In a recent viral video clip, a man named Vince Dao skillfully debunks the trendy but vacuous, race-obsessed gibberish of panelists participating in a Vice discussion headlined, “Asian Americans Debate Model Minority and Asian Hate.” Though it’s depressing to see so many young people believe (or claim to believe) that our immutable characteristics shape our destinies, it is worth watching for Dao’s solid defense of Bourgeois ethics.
Dao tells the group that “assimilation is not just a great thing, it’s a necessary thing. No society can hold together where people have nothing in common, they don’t speak the same language, they don’t practice the same things.” He argues that in other parts of the world, wars have been fought over differences in race, culture, and religion for thousands of years. Yet, Americans have largely avoided these conflicts because of a shared idealism and set of norms. “I don’t think it’s going to be possible for Americans to survive as a stable functioning society if people don’t, to some degree, say, well here’s what we are commonly going to agree upon.”
Of course, he’s right. Upon hearing this, the dumbest, and most obnoxious, panelist then compares assimilation to “erasure.” Someone might explain to her that having purple hair and blaming everything on “white supremacy” has about as much to do with her ancestral roots as McDonald’s or Marxism.
Then again, talking about “Asian” immigrants as a single group is a bit misleading. Filipinos do not share the same cultural values or history as the Japanese, whose experiences are quite different from that of the Hmong who are not the same as Indians — any more than Jewish culture is the same as Italian culture or German culture or Irish culture. Even within these subgroups there are often deep differences. It’s just another reminder of why the identitarianism of “white” and “black” is so incredibly stupid and destructive.
American life offers space to honor all those ethnic and religious heritages, as anyone who lives here knows. Notwithstanding all its obvious injustices and sins, we do this better than any place in the world. And it has nothing to do with sloganeering about “diversity” making us stronger — which certainly enhances our personal and cultural lives. What makes us “stronger” is the ability to convince disparate groups of people with disparate traditions to adopt a set of societal customs and ethos. This means sharing a broad, unifying philosophy and a common understanding about civic life: a respect for the law and order and the foundational liberal ideas of rights, governance, and liberty; a common language; a belief in a meritocratic society; and the ability to live and let live by minding your own business.
If you believe, as some of the Vice panelists apparently do, that Asian ethnic groups (or very similar ethnic groups with different faiths, like Indians and Pakistanis) get along more peacefully in Asia and that the United States exacerbates ethnic tensions, I have some news for you.
Then, Dao really gets everyone worked up by noting that the “model minority myth” was “generally true of Asian families”; they tend to “stick together” and are “taught to work hard in school and not get into trouble.” Dao says, “you don’t have to be Asian, or white for that matter, to not have kids out of wedlock” or not “commit crime.”
“It’s just common sense,” he goes on, that assimilation means “having a nuclear family, buying a house, going to school.”
Oh boy, just look at the shocked faces of some of the panelists who confuse activism with good citizenship. One of them exclaims, “what is happening?!”
All of Dao’s claims are objectively true. And it’s true of every ethnic group and really any individual in any ethnic group. Take Nigerians, one of our more recent immigrant groups, who are neither “Asian” nor “white.” These immigrants have escaped a nation where 70 million people, a third of the nation, currently live in extreme poverty (second only in raw numbers to India). In the United States, around 60 percent of Nigerian Americans over the age of 25 have graduate degrees — compared to 32 percent of the nation on average. That is now a higher proportion of degrees than Asian Americans. Many Nigerians work in public education systems and universities, as doctors, entrepreneurs, and in highly skilled and high-paying professions.
Also, 71 percent of Nigerian immigrants with children “are married and in their first marriage.” Families with the highest household incomes in the United States are immigrants from India (at $123,700,) Taiwan, the Philippines, and Pakistan. Indians also lead the pack in having intact families, with the countries likewise high on the list. It’s not because they are helped by welfare payments or state interventions or more child credits. “White” supremacy does not stop them from reaching their potential. They work hard. They are entrepreneurial.
Of course, there are generational problems plaguing some communities that make success difficult. There is no panacea. And household income isn’t the only measure of a virtuous or decent life. But it is certainly true that families that get married first, have children, foster a strong work ethic, stay out of trouble, and stay married, are the most successful. No societal force can stop you from doing those things. I’m not sure how this can even be controversial.