Paper Tigers

A friend referred me to an intriguing if unpolished article on immigrant communities of Asian-Americans. Yang, the author is undeniably bitter about the Asian values he was raised with: filial piety, education and hard work, humility and non-confrontation, and the pursuit of prestigious qualifications. He contends that Asian-Americans are perceived as timid and conflict-avoidant, working far too hard and ending up as drone workers unfit for management.

At the meritocratic Stuyvesant High School, Asian-Americans – through intensive study not only of subject matter but test-taking – have forced out Caucasian competition. However their experience is narrow and academically focused. By contrast, top Caucasian students have good grades, but are also popular and attractive. At the college level, racial standardisation forces Asian applicants to score considerably higher for admission.

The article discusses a “Bamboo Ceiling” – an IBM researcher is quoted “They just see me as an Asian Ph.D., never management potential”; PriceWaterhouseCoopers is nowhere near racial parity in partnerships and “nobody else is either”. The author draws parallels with research demonstrating that tall people are more successful in life and refers to a study where Caucasian names rated more highly in leadership potential than Asian ones. (Studies have shown that attractive people are also more successful in life.) Yang also mentions “governed rule-breaking”, where particular instances of rule-breaking elevates one’s status (this is confirmed in a study I’ve seen).

In the end, Yang points at successful Asian-run startups for the most likely vector of change.


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