Quoted: Dueling Asian Stereotypes Rise From The SFO Tragedy

SFO Crash

It’s a predictable pattern: Tragedy strikes, and the volume of racism gets loud on the Internet. After Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed in San Francisco last weekend, leaving two dead and many others injured, some folks thought it was appropriate to resurrect the dated trope that Asians are bad drivers. The pilot flying the plane when it crashed was identified as Lee Gang-guk, according to Korean authorities.

The stereotype that Asians aren’t great behind the wheel isn’t new, of course. I mean, it’s been featured in Family Guy. It has its own special place in the revered Urban Dictionary. It’s entrenched enough that it’s been the focus of multiple studies, which compared crash rates of immigrant drivers with those of native drivers. (One Canadian study from 2011 found that immigrant drivers — the biggest groups of whom were from China and India — actually had fewer accidents than “long-term” drivers.)

What’s confounding, though, is that the whole “Asians are bad drivers” stereotype clashes with another beloved Internet meme: that Asians are good at all the “hard” things, especially things that include math, technology or coordination.

Some folks might ask, Wait! Isn’t a positive stereotype, like the tech-wizard ninja one, actually kind of good? Some folks might also never have been asked to calculate the tip at a restaurant because of their assumed Asian math prowess. (Ahem. I’m just sayin’.)

How can a group be stereotyped in such diametrically opposite ways? If folks are going to say racist things after a fatal tragedy, is it too much to ask that at least the stereotypes be consistent? Because, you know, we can’t possibly be bad drivers and good at All The Things.

But I’d prefer neither.

–Kat Chow, “Dueling Stereotypes: Bad Asian Drivers, Good At Everything,” Code Switch: NPR 7/11/13

  • Asians Art Museum

    Very prophetic—latest story looks like another variation on the “Good at Math/Bad Driver” stereotype: ”

    Former Asiana Pilots Say Manual Flying Secondary to Automation”

    Excerpt: Three aviators who flew for Asiana or who helped train crews in Korea
    said in interviews that the Asiana pilots they flew with, while
    intelligent and well trained on automated systems, rarely flew manually….“ They know their procedures almost better than we did as instructors,” said Aimer, who now works at Los Angeles-based Aero Consulting Experts. “But we all noticed they all had more trouble with a simple visual approach than with a very sophisticated approach.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/business/bloomberg/article/Former-Asiana-Pilots-Say-Manual-Flying-Secondary-4667588.php

  • http://chrisliveskorea.blogspot.com/ Baakus

    Asking for a semblance of intellectual consistency from bigots is too much.

    It’s the same with sexists. Women are responsible for getting raped because men have no self-control, self-discipline, or sense of responsibility. That’s why men should have all the power in the world. I’m a dude and this kind of logical gymnastics is embarrassing. LOL