This is an awkward question, but here goes: How does a respected New York Times opinion-maker expend so many words to say so very little with accuracy about Asian Americans?
Late last week, columnist Nicholas Kristof reignited his earlier conversation on American racial inequity (collected in a series of columns tagged “When Whites Just Don’t Get It”) when he set out to explore the purported cultural underpinnings of supposed Asian American exceptionalism (“The Asian Advantage”). What resulted was an embarrassingly under-reasoned meandering through Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) identity politics, one rife with the kind of Model Minority Myth generalizations and stereotypes best relegated to the set of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor.
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?