The stereotype (“good in math”) also leads to an implicit bias that Asians are good only in math. Asian-Americans are often assumed to possess lower leadership potential than white applicants with identical qualifications, as demonstrated in a 2010 experiment by Prof. Thomas Sy at the University of California, Riverside.
As Asian-Americans, we are too often judged not by our individual characters, but by stereotypes.
DENISE WONG PECK
The writer is an executive adviser at Ascend, an organization for Asian business professionals.
To the Editor: A good education is highly prized by East Asian immigrant parents and their children not just in the United States, but also among recent arrivals in Canada, Britain and Australia. A deeply ingrained work ethic, respect for teachers and mentors, a sense of achievement from educational attainment, and striving to do better than previous generations underpin our academic success.
It is refreshing not to have the model minority be accused of the aggressive tiger parenting symbolized by Amy Chua. Thirty years on, I am still indebted to immigrant parents who fostered my ambition to become a doctor, but I never felt coerced.
It is often implied that the emphasis on education in these families has displaced all else that is enjoyable. I recall sufficient leisure reading and playing sports every afternoon to maintain a balanced upbringing. As adults, how many of these academically successful children believe that their upbringing was unduly constrained? Not many, I suspect.
The writer is an adjunct associate professor at Queensland University of Technology’s School of Public Health and Social Work.
To the Editor: Nicholas Kristof disposes of a few stereotypes but leaves another one firmly in place: Asian parents are more committed to high academic achievement than other people of color.
Why the apparent difference? One answer may lie in the “stereotype threat” mentioned briefly by Mr. Kristof, whereby negative stereotypes of blacks impair academic performance.
Academic success is typically an obsession with parents of color. Nowhere else have I seen mere high school graduation treated as such a celebratory event. But if the world has told me repeatedly that people like me are not good at academics, that information seeps into my unconscious and stays there. A setback or two in the classroom can easily get translated into a “can’t do” attitude — for both children and their parents.
So the boy who runs into trouble on a math test may give up on the spot, then go out to the corner after school with a basketball, miss a few baskets, but keep on trying, because he “knows” that people like him are good at basketball.
The writer is professor emeritus of social work at Temple University.
To the Editor: Nicholas Kristof fails to distinguish between Asian-American ethnic groups and to mention the huge variations in what those groups experience in terms of his chosen metrics of “success” — income and educational attainment. If he did, it might be more obvious that a “Confucian emphasis on education” explains naught about why we as a pan-ethnic group are “successful.”
American immigration policies and patterns of emigration in Asia have contributed to the influx of highly skilled and educated workers among some Asian-American groups, while patterns of stereotyping and discrimination have steered many Asian-Americans into pursuing higher education in STEM fields. Any cultural emphasis on education we might have is almost completely explained by these forces.
And that culture has little to nothing to do with Confucianism, as far as I can tell (having grown up in a Chinese-American household). Confucianism is a rich intellectual tradition — but one that I, like most Asian-Americans, know hardly anything about. It has precious little to do with our success.
The writer is a J.D. and Ph.D. candidate in law and philosophy at Stanford University.
To the Editor: Nicholas Kristof associates the success of Asian-Americans with strong families and strong education. He completely misses the heterogeneity of Asians and the Asian experience in America. He equates Asians with East Asians and ignores the large number of South and Southeast Asians who still struggle to assimilate economically.
Vietnamese and Cambodians remain underrepresented in higher education and suffer from high dropout and incarceration rates. Recognizing the disparate experiences of Asians and how they are marginalized would help all Asians rise as their East Asian counterparts have.
SANG E. LEE
Phnom Penh, CambodiaContinue reading the main story
Asian-American Experience, Issues, and Resources
Asian-American Children: What Teachers Should Know -- a useful digest of research and information.
Straddling Two Worlds: The Experience of Vietnamese Refugee Children in the United States -- an excellent report that examines the current state of Vietnamese America, summarizing research findings on Vietnamese children, both those who are native born and those born in Vietnam and raised in the United States -- provides insight into the complex issues many of these youth face.
A Dream Denied: Educational Experiences of Southeast Asian American Youth -- a thorough analysis of issues and a valuable set of recommendations.
Stereotypes of Asian American Students -- a very good essay on common stereotypes of Asian American students, and their damaging consequences -- includes good information about Asian American students' experiences in U.S. schools.
Why Are the Asian-American Kids Silent in Class? -- an article by a Japanese American writing teacher and teacher educator who discusses the cultural history and other factors that may contribute to some Asian American students not participating easily in class discussions -- includes a list of good recommendations for teachers.
The Education of Asian/Pacific American Students -- an excellent collection of links to articles, research, and resources relevant to working effectively with Asian/Pacific American youth and families.
Asian American Concerns and Issues -- a website with links to many other useful sites about Asian American youth and adults.
Medical and Other Facts about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders -- important statistics gathered from many sources.
Meeting the Educational Needs of Southeast Asian Children -- an article about the psychosocial development and needs of many Southeast Asian youth in U.S. schools.
Southeast Asian Youth Empowerment -- "lessons and models of a Cambodian youth project in Lowell, Massachusetts."
Hmong Home Page -- an excellent site about Hmong culture and issues relevant to working with Laotian, Thai, and Vietnamese American students and families -- lots of valuable information and links to good websites.
Awareness Points for Interacting with Hmong/Southeast Asian Students -- a good overview of some aspects of culture to take into account when interacting with Hmong and Southeast Asian youth and families.
Building Bridges: Teaching about the Hmong In Our Communities -- a 2009 document produced by the Hmong Cultural Center in St. Paul, MN providing good background and current information about the Hmong-American experience and cultural traditions useful for educators to know and understand.
Overview of Lao/Hmong Culture -- part of a book produced by the Center for Disease Control for doctors treating Hmong-Americans -- this section of the book provides information about Hmong culture that is very useful to educators.
Cultural Conflicts -- a section of a book about Hmong culture that details some of the ways in which Hmong Americans experience cultural conflict here in the U.S.
Hmong Cultural Tour -- a great website that presents and documents an incredibly wonderful school project done by a 4th/5th grade class in Madison, WI, in which they did an in-depth study of Hmong culture including visits to seven communities across Wisconsin with susbtantial Hmong communities. The students read and studied, visited community cultural centers, interviewed people they met, engaged in hands-on learning, and created a website presenting lots of useful information. Check it out!!
Cupping -- an article about this Asian medical practice, commonly used by traditional Southeast Asian cultural groups, is also sometimes referred to as coining or spooning, depending on the object used. The object is often heated then is rubbed against the skin to generate blood flow and related activity as an act of addressing certain ailments. This practice, which leaves the skin looking bruised, has sometimes been mistaken by teachers as a sign of abuse.
Hmong Music -- a brief description and discussion of Hmong music and its uses and purposes in Hmong culture, including links to online videos with performances and information.
Hmong Music in Vietnam -- the forward of a good book about Hmong music.
A Video Performance on the Qeej -- Ricky Soua Vang performs on the traditional Hmong instrument the qeej.
A Group of Youth Perform on the Qeej -- another video of qeej playing.
Growing Up Hmong American: Truancy Policy and Girls -- an interesting article based on interviews with Hmong girls who are chronically truant.
Hmong Studies Journal -- an online journal about the Hmong experience, both in the U.S. and around the world.
Hmong Culture Kit -- a set of resources for teaching about the Hmong culture and the celebration of the Hmong new year.
Asian American History Websites -- an excellent set of links to other sites.
Ancestors in the Americas -- A Public Broadcasting Service series exploring the history and legacy of Asians in the Americas -- some great resources, including primary documents.
Resources about Asian/Pacific Students and Culture -- good resources and information.
The Southeast Asian Archive -- a very useful collection of information and links.
The Asian and Pacific Islander Population in the U.S. -- a brief, 2002 overview report about these populations.
Asian-Nation -- information about the historical, political, demographic, and cultural issues that make up today's diverse Asian American community.
Yellowworld -- an online magazine about Asian American issues, perspective, and experience.
Articles about Anti-Asian Violence -- a list of weblinks to articles about racist violence against Asian Americans.
Denying the Trauma of Racism -- a good article about racial bias against Asians and the importance of working against it.
Asian-American Health Issues -- good information, resources and web links.
Asians' Health Worsens after a Move to Western Countries -- an article -- "The longer a south Asian immigrant spends in a western country, the more likely he or she is to develop high blood pressure, a study finds. The research provides more evidence that the shift towards a western lifestyle is damaging to health."
Breast Cancer on Rise Among Asian-American Women -- "Breast cancer rates among Asian-American women are on the rise, and Japanese-American women have been hardest hit in that group, says new research."
Closing the Health Gap -- "an educational campaign designed to help make good health an important issue among racial and ethnic minority populations who are affected by serious diseases and health conditions at far greater rates than other Americans."
Coughing While Asian -- a good article about a SARS-related racism that stereotypes Asian Americans as more likely to be carriers of SARS.
Cambodia: Beauty and Darkness -- the Odyssey of the Khmer People -- information about the recent history of Cambodia, particulary the Khmer Rouge period. The site also includes information about Cambodian refugees and immigrants abroad.
Documenting the Southeast Asian Refugee Experience -- good background and other information about the experience of Southeast Asian refugees in the U.S.
The Biculturation of the Vietnamese Student -- a good report about issues of cultural identity and conflict for Vietnamese American youth.
Khmer Health Advocates -- information about health issues experienced by Khmer refugees.
Model Minority: A Guide to Asian American Empowerment -- valuable articles, links and discussion.
Enhancing the Communication Skills of Newly-Arrived Asian American Students -- good information about issues, what to expect, and how to help in a culturally relevant way.
An Excellent Article -- about a Hmong-American liaison between a school district and the Hmong community in that district.
Lao Family Community of Minnesota -- information about Hmong culture and the refugee experience.
Daughter From Danang -- a powerful documentary about a young U.S. woman who was born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and a U.S. serviceman father, and was sent to the U.S. for adoption at the end of the war. The film documents her life path and the culturally complex reuniting, as a young adult, with her Vietnamese mother and family.
VietGATE -- gateway to the online Vietnamese community.
A Journal of Asian American Cultural Criticism -- a forum for Asian American literary and cultural studies.
DRUM (Desi's Rising Up and Moving) -- a community-based social justice organization of working class and poor South Asian immigrants and immigrant detainees and their families in New York City. Desi is a common term used by people of South Asian descent to identify as people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Guyana, and Trinidad. The group's mission is to organize low-income immigrant detainees and South Asian immigrant communities for racial justice, immigrant rights, and an end to detentions & deportations.
Bibliography of Southeast Asian Children's Books -- a long list of good children's books with Southeast Asian themes or characters.
Children's and Young Adult Books with Asian American Themes -- a descriptive list of good books for use by educators and parents.
Refugees and Immigrants: The Southeast Asian Experience as Depicted in Recent American Children's Books -- a good review and discussion of how select children's books present the the Southeast Asian immigrant experience.
An Interview with Children's Book Author, Linda Sue Park -- an interview with award winning, Asian American, children's book author, Linda Sue Park.
Powerful Asian American Images Revealed in Picture Books -- a bibliography of good children's books.
Khmer Music -- MP3's of Cambodian music.
Khmer Song -- more clips of Khmer music.
The Hmong Qeej: Speaking to the Spirit World -- a good article about this traditional Hmong instrument played at funerals and other important cultural events and now entering pop culture, too.
A Performance on the Qeej -- a YouTube clip of a man playing the Qeej, a central traditional instrument in Hmong and some other Southeast Asian cultures.
A Qeej Performance with Drums -- a powerful and creative sound and performance.
Hmong Find Ways to Keep Traditional Music Alive -- a radio segment about traditional music in the Hmong culture and how younger generations of Hmong are finding new ways to keep this music alive.
Speaking Musically: An Introduction to Traditional Hmong Music -- a video introduction to traditional Hmong music.
The Hmong Qeej -- one of the oldest harmonic instruments in the world, the Qeej is a bamboo and wooden mouth organ found throughout Eastern Asia -- it plays a central role in Hmong music and traditions.
A Website about the Study of Hmong Music -- a good source of information about Hmong music and related culture.
Video Clips of Hmong Folk Arts, Ceremonial Arts and Community Events -- video clips of the traditional Hmong two-stringed violin, the Hmong flute, the qeej, and much more.
Information about Traditional Korean Music -- This site provides information about the history of Korean folk music, about instruments used in Korean folk music, and about contemporary Korean folk music.
Phong Nguyen: Songs of Viet Nam -- a multi-talented Vietnamese American musician who has received a National Endowment of the Arts Heritage Award.
The Apsara Ensemble: Cambodian Traditional Dancers and Musicians -- a group that has received a National Endowment of the Arts Heritage Award.
Voices from the Gaps -- a great website about "women writers of color" -- good bios and links.
SAYA -- South Asian Youth Action -- "dedicated to creating social change and opportunities for South Asian youth to realize their potential."
Office of Minority and Multicultural Health -- a website by the New Jersey Dept. of Health with useful information about cultural competency in providing health services to diverse populations.
Asian Nation -- This website has useful articles and statistic about Asian cultural, specifically as it pertains to Asian-Americans.
Education Issues -- This article discusses issues faced by Asian and Pacific Islanders in American education.
Pacific Islanders Lagging Behind -- This article discusses the proportionally low number of Pacific Islanders in higher education.
Higher Education Resource -- This website aims to provide educators serving Asian and Pacific Islander communities with research, curricular content, and other promising practices to best serve the population.
Language Matters: Strengthening Asian and Pacific Islander Language Education at Berkeley -- This two hour video is a resource for educators in higher education.
Some Good Books and Articles
Bankston, C. & Zhou, M. 1995. Effects of Minority-Language Literacy on the Academic Achievement of Vietnamese Youth In New Orleans. Sociology of Education, 68(1): 1-17.
Bankston, C. & Zhou, M. 1997. Valedictorians and Delinquents: The Bifurcation of Vietnamese American Youth. Deviant Behavior, 18(4): 343-63.
Caplan, N., Choy, M. & Whitmore, J. 1992. Indochinese Refugee Families and Academic Achievement. Scientific American, 266(2): 36-42.
Caplan, N., Whitmore, J. & Choy, M. 1989. The Boat People and Achievement in America: A Study of Family Life, Hard Work and Cultural Values. University of Michigan Press.
Chuong, C. 1994. Vietnamese Students: Changing Patterns, Changing Needs. Many Cultures Publishing.
Jacobs, L. 1990. An Ethnographic Study of Four Hmong Students: Implications for Educators and Schools. In S. Goldberg (Ed.) Readings on Equal Education: Volume 10. AMS Press.
Davis, D. & McDaid, J. 1992. Identifying Second-Language Students' Needs: A Survey of Vietnamese High School Students. Urban Education, 27(1): 32-40.
Fadiman, A. 1997. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down -- culture and different views of life, health, and medical health practices. Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.
Freeman, J. 1989. Hearts of Sorrow: Vietnamese-American Lives. Stanford University Press.
Haines, D. (Ed.) 1989. Refugees as Immigrants: Cambodians, Laotians, and Vietnamese in America. Rowman and Littlefield.
Hones, D. and Cha, C. 1999. Educating Americans: Immigrant Lives and Learning -- what it means to be an American through the history of a Hmong refugee from Laos. Lawrence Erlbaum.
Kitano, H. & Daniels, R. 2000. Asian Americans: Emerging Minorities. Prentice Hall.
Lee, J. 1991. Asian Americans: Oral Histories of First to Fourth Generation Americans from China, the Philippines, Japan, India, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam and Cambodia. The New Press.
Lee, S. 1994. Behind the Model-Minority Steretype: voices of High and Low Achieveing Asian American Students. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, December.
Lee, S. 1996. Unraveling the Model Minority Stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth. Teachers College Press.
Lew, J. 2006. Asian Americans in Class: Charting the Achievement Gap Among Korean American Youth. Teachers College Press.
Lott, J. 1998. From Racial Category to Multiple Identities. AltaMira Press
Min, P. 1995. Asian Americans: Contemporary Trends and Issues. Sage Publications.
Ng, F. (Ed.) 1998. The History and Immigration of Asian Americans. Garland Publishing.
Ooka Pang, V. & Cheng, L. 1998. Struggling to Be Heard: The Unmet Needs of Asian Pacific American Children. State University of New York Press.
Rang, X. & Endo, R. 2011. Asian American Education: Identities, Racial Issues, and Languages. Peter Lang.
Rumbaut, R. 1999. Assimilation and Its Discontents: Ironies and Paradoxes. In J. DeWind et al., (Eds.) Becoming American, America Becoming. Russell Sage Foundation.
Smith-Hefner, N. 1990. Language and Identity in the Education of Boston-Area Khmer. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, vol. 21.
Takaki, R. 1998. Strangers From a Different Shore. Back Bay Books.
Tuan, M. 2001. Forever Foreigners or Honorary Whites? The Asian American Experience Today. Rutgers University Press.
Ung, L. 2000. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. Perennial.
Zhou, M. 1997. Growing Up American: The Challenge Confronting Immigrant Children and Children of Immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology, 23: 63-95.
Zhou, M. & Bankston, C. 1998. Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States. Russell Sage Foundation.
Zhou, M. and Bankston, C. 2000. Straddling Two Worlds: The Experience of Vietnamese Refugee Children in the United States. ERIC Urban Diversity Series -- ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, Teachers College, Columbia University.
Zia, H. 2000. Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Films & Videos
Vietnamese Americans: The New Generation. 2003. Through candid interviews with first and second-generation Vietnamese Americans, this program documents the process of assimilation into American culture of refugees from the former Republic of Vietnam. Topics include stresses on the family unit caused by cultural and generational differences, gang membership and drug abuse among the young, anti-Vietnamese racial bias, and feelings about relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.
Daughter From Danang. 2002 -- award winning documentary about a Vietnamese American woman who was given up for adoption after the war in Vietnam, and as a young adult reunites with her Vietnamese mother and family.
My America: Or Honk If You Love Buddha. 1997. Voices and personalities of Asian Americans across the U.S.
Moving Mountains: Story of the Yiu Mien. 1990. About the cultural struggles of Laotian refugees living in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
Slaying the Dragon: Images of Asian American Women in Film. 1988. An analysis of stereotypes about Asian women in U.S. film.
Journal of Southeast Asian American Education & Advancement -- This article explores how a “pro-ethnic, voice-centric family-school partnership” is beneficial to Cambodian American school children.
Lee, S. J. 1994. Behind the Model-Minority Stereotype: Voices of High- and Low-Achieving Asian American Students. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 25:4
"She’s American Now, I Don’t Like That": Gendered Language Ideologies in a Laotian American Community -- This article looks at how Laotian males deal with transitions of power from Laos to the United States, where women have more wage equality and access to education. English proficiency becomes the axis which gender identity is explored.