Success is only skin deep

June 26, 2006

A few days back, I met a friend of mine who was visiting India after a long time for a short visit. It was an interesting few minutes where we caught up on many issues since we met last. We spoke of common friends in India and US, the price of Petrol, Land rates, hotels new and old, 24/7 news channels, films, increase in the rate of NRIs coming back to India and of Indians abroad.From what I heard from him and from others till today, it is a common knowledge that Asian Americans have done remarkably well in achieving “the American dream” of getting a good education, working at a good job, and earning a good living. So much so that the image many have of Asian Americans is that they are the “model minority” – a bright, shining example of hard work and patience whose example other minority groups should follow.

However, the practical reality is slightly more complicated than that. Among the five major racial/ethnic groups in the U.S., Asian Americans have the highest college degree attainment rate, rates of having an advanced degree (professional or Ph.D.), median family income, being in the labor force, rate of working in a “high skill” occupation (executive, professional, technical, or upper management), and median Socioeconomic Index (SEI) score that measures occupational prestige. Yes, in these categories, Asians even outperform Whites. Asian Americans seem to have done so well that magazines such as Newsweek and respected television shows such as 60 Minutes proclaim them to be the “model minority.”

Asian Indians consistently outperform not only other Asian ethnic groups but Whites in several achievement measures, sometimes by a large margin. And of course, you’ll find plenty of examples of Asian Americans who are quite affluent and successful, and Asian Americans should rightly feel proud of these examples of success.The point is that just because many Asian Americans have “made it,” it does not mean that all Asian Americans have made it. In many ways, Asian Americans are still the targets of much prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. For instance, the persistent belief that “all Asians are smart” puts a tremendous amount of pressure on many Asian Americans. Many, particularly Southeast Asians, are not able to conform to this unrealistic expectation and in fact, have the highest high school dropout rates in the US.

Ultimately, the process of achieving socioeconomic success among Asian Americans is very complex. There are many examples of affluence and prosperity within the Asian American population but in many ways, they still face the same types of racism, social inequality, and institutional discrimination that other groups of color face. Therefore, the image that the entire Asian American community is the “model minority” is a myth. Ultimately, success may only be skin-deep.

Also read: Spellbound

8 Responses to “Success is only skin deep”

  1. Vijay Says:

    It will be interesting to note how the second and third generation Asians will do. Typically first generations have done well because their parents migrated from India (or China) and like all immigrants made sure that their children got a good education. Subsequent generations loose this edge.

    If you look at other immigrant populations to the US (the Italians, the Polish etc), you will see the same pattern.

  2. Gangadhar Says:

    One of the things I think people forget when looking at the results of IQ tests against countries or racial groups is the percentage of the people who are simply not tested and the average IQ of those people.

    In countries like the UK and much of Europe and possibly the US, I would wager that the testing nets a large proportion of the people. However, in countries like China and India with their large rural populations (and large populations, to boot), I am not sure I would have the confidence that the testing that has been done fairly represents the average of the whole population!

    Btw Thanks for your wishes on moi blog,RK..I’m so glad..And your analysis about rate of postings is really gud…tnx

  3. RK Says:

    Vijay:You’re right. And as you said, got to see how the second and third generation Asians will do.

    But as you know, some of them are
    also coming back to India.

    I feel the first generation did well because they had to struggle for everything out there. And for the second and third, they are drowned in luxury and know the price of everything but value of nothing.

  4. RK Says:

    Gangadhar: Thank you.

    Wonder when such an extensive IQ test will be undertaken at all!

  5. Anonymous Says:

    rk,
    Please see this linku
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61262147@N00/171249156
    this is one inute caricature.
    I am feeling I should start a Blog for cartoons and caricature
    DG

  6. RK Says:

    DG: Your cartoon reminded me of the days when I tried everything with Paintbrush.(Looks like you drew in PB)
    Nice cartoon. Keep adding more to it. Good luck.

  7. Vijay Says:

    DG.. presuming you are the same “Churumuri” DG… wonderful cartoon.. you are wasting your talents.. start that Blog !!!!

  8. RK Says:

    Vijay: Yes, that is Churumuri DG.(Dheerendra Gvaapal)


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