Thursday, October 15, 2015

NYT: "The Asian Advantage"

Why do Asian-Americans have so much success? As Nicholas Kristof understands, it is a simple formula: hard work, strong families and passion for education.

That is it. Yet, Kristof tries to complicate matters by suggesting that others -- well, at least blacks -- cannot emulate this model, because he says they are victims of racism and "marginalized." Kristof ignores the obvious: If blacks followed the same formula that Asians and Jews and several other groups in the U.S. have followed, any racism they faced would not matter and their success would stop them from being marginalized.

In the end, Kristof's conclusion is patronizing. He might not have intended it, but his suggestion that "others" are holding back blacks makes it clear that he does not think blacks are capable of overcoming obstacles like other groups have done.

Here is Mr. Kristof's conclusion:

To me, the success of Asian-Americans is a tribute to hard work, strong families and passion for education. Bravo! Ditto for the success of Jews, West Indians and other groups that have shown that upward mobility is possible, but let’s not exaggerate the lessons here. 

Actually, Nick, that is just what we need to do. We need to start preaching to all people the success formula, and stop telling them that their failure is someone else's fault. We also should be giving poor young people who grow up in broken homes a big financial incentive to put off having kids until they are established and capable of supporting themselves.

Why should the success of the children of Asian doctors, nurtured by teachers, be reassuring to a black boy in Baltimore who is raised by a struggling single mom, whom society regards as a potential menace? 

Because Asians, almost all of whom came to America destitute, have shown that discrimination is no barrier to success if you have a strong family, you work hard at school, and you have a passion for education. That would be the lesson to those blacks who fail, except folks like Kristof want the message instead to be, "You have no chance to succeed, because some people are racists. So go ahead and have out-of-wedlock births, drop out of school, and fail economically your entire life. After all, it is someone else's fault, not yours."

Disadvantage and marginalization are complex, often deeply rooted in social structures and unconscious biases, sometimes compounded by hopelessness and self-destructive behaviors, and because one group can access the American dream does not mean that all groups can. 

That is total nonsense. Look at all the blacks who do succeed in the United States. Almost all of them follow the simple formula of family, hard work and education. It is unbelievable that this message is not being hammered home to the millions of blacks who are failures.

So, sure, let’s celebrate the success of Asian-Americans, and emulate the respect for education and strong families. But let’s not use the success of Asians to pat ourselves on the back and pretend that discrimination is history.

This is just wrong. We need to stop focusing on discrimination, as if in our society what others think can hold back those who work hard, who have strong, traditional family values and who have a passion for educational achievement. The surest route to ridding our society of lingering discrimination is that exact formula. The worst avenue is to emphasize that the formula cannot work for poor blacks because others don't think highly enough of them. The truth is that Americans think highly of those who are high achievers.

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