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Busting the Stereotype: All Asians are Intelligent

Posted April 18th, 2009 by Shaun · 20 Comments
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I was just browsing through the extensive array of topics our crew at SAPL has created. I was however, quite stunned to realize that no mention has yet been made of the Asian’s perceived superior intelligence compared to other races. There was that original submission by LinSquared regarding Asian “P@n!$Size and Intelligence”, which although was highly entertaining (and perhaps somewhat inappropriate), probably only satirically skimmed over the crux of the point, being that there is the stereotype that all Asians are intelligent. Which I can for one, can say for a fact is untrue.

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Let’s face facts though, many Asians are exquisitely intelligent, and possess many talents. However, so are people of many other races. The perception though, is that a higher proportion of Asians possess special mental prowess over other races. While that does sound like it augers well for us in general, it simply isn’t true. We would be dangerously playing with stereotypes and perceptions when arguing that one race is simply more intelligent than another. Regardless of what people say, some must find it hard to believe that either African-Americans are more physically gifted, half-blood Asians are more attractive or that Caucasian Americans are naturally fatter than the rest of us… (Oooh is that last one going too far?)

scared-to-death-2When you find an Asian that does seem to possess more intelligence than the average person, it is more likely due to hard work and dedication that is instilled in a young Asian’s head from birth. More often than not, this is due to our parents. Asian parents often have one of two mindsets. They are either motivated by the lack of opportunity provided in their own lives, and are determined to provide their children with the facilities and support to excel that they themselves, never had. Some would say this is a way for Asian parents to live vicariously through their children, to feel pride and achievement that was not possible in their own circumstances.









The other mindset is one of pragmatism. Theever-worrying Asian parent, fearing mediocrity for their child, pushes the poor kid to their limit, all in view for their future. Many an Asian child will not only be academically gifted (math being a traditional Asian standout field), but also creatively gifted (tell me you don’t know any Asians who don’t excel at piano, violin or both). From a Western point of view, the feeling here is that as Asians, we have traditionally been in the minority. In the past we have been discriminated against and ignored. Obviously, things have changed over the years. However, it won’t ever change the Asian parent’s view, in insisting that being smart is a solution to avoiding mediocrity in a Western environment. Hence we are pushed, whether we like or not to achieve, for the sake of our future. Of course, not every Asian abides by these rules, as it is totally dependent on the fortune of our upbringing. However, get back to me again when the stereotype of Asians in Hollywood isn’t that nerdy, spectacled, socially-inept Asian male pouring over equations in his Calculus textbook. Then it’ll be interesting.

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Finally, I would just like to make note of my fellow SAPL colleagues’ academic situations. As most of you probably do know, the majority of the SAPL and AC staff are Stanford (and Berkeley) students or graduates. My point here being that it would be hypocritical not to mention our intelligent and quite brilliant staff of SAPL and AC that do not do me any favors in “busting this stereotype” – since as most of you would know, anyone who attends an Ivy League school such as Stanford must be quite brainy themselves. I myself, reside down in Melbourne, Australia undertaking a Bachelor of Arts at a relatively mediocre university. Nothing special really. As with most Arts students, I am looking forward to a helluva time being unemployed once I graduate. Beat that for not conforming to the stereotype! =)

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20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Wanda // Apr 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I think that white privilege has allowed Caucasians to (falsely) believe that they will always be able to have good paying jobs without benefit of secondary education, (because they’re white, damn it, and should be first in line for any and all jobs over other races, no matter how much more qualified the other person is), that there is no real benefit to learning to play the piano/violin/cello, etc. because you can’t make a living from it (and besides, it’s just not macho to play the piano or violin, right?) and that the high carb, high protein diet of the average Caucasian American/Canadian is perceived as “real food” compared to the relatively healthier Asian diet of fish/rice/vegetables and fewer sweets. It’s been my experience that white people tend to think that their white privilege gives them the right to feel superior to all other races. And yes, white people do seem to be fatter than any other ethnicity. I think that the stereotype of Asians as being smarter and/or better educated and/or more musically inclined than Caucasians is rooted in the fact that Asian cultures which I have directly experienced seem to place importance on a person being well-rounded in their life, balancing education, the arts, and physical activity. It’s also been my experience that non-Caucasian cultures, Asian especially, seem to place a greater importance on respect for oneself and one’s family. I should also note that I am speaking in generalizations, and that my only direct experience with Asian culture comes from my time in Hong Kong and Seoul.

  • 2 Greek Town CasinoMichigan // Apr 21, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I agree with Wanda, is not that the Asians are more intelligent, but they are more well rounde culturally.

  • 3 Anonymous // Apr 24, 2009 at 8:52 am

    stanford is not an ivy league institution

  • 4 Z Damien // Apr 25, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Asian-Americans are usually more intelligent than the average American and the average Asian.

    There’s really nothing surprising about that once you understand that the American immigration system is strongly biased towards people with high educational attainments.

    Given that majority of Asian-Americans (especially Chinese, Koreans and South Asians) are either immigrants or have immigrant parents, then this explains the apparent superior Asian intelligence.

    You can say the same about Nigerian-Americans, Bulgarian-Americans or any community which is composed primarily of immigrants.

  • 5 dave // Apr 26, 2009 at 8:16 am

    sI agree totally with Wanda but one sentence :

    “I think that white privilege has allowed Caucasians to (falsely) believe that they will always be able to have good paying jobs without benefit of secondary education”

    It is not a false believe. The same thing even started at the college level, esp ivy league universities.e

  • 6 Anonymous // May 7, 2009 at 2:35 am

    White people are “fat”? That is all you can say? A hint of racism there that could warrant a bit of soul searching. Just look at white people throughout history and their contribution to politics, science and arts – now compare to any other race…

    Now realize it has never been about race anyway and it’s just cultural values which change throughout time. In places like America academic achievement has become less respected and pursued while in places like, for example, China, academic excellence can be everything. On the other hand academic excellence in China often boils down to rote memorization and not problem solving skills and creativity where American culture focuses more on the later.

    It’s always been about culture and not race. Many Asian families follow a culture more appreciative of academic achievement at this point in time as opposed to perhaps valuing sports or popularity/fame, power/leadership, arts, etc which other cultures or subcultures may place a greater value.

  • 7 Anonymous // May 19, 2009 at 10:58 am

    suck it homeslice i top your non conformist charts… kinda. I’m currently NOT working toward a degree at a prostigeous (good) college, but AM applying to community college for ACCOUNTING hahaha

  • 8 A large fat man // May 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    The funny thing about all the Asian people I know, mostly Thai, is that they keep at me to “lose your weight.” In fact, the monk at the temple thinks it is the height of humor to ask me how my baby is. This never fails to amuse him.

    It doesn’t bother me, I’m just happy I can make him laugh!

  • 9 ty // Jun 7, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    white people are definately more fat

  • 10 partial truth // Aug 4, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Z Damien has some relevance on his comment about immigration. I highly believe 0ur society needs to be more objective and less reliant on stereotypes (although it is most likely in my opinion an evolutionary characteristic for pattern recognition and generalization to maximize survival choices).

    Immigration patterns has a huge impact on the “American” perception and stereotype on “asians are smarter”.

    As an example, the immigration patterns for Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese to America is different in the sense that the path to reach America is a high burden. The country is easily accessible to one of two classes as part of the American immigration system. 1) College and Post-Graduate Education/Student Visas which in turn bring in highly talented and intelligent Asians from those countries and retains them in America. 2) Families with Money, we all have to recognize financial and political advantages provides abilities to immigrate much greater than people with no money or no influence.
    The results becomes the association in the American perspective of anyone of a Chinese, Korean, or Japanese background are immediately typecasted and by default smart and rich (although they aren’t many times).

    The success rates for these groups are incredibly high proportionally compared to any other group in this country. If one was to study Euro-immigration patterns of he 1800s, you will see similar characteristics. Although my prediction is that the assimilation of Asians into America within the next generation or two will see a degradation in this stereotype (and many others such as passivity, etc) and you will probably recognize more and more Asians as dumber (and aggressive in terms of the American John Wayne attitude) basically comparatively.

    In no ways to offend, if one was to evaluate the Asian subgroups in the southeast area (ie. vietnamese, cambodian, laos, etc.) the stereotype probably is not as strong and the results is a more proportionally represented population to the average American ability. Those groups tend to experience issues typical of a minority group and in instances socioeconomic issues (gangs, etc.). They’re immigration pattern/experience is different in the effect that many were refugees so a homogeneous group was picked up and “transported” to America due to political turmoil. It wasn’t in a sense selectively “cherry picking” the best of the best.

    I am sure if you mexican immigration was treated in the same respect as the chinese, korean, japanese experience, the stereotype of mexican immigrants would be much much different. We obviously view European immigrants in this country on a higher standard than mexicans, although I don’t believe it’s a fair representation of a race since again, it’s “cherry picked”. I guarantee anyone going to any other country and assessing the abilities of that group in a homogeneous fair setting, you will probably find them to be all just as dumb as your typical american and just as smart as your typical american.

    I myself am a immigrant of Taiwan with parents of high education. Growing up in this country, I was predisposed easily with certain advantages that your typical red-neck american didn’t have (although as a asian in area of every race except for asians) I easily excelled even with the typical struggles of a immigrant family assimilating language, job, and financially. It was obviously much easier with parents that understood what education and Confucian cultural basis meant to your success in life.

    I’m also a non-believer in the stereotype of Asians being shorter. There is a big deal I believe to do with diet and a distinction must be made between native Asians and American Asians. I moved here at the age of 5 so have essentially grown up with an American diet leading to being 6’1 (much bigger in height and muscular structure than most of my family back in Taiwan). Many of my friends that are Asians growing up in similar circumstances all tend to be centered around I feel the average American male height (5’9 to 5’10) and many times BMI and fatness. Same goes with the girls. Not all of them are skinny as many Americans believe, the American diet has made quite many of them quite fat.

    Stereotypes have a purpose, but it’s a relatively short sighted purpose for a reason. If you dictate your entire life experience around stereotypes, I do feel pity for those individuals who are blinding themselves from the human experience and the unique perceptions each individual carries.

  • 11 rozaj2002 // Sep 30, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    What ‘relatively mediocre university’ are you studying at? deakin?

  • 12 Yen-Hong Tran // Apr 29, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Way to go Partial Truth. I agree. I have much of the same situation as yourself. And I couldn’t agree more.

    Yen-Hong

  • 13 Erik // May 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    @Wanda,

    Quote “I think that white privilege has allowed Caucasians to (falsely) believe that they will always be able to have good paying jobs without benefit of secondary education, (because they’re white, damn it, and should be first in line for any and all jobs over other races, no matter how much more qualified the other person is), that there is no real benefit to learning to play the piano/violin/cello, etc. because you can’t make a living from it ”

    Again the key word is that you think.

    First off, Caucasians aren’t just people of the European diaspora. Secondly, you can’t pretend to think to know what someone thinks based upon their skin tone.

    And the idea of White Priviledge is Class Priviledge. An upperclass Asian, Hispanic or African American is more priviledged than a poor European American of any ethnic background. Don’t pretend to know what we think. Take your liberal racist shit and shove it.

    To quote you again ” and that the high carb, high protein diet of the average Caucasian American/Canadian is perceived as “real food” compared to the relatively healthier Asian diet of fish/rice/vegetables and fewer sweets”

    Again you show us your racist ignorance by thinking that we all eat the same and that any one diet is better than the other, both Asian cuisinese and American cuisines are unhealthy if eaten out of moderation and no exercise or physical activity is undertaken.

    Quote : “It’s been my experience that white people tend to think that their white privilege gives them the right to feel superior to all other races.”

    lol You think you know what over 1 billion ethnic Europeans around the world think? All middleclass and rich people have priviledge. It’s class not racial. Don’t like your liberal racists brainwash you.

    Quote: “And yes, white people do seem to be fatter than any other ethnicity.”

    In America, African Americans are the most obese group. But generally speaking and this is something that’s unique to America, is that the poor are the most obese, regardless of their race. But that is another issue.

    Quote : “I should also note that I am speaking in generalizations, and that my only direct experience with Asian culture comes from my time in Hong Kong and Seoul.”

    Racist and ignorant experiences.

  • 14 Erik // May 11, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    @Greek Town CasinoMichigan,

    It depends what nationality and ethnicity you’re talking about. And I’ve seen crass and low rent Asians as I have seen in all other races.

  • 15 Erik // May 11, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    @Z Damien,

    Well said Z, I think it’s the drive that pushes people forward. From my experience, I’m an Appalachian migrant who migrated to the Mid West as a small child and my parents pushed me and my siblings into education and taught us firsthand how important it was when they were forced to work in dirty and dangerous factories for a small check that barely made the bills and that showed me that if I wanted better for my future, meant that I had to get an education.

  • 16 Erik // May 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    @A large fat man,

    lol I liked the comment of the priest. And that shows me a huge difference between my culture and your culture. lol In mine, those’re fighting words.

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  • 18 efg // Jan 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    @Wanda, girlfriend you sound more prejudiced than the “white privileged” people you’re trying to criticize. Just take responsibility for your own self. PS I am Asian male.

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  • 20 Mr. Duby // Apr 18, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I hope you Asians realize that there is a difference between White people, Anglo Saxons, Jews, and Ashkenazi Jews. The latter is what you are competing against and should gravely fear. White people are the ones who are oblivious to everything.

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