The Culture Canard of the Model Minority Myth: how racial gaps in academics aren’t due to cultural pathology


This past week, Bill O’Reilly was his usual raging asshole self when he set out on his Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” to debunk the notion of White privilege. The essence of his argument? Asian Americans are doing great socioeconomically even though we are not White. Therefore, racism must not really exist, and the root of the problem for African Americans must be a cultural pathology.

To bolster his argument, O’Reilly pointed to racial disparities between Blacks, Whites and Asians in graduation rates, unemployment rates and median family income to conclude that African Americans have essentially invented a mythological White privilege as an attempt to avoid taking “personal responsibility”. O’Reilly argued:

Just 13 percent of Asian children live in single parent homes compared to a whopping 55 percent for blacks and 21 percent for whites. So, there you go. That is why Asian Americans, who often have to overcome a language barrier, are succeeding far more than African-Americans and even more than white Americans. Their families are intact and education is paramount.

In essence, Papa Bear provides a textbook example of Asian Americans used as the wedge minority by the White mainstream to berate African Americans (and implicitly other academically disenfranchised minority groups) for not bootstrapping their way to socioeconomic success. It can’t be racism; it must be some deficiency in Black culture to blame, right? After all, the Asians can do it, why can’t the Blacks?

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Reappropriate: The Podcast – Ep. 3 | #AAPI and affirmative action

I’m excited to announce episode #3 of Reappropriate: The Podcast is now live! This week, I invite fellow blogger Byron Wong of to debate the question: Should AAPI support or oppose affirmative action (in college admissions)? It ends up being a really great and lively debate, and includes a good deal of viewer input and participation; I really hope you’ll check out!

You can view the podcast by 1) playing the YouTube above, 2) streaming or downloading the audio in the player below, or 3) subscribing to the podcast through the iTunes store.

Corrections / Further Reading: At some point in the podcast, I start talking about the data by Jennifer Lee looking at parental investment models. Unfortunately, I got my literature somewhat mixed up (and for that I apologize). Jennifer Lee and co-author Min Zhou published an extensive 2014 paper specifically examining the success and cost of the “success frame” of low-income Asian American families. I was confused because it was through Lee that I was connected to two other papers more relevant to the point I’m trying to make in the podcast. In the podcast, I am arguing that African American educational investment is not notably distinct from that of other races, when controlling for family income. The two papers I should have cited were 1) Charles et al’s 2007 paper showing that racial inequalities in college attendance and parental investment are directly related to racial inequalities in class and income, and that controlling such factors eliminates any racial differences in these measures; and 2) Luo and Holden’s 2014 paper showing that college attendance rates are most directly related to parental education level and degree of educational expenditure, the latter of which is most directly related to familial permanent income. Also relevant to the topic at hand is this 1998 study showing that contrary to myth of Black apathy towards academic pursuits, Black students expressed equal or greater commitment to their education compared to White and Asian peers.  I apologize for my repeated brain farts in this podcast when it comes to the literature.

Next Episode: Please join me on August 27th (time: TBA) when I invite guest Juliet Shen (@Juliet_Shen) of Fascinasians to tackle the topic: What is AAPI feminism? You can go here to watch the podcast live during recording, and also submit questions and comments to me via Twitter at @Reappropriate!

Read more: Byron posted about his appearance on this podcast here!

Audio-only version of Episode #3: