Recently, I watched Chelsea Lately during a episode of my insomnia. The host, Chelsea Handler, poked fun at one of the guest cohosts that she would go him to fix electronics over the Jewish cohost, because he is Asian. The prodded cohost began ranting about stereotypes, specifically how it’s not O.K. to generalize and assume that every Asian is good at computers. When he was told to relax, and that it’s positive, he responded that it wasn’t a positive stereotype.
Is there some truth to stereotypes? Particularly the notion that Asians are more academically driven and have better academic performance compared to whites and members of other races? I remember an excerpt from Amy Chua’s The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother that went along the lines that when it comes to school, whites can only ask their children to do the best of their ability. Asian parents, on the other hand, demand perfection and straight A’s. I don’t believe that the intention of this book was to praise the superiority of Asian parents over whites, but it certainly raised questions for me when it comes to different parenting styles. In my personal experience, white children of overbearing parents who demand perfection often face negative psychological consequences later in life. Although I cannot speak for the majority of Asians, I have not heard a look of outspoken criticism of more authoritarian parenting styles. The new basketball sensation Jeremy Lin stated in interviews that his parents stressed the importance of good grades early on, and if he should have received anything less than an A-, he would lose his privilege to play basketball. Curiously, it appears in Chua’s book that in spite of the mother’s demands for perfection, the children retain a sense of loyalty. I found this to be interesting, as it has been my personal experience that members of my own race often hold resentment towards their parents who held extremely high expectations for them in their youth.
The question that the book raised for me is that is it the differences between Eastern and Western parenting styles that might contribute to academic Asian stereotype? Personally, although I feel that parenting differences may play into these stereotypes, I think that the “academic” label on Asians may serve as justification of their success, particularly if it is at the expense of whites. Some whites may attribute their success to their strict upbringings, which perpetuates this stereotype, because it may imply a conflict of cultural values. It may, perhaps, suggest that Asian parents place success over the well beginning of their own children.
But why is this ‘successful’ stereotype detrimental to Asians? I recently read an any Asian students in the United States are finding it harder to get into American universities, because of the association of high academic performance. In response to this, many prospective Asian students will not identify their race on their application, or they will check white if they are biracial. They have reported that by not identifying as Asian, they have a better chance of getting into the school of their choice.
What might be other negative consequences to a ‘positive’ stereotype?