Model Minorities And Skimming Cream


I was looking for an old Dan Seligman article, and came across this old post on an internet forum, soc.culture.asian.american , objecting to Dan Seligman`s December 1997 article, In defense of stereotypes.

The post was titled The Letter to the Editor FORBES Magazine is Afraid to Run , although much of the time, that means “can`t be bothered” to print. (Except in the case of the New York Times, which has an explicit policy that letters critical of the Times and its writers should not be printed.)

It`s posted by Asian-American activist Andrew Chin, whom Forbes editor James W. Michaels had just sent an email saying

MR. CHIN: Your whining is most unbecoming to the great tradition from which you have sprung. James W. Michaels, Editor, FORBES.

a response which led another poster to suggest that Michaels could be fired for saying it.

If Dan Seligman had been genuinely curious as to why many Asian American activists are challenging the “model minority” stereotype, he might have gone to the trouble of asking one. Had he done so, he would have been informed that the stereotype is almost always accompanied by a cultural explanation of the observed success of Asian Americans. This explanation is too often a convenient way of denying or trivializing the continuing experience of racial discrimination against Asian Americans, and of perpetuating the misperceptions that all Asian Americans are culturally foreign (in Seligman`s words, “pretty damn different”) and all Asian American behavior is essentially cultural. High educational achievement and income among Asian Americans are principally artifacts of America`s selective immigration policies, which have been skimming elites from Asian nations for more than a generation. They are not proof that Asian Americans have overcome racism, and they do not relieve a racial stereotype of its dehumanizing sting.

Andrew Chin
New Haven, CT

It`s pretty ironic that it`s a Andrew Chin doing this, since since he is   (stereotypically) a Rhodes Scholar with two Ph. D`s, one of which is in Computer Science. I also don`t believe immigration policy actually skims the cream off of Asian society, since the cream actually tends to stay home and be rich and successful in Asia.

But suppose it does? Is that wrong? Shouldn`t the United States encourage the best people from Asia to come to America, and theworst people to stay home?