Opinion: raised right, not born right

When it comes to certain stereotypes about Asians such as intelligence, editor-in-chief Megan Lin writes that its not biology but culture.

Tiffany Zhang

When it comes to certain stereotypes about Asians such as intelligence, editor-in-chief Megan Lin writes that it’s not biology but culture.

Megan Lin, Editor-in-chief

As an Asian, I can’t say that I experience the worst of prejudices in this country like some people of other ethnicities may, but you often don’t hear about the way the Asian minority feels about the rhetoric that surrounds them.

We’ve been labeled by some people in this country as a “model minority” because we have a reputation of doing well in school, being successful in businesses, and, as the Washington Post put it, “law-abiding citizens who kept their heads down and never complained.”

These perceptions of the Asian population have sustained themselves in stereotypes, from the idea that anything below a 100 in school is an “Asian fail” to the idea that every Chinese person supports communism. Countless times people I don’t know have come up to me and said “Ni hao.” I know some of my Korean friends have been asked “What’s it like in North Korea?”

The main reason why these remarks don’t have the same kind of offensive connotation as some racial slurs in the public eye is because many Asian cultures don’t prioritize immediately calling out injustice. At least for me, sometimes it seems like a waste of time to explain to an ignorant person why what they’re saying is inappropriate and not a joke that can just be brushed off. Ignorance is very hard to point out when people don’t see that in themselves.

That was my perception of people who came up to me in elementary school and made fun of my “small eyes” by horizontally pulling their eyes. That was my perception of people who used the word “chink” to describe someone of Asian heritage.

I never really felt offended by this rhetoric because my parents taught me to prioritize school and getting a good education when I was young and to ignore the people who make fun of me. “You’ll be the one that’s laughing at them when you’re successful and they aren’t,” they told me.

The reason you don’t hear much about incidents of Asians being at the center of discrimination is because of this; many don’t put in the effort of fighting back. But just because the other party doesn’t show immediate distaste doesn’t make mocking or demeaning them acceptable.

But many people might think, most of these stereotypes are good stereotypes, right? Doing well in school, being successful.

And see, that’s part of the problem as well. The word “Asian” has been associated only with East Asian cultures (i.e. China, Japan, Korea) and people believe that “Asia” is limited only to these countries when the continent encompasses 48 different countries.

It’s a logical fallacy to say that just because the top six countries in the world ranking of countries by IQ are from Asia, all Asians are smart thinkers and intelligent. A multitude of Asian countries are not high ranked, including Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, and Indonesia, to name a few.

Many of these countries are underdeveloped and don’t provide enough resources for their children to get a good education. As a result, when these kids are met with these stereotypes that they should be smart and successful, those “good” stereotypes do harm to them. They feel inadequate and worthless.

That’s where the problem lies. People develop this belief that Asians are born smarter and born with better brains.

The real reason why many Asian students do well in school is not because of the ridiculous idea that they’re born smarter; it’s because we are raised since a very young age to value education and learning. This Confucian belief spurs them to proactively study on their own and take grades very seriously because to us, that determines the well-being of our future.

So this has nothing to do with genetics or biology but it has everything to do with culture. To credit the result of hard work and dedication to DNA is frankly offensive and narrow-minded.

So the next time you need help with homework, don’t justify asking that one random Asian kid that you never talk to to help you just because they’re Asian. Remember: although Asians may not be at the center of racial tensions, that doesn’t mean we’re not victims of stereotypes and racism. However, if there’s anything people should see Asians as, it should be that we are raised right, not born right.