Tag Archives: Asian Like Me

On the Trail of the “Paper Tiger” [Updated]

by Latoya Peterson

Asian Like Me NY Mag Cover

ETA: Please note, we got an email from NYMag saying they want us to take down this post. I pushed back asking them about their definition of fair use, and we are working it out. So if you access this post over the weekend, and it has changed, that’s what happened. I’m going to go through and prune it down a bit – good faith and all that – but we are still going to run the other pieces on Monday, regardless of what actually ends up in this space. – LDP

Earlier this week, readers Elton and Tomi alerted us to this front page New York Magazine piece called “Paper Tigers,” by Wesley Yang. It is remarkable in that it’s one of the broadest examinations of Asian American identity to be prominently placed in a mainstream outlet. The article made a huge impact – on Facebook alone, it was liked by 31,000 people. However, reading the piece left a lot of questions to be answered, and for every “hell yeah!” there was an equal *head desk*.

We’re putting together a reaction post from our friends and contributors, but in the meantime, please set aside the time to read all of Yang’s article.

To start you off, here are some points that jumped out at me.

The Good

  • Yang’s discussion of Asian American invisibility in face of stereotype: “A conspicuous person standing apart from the crowd and yet devoid of any individuality.”
  • The frank discussion of Thomas Epenshade’s work, which calculated how Asians generally must score higher on the SAT than white applicants to have the same chance at admission.
  • The disparity between Asian American representation in higher education and under-representation in the board room. (We’ve covered this before, under the title of the bamboo ceiling.)

The Interesting, but Questionable

  • Yang looks at the bamboo ceiling, but attributes it mostly to unconscious bias, not actual racism.
  • The absolute absence of Asian American female perspectives, despite the higher rates of suicide for Asian American women.

The WTF

  • Yang appears to have a love/hate relationship with being Asian-American; using the term “banana or twinkie to self identify and saying he’s “devoid of Asian characteristics.”
  • The piece challenges some stereotypes, but reinforces others, perhaps because of the divided feel of the narrative.
  • Yang quotes JT Tran, the Asian American pick up artist, who essentially says Asian American (heterosexual men) should pick up white women in order to…well, it’s not exactly clear how Tran thinks that is going to fix the school/boardroom gap.

Stay tuned for more perspectives from our APIA contributors.