I read a very interesting article in the February 3, 2014 issue of Time Magazine, “The Superiority Complex”, which discusses a new book by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld entitled The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. The author of the article is Suketu Mehta.
View this article on line: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2163555,00.html
The concept behind this book is that certain groups thrive in America because of three traits: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. As a review in the Los Angeles Times puts it,
1) They believe themselves to be superior to other groups while
2) remaining deeply insecure about their place in American society. And
3) they all impose an extraordinary sense of self-discipline on their children.
Those with the “Triple Package” include Asians, Cubans, Jews, Indians (from India, not Native Americans), Nigerians, Mormons, Iranians, Lebanese.
Those lacking the “Triple Package” are African Americans, Appalachians, Wasps, “and pretty much everyone else”. Oh no!
This is the first I’ve have heard of this approach to explaining why Americans are different. But there have always been those trying to explain why some are inferior. I learned a new term from this article: “The New Racialists” – “It’s not about skin color anymore; it’s about ‘cultural traits’”. From the article:
The authors attempt to barricade themselves against charges of racism by protesting that the Triple Package has nothing to do with race or IQ; it’s about ethnicity. So not all blacks are losers–look at Nigerians and Liberians! They are so well represented in the Ivy League! But the authors fail to acknowledge that Africans and Afro-Caribbeans are beneficiaries of affirmative action, won through the civil rights struggles of African Americans. What’s more, African Americans are not in a bad way because of lack of racial pride or a problem with their impulses. Their challenges as a community trace back centuries; they were brought here in chains, their women raped and their families deliberately broken. This is what President Obama was talking about in his remarks after the Trayvon Martin verdict, when he said, “I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”
Will the legacy of slavery always weigh down the African American community so they will never be all they deserve to be? The President seems to be saying that. I do not like generalizations. There must be other factors at work – there are successful African Americans out there, and I am just not referring to celebrities. See later on where I do my workplace analysis.
So I am part of the “chosen” and you’re not. (Sarcastic Ha!) There are so many examples over the years of people trying to explain why we are different in a broad brush. On an individual level, two people can certainly be, and would expect to be, different in quantifiable ways. I am successful financially. How did that happen? Is it because of values instilled in me by my parents? Likely YES! But were those values there to pass on because we’re Jewish? I never thought of that and I reject it. Only those who believe in stereotypes would believe that. There are people a lot more successful than I who are not Jewish or not white.
My workplace is an indication of success because we are all highly skilled – engineers and the like. Can I infer “group” success by my colleagues in the office at which I presently work? There are mostly ethnic Asians there, a few Blacks, some whites. In another office at which I’ve worked it was a different demographic: many Blacks and whites there, a scattering of other ethnicities. So what have we learned? Engineers are successful, but throw out any generalizations based on ethnicity or religion.
Regarding how Blacks think about each other … read this quote from the article:
A Congolese immigrant whom I [the author of the article] met in the course of researching my book [about immigrants in New York] told me about the African Americans she knows at the supermarket where she works. “We are really different,” she said about her community, as opposed to African Americans. “They don’t have African values. They don’t have the values to be black.”
I asked her what that means.
“To be black,” she explained, “means you get married and you don’t have children before.” The American blacks at her supermarket, she said, need to go to college. “They ask if you want to have marijuana. It’s just normal for them. It’s easy for them to say that ‘My ancestors were oppressed.’”
It is not a racial thing. It sounds cultural. Is this woman stereotyping? No – this is her personal experience. It might make one angry, but one cannot fault her for that.
How widespread is this feeling? Is it commonplace for Blacks not born in America to feel that way? Can any of my readers explain that?
What do you think?