I’m in the middle of a super interesting book by Ron Christie called Acting White. It goes through the history of the idea behind African-American (the term he prefers, and I don’t) behavior that would allow then to succeed in society but is labeled as “acting white”. As someone who grew up in a majority black community I am quite familiar with this concept, and I am finding both his background and his explanations fascinating.
It’s worth noting at this point that I went to order a copy of this book on Amazon, and the reviews were somewhat scathing. People ripped his accuracy as well as his perspective (both of which I found to be reliable, but he is a black Republican, so some degree of backlash is to be expected), and overall rated his book much more poorly than I would have expected. Anyway, I bought the book, because although space on my bookshelf is a jealously guarded thing, this is a book I want to be able to reference again and be able to lend to other people.
At the same time, I was reading a book by Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld. You may have heard of Amy Chua because she wrote a highly controversial book called Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother. In that book she describes the child-rearing practices of Asian and Asian-American parents, and how they produce such incredibly successful children. She was roundly excoriated in the media, and I’m told on social media as well. What she said was viewed as abusive, racist, and worse. But she was only making observations on the way things truly are.
In this new book, called The Triple Package, she and her husband discuss, “how three unlikely traits explain the rise and fall of cultural groups in America”. The three traits (since I don’t want to keep you in suspense) are: 1) a superiority complex; 2) insecurity; and 3) impulse control. When a group (such as Asians or Mormons) exemplifies these traits as a general rule, they will excel in society. Statistics (cited liberally throughout the book) bear this out. The book is well written, and really interesting to read. It seems thoroughly researched and solid, the way I like my non-fiction to be. But I got to page 172 and had an, “OH MY GOSH I HAVE TO BLOG ABOUT THIS!” moment…
They are talking about certain schools in New York that admit kids based on performance. Because of this, the schools are full of Asian kids. They give background on how many Asian kids get extra tutoring, even at great expense to their impoverished parents. The Asian kids forgo other activities to work hard at academics so they can do better at school, etc etc etc. Okay, so far so good- it all makes sense, since they are trying to explain why two of the top schools have about a zillion percent Asian kids even though that is not reflective of the population. Because, remember, the schools are basing admission solely on merit. Are you with me?
Then the authors drop this bombshell: “Asian studying habits and their disproportionate admission to New York’s elite public schools have provoked considerable backlash. In 2012 the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a federal complaint against the city, objecting to the vast underrepresentaion of blacks and Hispanics, claiming that admitting students solely on the basis of test scores was racially discriminatory.” (emphasis mine) Now my question is- what the heck is that??? isn’t using objective criteria the OPPOSITE of racial discrimination? Isn’t a blind academic test (which, by the way, is actually probably unfair to the immigrants and children of immigrants- namely the Asians- more than anyone else) the epitome of racially-neutral admission?
But wait, there’s more. The authors continue with this gem: “Still others object to the whole practice of sending kids to after-school and weekend tutoring (which the city provides for free and Asian kids disproportionately take advantage of- this is my note, and not in the text of the book), saying that Asian kids study ‘excessively’ and that the regimen is too hard on children.”
The authors conclude, and I am not even making this up, but I will point out here that both of then are Law professors at Yale!- that, ” THESE OBJECTIONS ARE ALL UNDERSTANDABLE…” Obviously the emphasis here is mine, as is the indignation, as is the full spectrum of incredulity. These authors, both highly accomplished people, both of them parents of successful children who they push to play instruments and perform to rigorous academic standards and engage in meaningful extracurricular activities (yes, I read Mrs. Chua’s first book), these authors think that it is understandable that people object to kids who work hard getting into good schools? They believe that it is racially discriminatory to allow kids who score well on tests to earn places in top schools? Yet they both work at Yale?!?!?!?!?!?
Color me skeptical.
And the NAACP, which last I heard was the National Association for the ADVANCEMENT of Colored People is devoting its resources rather than lifting up people of color instead to bringing down people of color that they don’t approve of? So if you are a dark color you should get help, but if you are a light color, like yellow, you should get trampled on, even if you work super hard, in order to let people who slack off and sit on their behinds take your place. Is that really advancing anyone’s cause?
There is no magic to the success of the Asian students. Children with equal IQs consistently outperformed their peers of every other race and ethnic group. Families living well below the poverty line invested money into their children’s education before anything else, often spending up to a quarter of their annual income on education-related expenses (One example is a family of 5 living on $20,000 a year who spent $5,000 a year on extra tutoring for their three children. Let’s agree this level of sacrifice is uncommon is other ethnic groups.)
Am I the only person who has a hard time with this lack of logic and this discrimination in the guise of non-discrimination? When intelligent people become temporarily unintelligent because they are blinded by an agenda or a popular ideology it raises my hackles. Maybe I do the same thing without even realizing it, and it makes me wonder if the people who engage in this kind of weird rhetoric really buy what they are selling or if they feel like they have to set reason aside for a higher purpose (in this case redress of past grievances). I can’t comprehend how in one minute someone is rational and sentient and in the next they say things that defy logic.
All that said, the book is a compelling read, and absolutely worth your time. With the exception of that section, I found it pretty engaging stuff. It’s just a shame that I am left to ponder why, when it comes to certain topics, rationality unravels and the unwitting reader is left with feckless drivel.