they’ve grown up American, after all, and part of being a young American is rebellion! But then they discover that white Americans are still curious about their family’s heritage, because to white Americans, it’s the foreign cultures that might serve as a source of rebellion. The non-white, second or third generation Whatever-American is thus left in a bind, wanting to rebel against his Whatever-ness, but finding that his peers think that his Whatever-ness is pretty exotic and cool.
    This kind of “anti-racist” discourse (at least among Asians, Hispanics, Arabs, and African-Africans in America) arises from too-sensitive individuals who feel they belong neither in the culture of their ethnic heritage nor the culture of their current nation. It has nothing to do with racism, and everything to do with narcissism and these people’s own inability to cope.
    Not a complete theory of anti-racist discourse, of course, but I think it has something to do with the phenomenon. Amongst academics who spout this nonsense, very few of them are first-generation immigrants who built a life from scratch on American soil. It’s the second generation (or immigrants who came from wealthy backgrounds) who spout it.

  2. countenance says:

    Remember the AR story about the PBS documentary “Frontline Nation?”
    It was implied a few times that cultural bias (hinting around at the R-word) was the cause of the four profiled students (all black or Hispanic) on the verge of dropping out.
    The valedictorian of that school’s graduating class of 2012? Asian.

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