Tag Archives: Jeff Yang

Voices: Reactions To ‘If I Were A Poor Black Kid’

By Arturo R. García

Just when you thought Satoshi Kanazawa had wrapped up Tone-Deaf Article Of The Year honors for 2011, Forbes’ Gene Marks sauntered his way into consideration Monday with “If I Were A Poor Black Kid,” which spun a speech by President Obama on economic inequality into a privilege-fest with bon mots like these, emphasis mine:

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

Somehow Forbes chose not to tag the bit about good grades as BREAKING NEWS. But maybe Marks’ editors didn’t want to overshadow the moment when he breaks it down even further than the President. That whole Occupy business? Totally barking up the wrong tree:

President Obama was right in his speech last week. The division between rich and poor is a national problem. But the biggest challenge we face isn’t inequality. It’s ignorance. So many kids from West Philadelphia don’t even know these opportunities exist for them. Many come from single-parent families whose mom or dad (or in many cases their grand mom) is working two jobs to survive and are just (understandably) too plain tired to do anything else in the few short hours they’re home. Many have teachers who are overburdened and too stressed to find the time to help every kid that needs it. Many of these kids don’t have the brains to figure this out themselves – like my kids. Except that my kids are just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction.

And about Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry thinking Marks’ column sounded like something out of The Onion? Well, she’s not wrong:

You know, it occurs to me that you don’t even live in America. And I’ve got to know, what the heck are you doing living in Sri Lanka? What do they have there? Camels? Rugs? Well, I can tell you one thing they don’t have: 100 percent grade-A American opportunity.

America is the land of milk and honey. You can probably catch a flight here from Sri Lanka for as little as $2,500 if you shop around. So what’s keeping you? Okay, I can imagine how it is: you live in a back alley and you eat garbage. And maybe you don’t have the liquid capital to outlay $2,500 on a luxury-like first-class airfare to the U.S. Well, you can always fly coach for about a third of first-class fare, and if worst comes to worst, put it on the plastic. As long as you pay it off as quickly as you can, the interest won’t cramp your style. (See Tip #1.)

It should also be noted that, as, Talking Point Memo’s Callie Schweitzer pointed out, Marks has also applied his “wisdom” to gender-equality issues in the workplace:

Women also have more personal and social pressures than men. And this affects their ability to further their careers and get the experience they need to become good managers. It’s common today for families to have two working parents. But let’s admit it, when little Johnny gets sick at school who’s the first person that’s usually called? When a child is up at night coughing, which parent is staying up with her? When the plumber has to make an emergency morning visit, who’s generally staying at home to deal with it?

It’s usually mom. And even if she has a full time job too.

When my wife and I were younger and our baby would cry in the middle of the night I would put a pillow…over my head. That stopped the crying for sure. My wife (who was working full time by the way) was the one who got out of bed to care for the child. Yes, I was an ass. I’m not saying that many dads don’t pitch in or try to do their fair share. But as much as women have achieved in earning their equality, there are still some age old cultural habits that won’t die. Children need their mommies. And most moms I know, whether they have a full time job or not, want to be there for their child. I know plenty of women who admit they struggle with this instinctual tug on their gut. Men don’t have this kind of instinctual tug. Let’s face it: unless there’s beer involved, men don’t have many instincts at all. We figure our wives will ultimately handle these things. And in many cases, they just do.

I could go on and on, and but, you know – beer. More reaction from around the ‘Net under the cut.

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Farewell to Asian Pop

Jeff Yang

Ouch.

Long time friend of the blog, Jeff Yang, has just lost his far reaching and influential column, Asian Pop. He writes in today’s farewell post:

So this is it, I guess: The final installment of “Asian Pop.” After nearly eight years beneath the masthead, the Gatekeepers have decided that “the economics of our business have changed in a way that doesn’t support online-only columns.” (And maybe not offline ones either: These are parlous times for the news biz.) [...]

As you might guess from its title, Asian Pop began with a focus on Asian media and entertainment, treating “Asianness” as something alien to the American experience, and “pop” as a reflection of passing fancies and ephemeral trends.

Over time, however, with the encouragement of three successive terrific editors, the column moved beyond those original boundaries, transforming Asianness from a spectacle into a perspective, and making “pop” shorthand not for popular but for populi.

Last week, I accompanied Doris Truong to drop Jeff off at the airport, one his way to a retreat to go walk up a mountain and think about things. Knowing Jeff, he will come back bursting with excitement and ready to embark on a bunch of new projects. But this decision by the powers that be to kill his column (and all other online-only long form columns) is heralding more bad business to come. I’ve been engaged in journalism work for the last two years, ever since Poynter made the decision to make me a Sense Making Fellow. In many ways, I’ve had a front seat to watching the freefall of legacy media. Diversity was one of the first values on the chopping block as expendable. Continue reading

Quoted: Jeff Yang on David Sedaris’ Anti-Chinese Racism

So look, David: Chinese people eat weird food. There is a saying that “Chinese will eat anything with its back to the sky,” and another that says “Chinese will eat anything with legs but a table and anything with wings but an airplane.” These are Chinese sayings, I might point out — a sign that Chinese aren’t exactly unaware that the “delicacies” that send prim Westerners to their fainting couches are a little off the beaten path.

But Chinese are far from the only culture that eats weird food, and fuck, given that you’re from North Carolina, have you looked at what American Southerners traditionally eat? No? Chitlins! Possum! Muskrat! Bull testicles! Oh wait, you’re from suburban Raleigh, so probably not, given that most of the more exotic dishes in Southern cuisine, like in many culinary traditions, was the offspring of necessity — invention midwived by destitution. If you’re hungry enough, rodents will start to look tasty, as will chicken claws, stray innards and balls. And once you’ve eaten them long enough, all these things evolve into nostalgic signifiers — especially after you’ve pulled yourself out of poverty. They go from things you have to eat all the time to things you choose to eat once in a while, to remind yourself you don’t have to eat them all the time.

And this is what’s truly ugly about your piece, David: For someone who’s spent a lot of your career puncturing middle-class aspiration and self-delusion, your essay is unpleasantly blind to the fact that all of China is just a few generations removed from dire, desperate want, and that many people, like the peasant family you had such a bad experience sharing a meal with, continue to subsist on an annual income that’s a tiny fraction of what a sophisticated awesome American literary superstar like you loses in his sofa. And in a country of 1.3 billion people, even having braised pig’s stomach to occasionally go with your daily rice is a fucking luxury.

–From David Sedaris Thinks Chinese People (and Food) Are Repulsive, Which Makes Me Sad, Because I Used to Like David Sedaris

Amy Chua Says That Wall Street Journal Column Wasn’t Her Doing

By Arturo R. García

In a pair of interviews posted since Latoya’s column on Amy Chua’s recent Wall Street Journal piece, Chua elaborated on both the themes of the book it was taken from, Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother, and said the newspaper mis-represented her book.

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