by UnHerd
Thursday, 13
May 2021
Video
14:49

Tiger mum Amy Chua on Asian-American tensions

Freddie Sayers spoke to the best-selling Yale Professor
by UnHerd

As the country’s ‘model-minority’, Asian-Americans have experienced different forms of discrimination compared to other ethnic groups, but the recent spate of Asian-American violence and rise in anti-China rhetoric has thrown this tension into sharper focus.

There is perhaps no public intellectual better equipped to give an insight into these issues than Amy Chua, a Law Professor at Yale and author of five books, including the famous book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’, which advocated strict Chinese-style parenting. Chua is the child of two ethnically Chinese parents, who emigrated from the Philippines to the US when she was a baby. She has written extensively about her Confuscian upbringing at home (respect for elders, deference to authority) as well as her schooling in America, both of which gave her a deeper understanding of the values that underpin those two countries.

Growing up, Chua says she experienced racism, but today’s fear of Asian-Americans both inside and outside the country is new:

There is tremendous resentment, fear, and insecurity about Asian-Americans because of college admissions…And then you’ve got China, a whole different source of insecurity. When I was growing up, China was the poor man of the world… It was a developing country, and nobody feared China… Now on campus, I noticed that this anti-Chinese resentment slash fear is coming from both the Left and the Right, which is very unusual.
- Amy Chua, UnHerd

More broadly, her research has focused on tribes and how people naturally cleave different groups, be they ideological, cultural, or political, which has intensified in recent years. This, Chua explains, is central to understanding America’s ongoing identity crisis:

There are two factors that make this moment different from any other historical moment in the United States. Number one: this is the first time in US history, where whites are on the verge of losing their majority status for the first time in 200 years…. Now, every group in America feels threatened… and what the research shows is that when people feel threatened, that’s when they retreat into tribalism.

The second factor is…this populist dynamic, where parts of the country are resentful that this little cosmopolitan minority controls Washington, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and all the Ivy Leagues. That dynamic is new to the United States today, which makes it more like a developing country. 

- Amy Chua, UnHerd

On the West imitating China:

There’s a lot of irony in that. These lockdowns do feel very authoritarian. I do feel a kind of cultural revolution vibe. Once I walked into a restaurant and I’d forgotten to put my mask on and people were calling me out and denouncing me. But I see it more through my political tribes lens, and I see two teams. Still, there’s a feeling of much less libertarian, American-style freedom going on.
- Amy Chua, UnHerd

America’s identity crisis:

America isn’t at its best right now but when it is, it is a place where individual subgroup identities could also flourish. We need some overarching identity to hold the country together but I think we’re losing it… I think that’s the real crisis now. 
- Amy Chua, UnHerd

On America’s Founding Fathers:

80% of our students view America’s Founding Fathers with disdain. They say they’re just white male rapists. I think that’s a terrible development. It’s possible to acknowledge that they were very flawed men…But that’s totally different from saying that… America is a country built on white supremacy.
- Amy Chua, UnHerd

On China:

The whole problem with authoritarian regimes is that you can never guarantee that your beneficent dictator — even if he is beneficent — will stay that way. That’s the problem with unchecked power — they can start mowing people down. So that’s why I’m in favour of free market democracy.
- Amy Chua, UnHerd

Covid tribalism:

It is outrageous that during the pandemic I had to flip between television stations, the Right-wing Fox and the Left-wing MSNBC, just to figure out if a certain drug was effective…Some people at the beginning thought the pandemic would bring people together, but now everything is so political.
- Amy Chua, UnHerd

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Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

Ironically, she is under attack by the wokerati now. Beyond that, Asians are not a monolith as Chua herself should know. Just ask the Japanese if there is a pecking order. Or the Chinese, for that matter. And remind me who’s behind the bulk of attacks on Asian Americans.
She manages to be right and wrong about the Founders, right in how students are being taught to view them, but horribly wrong regarding this: It’s possible to acknowledge that they were very flawed men.
They are simply men who lived in a particular time. Humans are flawed by nature; what’s possible, but evidently not probable, is to view people in the context of their times. None of what people clutch their pearls about today was even being discussed then. And these “flawed” men created something with the capacity for change, an idea that formed the single longest-lasting experiment in self-governance in global history. Of course, the woke are mad. It’s what they do.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Well said, the FF also came from wholly white societies themselves. They had no experience of multicultural societies. Interesting that men with no such experience created the greatest multi cultural society the world has ever known.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Ironically, she is under attack by the wokerati now.
Yeah, in some ways, this interview reminded me of the Unherd interview with Suzanne Moore. She used to be the reigning Queen of Feminism and PC, until her colleagues at The Guardian turned on her.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

“Deeply flawed” has been the go-to adjective it seems now to describe the Founding Fathers, but as you say it hardly seems to fit. A lot of the Founding Fathers never were slaveholders, like Ben Franklin and Tom Paine. She spoke as if they all were. George Washington was a slaveholder but he freed all of his slaves by the terms of his will. Rather than sneering at him for being “deeply flawed” it might be more useful to acknowledge that if every other slaveholder of his generation had followed his example, slavery would have died out in the United States sometime in the early 19th century and there never would have been a Civil War.
Are Russian people constantly told that Pushkin and the poets of the Golden Age of Russian poetry were “deeply flawed” men because they had serfs? I don’t think so.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

The key concept raised in this interview, imo, is the current lack of a unifying ideology in the US.
President Coolidge reportedly said ‘the business of America is business.” There’s much truth in that statement, imo. You might live and work next to people from very different ethnic backgrounds, and some of those ethnicities might be your traditional enemies, but in America you put that aside, at least in public. You learned to get along in exchange for liberty and a shot at a reasonably prosperous life.
What happens if the promise of economic advancement and security is removed? What is the incentive for an ultra-diverse mix of ethnicities to get along when the traditional ideology, based on Christianity, is passing, our unifying historical narrative is being actively rejected, and the modern economy is leaving most Americans behind?
I don’t think we have an answer to that question. It may be the answer is we’re at the end of an experiment in multiculturalism. America’s moment in the sun may be passing.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

There are so many elephants in her room she can say very little less she be canceled. You can see it so clearly in this talk. Say nothing but making noises which do no harm and at best hint at what she thinks…

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

I’m American and I’m not fearful of Asians. Or any other racial group.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

the whole idea of “Asians” presumes that Chinese, Japanese, Iranians, Indians, etc. are interchangeable, a claim that no one whose IQ surpassed room temp would make. Even in Asia, people don’t see themselves as being on the same plane.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

True. It’s just fashionable to say these things and let’s not forget there are book sales to consider.
interesting that the article title has been changed. And how is being Asian not considered American identity?

Last edited 1 year ago by Annette Kralendijk
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Have you been in the Ghetto after dark? If you are not afraid you are unusual. But being in a Chinese community after dark is not scary.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Sorry Sanford, I’m usually with you but not this time. I’m not fearful of any racial group. But then I live in a very peaceful state without much racial unrest like you see today in democrat run states. I grew up in NY in a very diverse area, never had any fear back then either.

William Hickey
William Hickey
1 year ago

Annette, you being fearful of any other group is not what has driven America apart. What has driven America apart is that black failure became morally unacceptable to our educated and privileged class.
They will destroy this country to deny its reality.
When you were young no one cared about the relative paucity of Irish surgeons, Japanese high fashion models or Jewish policemen. Yet we celebrated all of our separate ethnic cultures. We breakfasted on smoked salmon at Zabars, went up to Yorkvile for wiener schnitzel for lunch and had dinner with the throngs on Mulberry Street during the Feast of San Gennaro. No one decried appropriation; instead, we boasted of it. Every group had its strengths and weaknesses. That was life.
But blacks had to succeed at everything and in every small sphere. Otherwise we, not them, were at fault. To use a sports example it was considered suspect that quarterbacks in football were mostly white, even those 70% of the players in the NFL where African American. Something must be wrong.
“White men can’t jump,” but no one proposes special levitation classes for them to equalize results in the NBA or track and field. Blacks score lower on average in standardized testing and suddenly, since 1965 America has had to reinvent pedagogy over and over to help blacks out until 2 plus 2 was said to equal 5 and the SAT went the same way as the Stanford-Binet IQ tests (which are unconstitutional as an employment criterion since, you guessed it, 1971).
The refusal to accept black failure in certain areas has twisted this country into ethical pretzels. It has made us exchange our old Constitution for the new one imposed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act and our judicial elite. It has codified quotas, elevated discrimination, sanctified victimhood, increased enmity among all minorities, and placed a bullseye on the backs of the perceived oppressor — white people.
The avoidance of reality always ends in disaster. That is what you have to be afraid of.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  William Hickey

“Annette, you being fearful of any other group is not what has driven America apart.”
how could it be when I’m not fearful of any group?
“Yet we celebrated all of our separate ethnic cultures.”
I still do. Who would even want to live in a cultural monolith?
I agree with you that American society expects very little from African Americans. And that most of the policies over the last decades have very much hurt black families. So called “affirmative action” allows society to paint black people as being unable to compete without a ten yard head start. I believe that Clarence Thomas has repeatedly made this point.

William Hickey
William Hickey
1 year ago

The trouble with many whites is that they are so cowed by the prevailing culture they can’t take their own side in an argument.
Affirmative action isn’t bad because it hurts blacks; affirmative action is bad because it discriminates against and penalizes you and your children. That’s the only reason whites need to oppose it.
Blacks love affirmative action. In spite of outliers like Thomas and Ward Connerly, blacks repeatedly vote for it, as was the recent case in California. Ninety percent of blacks favor it, the same percentage as who vote Democratic, the party of more and more affirmative action. They know they need it and they’re never going to give it up.
Stop worrying about black people. They aren’t worrying about you.

Last edited 1 year ago by William Hickey
Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  William Hickey

“Affirmative action isn’t bad because it hurts blacks”
of course it is. In several ways, in fact. The first I have already mentioned. Blacks can never be sure that they are not seen as AA admissions rather than being admitted or hired based on talent and grades. Even Barack and Michelle Obama faced this issue.
The second is that the failure rate of blacks admitted based on lower standards means that they drop out more frequently. an unfinished education helps no one.
“Blacks love affirmative action”
yes, I’d guess it’s popular. That doesn’t make it helpful.
“Stop worrying about black people.”
I’m not worried about myself or anyone actually. But thanks for your concern.

Johnny Rottenborough
Johnny Rottenborough
1 year ago

We need some overarching identity to hold the country together
Given that people empathize most with those most like them, the greatest overarching identity is race. Diverse America can never hope to be as united as the white America of old. The Founding Fathers clearly intended America to be a white nation: the 1790 Naturalization Act talks of ‘any Alien being a free white person’.
The bottom line is that America was opened up to non-white immigration to do harm. The same is true of all Western countries.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

People from Asia came here to do harm? Africa too?
The Founding Fathers based this nation and its laws on ideals and ideas. Not on race.

Johnny Rottenborough
Johnny Rottenborough
1 year ago

Annette Kralendijk—The kind of harm Binyamin Netanyahu is talking about in relation to ‘refugees and migrant workers from Africa’ in Israel: ‘This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity.’

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
1 year ago

A-plus. Excellent conversation. If polar opposites don’t talk we are doomed. Thanks Freddie and Amy.

Johnny Rottenborough
Johnny Rottenborough
1 year ago

this little cosmopolitan minority controls Washington, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and all the Ivy Leagues
Israeli columnist Ari Shavit, 1996: ‘…with the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in our hands…’
Ron Unz, 2012: ‘Although Princeton’s current president is not Jewish, all seven of the most recent Princeton provosts stretching back to 1977 have had such ancestry, with several of the other Ivies not being far behind. A similar degree of massive overrepresentation is found throughout the other top administrative ranks of the rest of the Ivy League, and across American leading educational institutions in general, and these are the institutions which select our future national elites.’
Unz calculated that Jewish admissions to the top US universities were 381 per cent of what they ought to be, based on academic achievement at school. Asian admissions were on 62 per cent and white admissions on 35 per cent.

Last edited 1 year ago by Johnny Rottenborough
Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
1 year ago

What a fabulous woman.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

I wish she had the courage to say who is doing the attacking of Chinese in USA. I wish she did not have to do the normal, ‘Yea, the Founding Fathers did pretty well, but they were flawed and…’ and say they were possibly the most exceptional gathering of humans in history.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

“There is tremendous resentment, fear, and insecurity about Asian-Americans because of college admissions”
Asians are penalized in college admissions, who other than Asians themselves would resent that? And many Asians do resent it. You’d think that Chua would know this.
You do not want to apply to a selective college in the US while Asian, I’ve known Asians who skipped the application race question so as not to be automatically discriminated against. You want to be applying as anything other than Asian.

Last edited 1 year ago by Annette Kralendijk