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Perception of Asian Americans & RIP Vincent Chin

Posted June 26th, 2011 by Peter · 7 Comments
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Hi everyone, it’s been hard to write lately with work and other obligations. That doesn’t mean we at SAPL are still not following the recent events such as the commemoration o f the brutal and untimely death of Vincent Chin, who was truly a martyr for Asian American legal rights and bringing the community together.

This week, I was introduced to an article by strategist DJ Chuang, who suggests that “Asian American” is becoming more of a brand than anything else. Here’s his article:

Once in a blue moon, Asian Americans generate a bit of controversial buzz and tagged with the tiger metaphor, whether “tiger moms” (cf. Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior: Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back? excerpted from Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2011 and Tiger Moms: Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer? by Annie Murphy Paul in Time, January 20, 2011) or “paper tigers” (cf. Paper Tigers: What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends? by Wesley Yang in New York Magazine, May 8, 2011), with its share of critiques, including: Jeff Yang [no relation], Sanden Totten, Hana Lee, Guria King, Sylvie Kim, Nina Shen Rastogi, Susan Adams.

At the 20th Annual Conference of the Committee of 100 one panel caught my attention, Managing Asian Talent in Global Companies – Confucian Tigers. During that roundtable, it was (rightly) cited that:

Asians are 5% of the population.. yet less than 1/3 of 1% of executive positions.. less than 1% of board positions.. even though Asians are better educated and make more money than any other group in America..

And then the roundtable moderator cited a paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology about what do people perceive of Asian Americans, “the brand of Asian talent,” so to speak. Here’s the perception of some people about Asian Americans:

  • competent
  • consistent
  • conscientious
  • objective
  • well-informed
  • rational
  • self-controlled
  • socially introverted
  • passive
  • emotionally distant
  • reserved

The title of that peer-reviewed paper: Leadership Perceptions as a Function of Race-Occupation Fit: The Case of Asian Americans, was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology [Vol 95(5), Sep 2010, 902-919]. Co-authors are Lynn M. Shore of San Diego State University, Judy Strauss of CSU Long Beach, Ted H. Shore of CSU San Marcos, UCR graduate students Susanna Tram and Paul Whiteley, and Kristine Ikeda-Muromachi of CSU Long Beach. Here’s the methodology used:









The researchers sampled three groups of individuals — 131 business undergraduates from a large business school on the West Coast, and one group of 362 employees and another of 381 employees in the Los Angeles region — and asked them to evaluate an employee. In one experiment participants received identical information about the employee’s expertise as an engineer or salesperson, but some were told the employee was Asian American and others that he was Caucasian American. In a similar experiment, participants assessed the employee’s leadership attributes.

What’s my take? I’m reluctant to write a long essay here, as this blog post is already long. I’ll say this: yes, there are stereotypes and overgeneralization. Yes, there’s a ton of diversity under the “Asian American” group. Yes, there is systemic racism. Yes, there are misperceptions. Yes, there are Asian cultural values (and other cultures too) that impede some people from expanding their cross-cultural capacity to take on a bigger role in a multi-cultural society (or corporation or organization.)

I do think there is way too little airplay on Asian American issues and real life Asian American stories. So the problems persist. An occasional article or roundtable won’t do much to effect change.

One thing that must happen is for Asian Americans to learn the stories of more Asian Americans to represent Asian Americans. And more of those stories have to be told online and not just offline.

We hope you can comment on it at: DJ’s Website and can offer your insight about it here on SAPL. Do you agree with these perceptions? What can we do to change society’s image of Asian Americans?

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Tags: Culture · Customs · Environment · Habits · People · Products · Relationships · Social

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dan // Aug 14, 2011 at 11:16 am

    The statistics about Asian-Americans in board and executive positions relative to the overall population I found interesting, especially due to the perception of Asian-Americans as intelligent and hardworking. At what point on the corporate ladder does the representation drop off? Is it sharply once you reach a certain level, or gradually decline the whole way up? I’d be curious to know.

  • 2 Karen // Sep 8, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Bruce Lee did a lot for Asian Americans as up until the Asian community was kept down in America. People took Asian Americans more seriously and allowed them to move up the ladder. I think another Bruce Lee is needed.

  • 3 Hot Purse // Sep 14, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Asian americans are now the most leading minority among the united states. In the shape of hardworkers and tech savvy citizens. Whatever they complaints are ,sure they are right, because they rarely complaint. Asians don’t need any more stereotypes like Bruce Lee.

  • 4 Peter // Sep 23, 2011 at 5:34 am

    I blame Hollywood for perpetuating all these stereotypes.

    When has there been an Asian protagonist in any US film? When has there been a positive Asian character in any TV show?

    Last I checked, the answer was zero. Asian males are continually emasculated in the media. Asian females don’t fare much better.

    Look at what happened with Rosie O’Donnell when she started speaking ching chong. Nothing. No one takes Asians seriously, and when we do have a valid complaint, it gets ignored. Got forbid if that fat piece of crap started making fun of blacks or Jews.

    If people are going to start taking Asians seriously, then Asians are going to have to start excelling at EVERYTHING – not just school, but athletics as well. The stereotype of being meek is probably what plays a big role in no one taking Asians seriously.

  • 5 Robert // Nov 9, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I know this is a rather dead blog but I though I’d revive it because of the several views expressed none of them considered the relative position of Asian presentation in North American society. I agree with Peter that Asian’s are all but ignored in popular culture in North America, Asian females fare better than males but are typically represented as a sexual plaything by popular media or an old crone screaming in a language English speakers do not understand. Males are placed in the ancient mystic position or are a supporting buffoon. There are not any current any serious leading men of Asian descent (any potential ones seem to die off, career-wise or actually). Can’t exactly blame Hollywood or print media as we do not consume products of our own culture. If we started going “strictly Asian” in entertainment we would see a change in the portrayal of our community. See what the Blacks did… they are now mainstream all in less than 15 years. Sitcoms with pretty much all Black casts and plots that reflected Black concerns gained mainstream acceptance. R&B and Hip Hop would not have had such commercial success without mainstream interest in their culture. We don’t engage in any of that type of activity. We don’t support Asian mainstream programming, All American Girl was the most recent attempt – it failed after a season, basically and the only other attempt occurred in 1975 with Pat Morita’s Mr. T and Tina which lasted only a month. We are a collection of cultures that the media feels is best represented symbolically – we are still “token” to the mainstream. The one Korean, guy in a comedy troupe, the one Chinese Guy minor character in a Sci-Fi movie, etc… We don’t support our own initiatives to get recognized we will never get serious interest or any real respect from other cultures.

  • 6 Lee // Nov 13, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I’m from the ol’ skool of watching Asian Americans only being portrayed as cooks, gardeners, Suzie Wongs, or Mrs. Livingston(nanny) on the tube. Then shows like All American Girl was aired and the new generation of immigrants complained like crazy over her show. I’m from the “Let’s stick together to achieve a goal”generation. I wonder if the “NEW” Asians who are coming here have any clue how the first Gen. Asians , Japanese, Chinese even made it this far having gone through internment camps, Racial Steering unable to buy a house because of race. Racism is just more subtle nowadays. I’m concerned over the younger Asian kids with pressure to succeed till they breakdown emotionally and physically. Ah I can go on but I watch the younger generations with the dance crews (very proud!) and the comic relief from Asian American comedians this is progress. We actually have achieved much more visual exposure then the past. I remember protesting back in the “Day” listening to Nobuko Miyamoto and Chris Iijima singing ” We are the Children of the migrant workers” It’s progress not perfection.

  • 7 coach bags uk // Feb 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.

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