Argumentative Essay: “Myth of Asian Superiority”
Ronald Takaki’s “Harmful Myth of Asian Superiority” offers arguments why Asian Americans do not live up to the stereotypical “model minority,” that is, attribution of positive traits to this particular race. Although he supported his ideas about Asian Superiority as a harmful myth with good percentages, comments, media reports, and related secondary sources, he also provided insufficient concrete evidences and inadequate explanations some of his examples. Some of Takaki’s queries about the issue were answered straightforwardly in this essay, while others were not. Hence, this paper would like to argue whether the myth on Asian Superiority is really more detrimental than helpful. Before I agree or not with Takaki, I would like to discuss some of these concerns: To whom is the “model minority” disadvantageous to? What were Takaki’s strong and weak examples? Where does Takaki stand on the issue?
First, to whom is the model minority disadvantageous to? For Takaki, Asian Superiority is harmful to Asian Americans because he claimed that it assumes a generalized expectation about all Asian, whether at work and/or school. For him, it is neither always the case nor is it completely true. However, Takaki did not discussed in more depth and details why should such views about success can be harmful to a specific group? Takaki went farther to state that should Asian Americans fit the model minority, it might actually lead the public to think that they do not need as much educational, unemployment, and/or financial assistance as others would. Nonetheless, any disadvantaged groups would obtain governmental support anyway should the state looks at the income level of an individual and not according to race. Moreover, the model might negatively impact other groups, such as the Afro-Americans, considering that direct comparison and conclusion are being made without taking into account associated problems. African Americans do sometimes suffer and have to overcome racism, unequal life chances, and so forth depending on their personal, familial, and societal backgrounds.
Second, Takaki used a few strong and many weak examples in support of his thesis. Although he cited research results such that 25% of people living in New York’s Chinatown live under the poverty threshold (1980) as compared to the 17% of its population, it might be a good analogy if the 25% are all Asian Americans. Due to the fact that Takaki did not make clear such claim in his article, much is opened to varying vague ideas. The same holds true concerning his unspecified claim that 60% of Chinatowns workers of San Francisco and Los Angeles are in low-income brackets because they are employed in restaurants and garment factories. It would have been a good example if Takaki was more specific and clear with his example (that is, it is likely that other minorities are included in those aforementioned percentages). Another of Takaki’s weak and unsupported assumption is that he did not provide various reasons why Asian Americans who hold college degrees see management position, but did not achieve such status (that is, the “glass ceiling” effect). He should have given supportive evidences to such huge a claim. Further, Takaki only quoted one Chinese immigrant as saying that language barrier, lack of license, and education hindered him from entering mainstream US industry. One person’s subjective experience and opinion should not be considered as representative of a whole community despite the fact that language, education, and license are indeed barriers to career growth. Further, Takaki cited a 1987 California research finding wherein 30% of refugees from some regions in Southeast Asia were on welfare benefits for four up to 10 years. Although that is a factual information, Takaki did not include the Chinese Americans as composing a large percentage in the US. Should he conducted additional research on the matter, he would have noticed skewed data.
Third, where does Takaki stand on the issue? For Takaki, the idea that Asian Americans are the model minority does not inferably fit them. He rejects the model simply because, for him, it would only bring more inequality among Americans. However, Takaki’s stance is not enough because he did not expound on the matter. Is it because of the Asian Superiority the reason for other minorities to feel more inferior? Will other groups of Americans treat Asian American better than others? He did not provide sufficient and necessary evidences to support his claim. Further, when Takaki referred to the media, pundits, and politicians making the comparison concerning Asian Americans pay and education, Takaki did not look at other relevant factors. He did not offer enough reasons why such comparisons are warranted considering his idea about other minorities feeling indifferent with Asian Americans. Takaki just made his own assumptions and cited a few statistics to his claims and assumptions without presenting possible counterarguments and sufficient supporting evidences.
In conclusion, even though Takaki offered a few good examples that Asian Americans do not suit the model minority as a whole, I do not believe that such stereotypal myth is harmful to all, if not most, Asian Americans. I disagree with Takaki given the fact that he did not provide sufficient support and evidences to his claims, not to mention the unspecified, flawed, unclear, and unstable examples that he had in mind when he cited his sources slapdash.
Chin, Andrew. A Brief History of the ''Model Minority'' Stereotype. 21 April 2001. Web. 21 September 2013.
Lee, Stacey. Unraveling the "model minority" stereotype: listening to Asian American youth. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009. Print.
Takaki, Ronald. The Harmful Myth of Asian Superiority. 16 June 1990. Web. 20 September 2013.
Xu, Jun and Jennifer Lee. "The Marginalized "Model" Minority: An Empirical Examination Of The Racial Triangulation Of Asian Americans." Social Forces 91.4 (2013): 1363-97. Web.