Sullivan is back. Can he please retire again?

Shorter Andrew Sullivan: We treated Asians and Jews like shit, and they turned out to be rich successful nerds, so black people’s problems must be their own damn fault.

No, really, he said that.

It’s easy to mock this reductionism, I know, but it reflects something a little deeper. Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the “social-justice” brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society? How have bigoted white people allowed these minorities to do so well — even to the point of earning more, on average, than whites? Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years. In the late 19th century, as most worked in hard labor, they were subject to lynchings and violence across the American West and laws that prohibited their employment. They were banned from immigrating to the U.S. in 1924. Japanese-American citizens were forced into internment camps during the Second World War, and subjected to hideous, racist propaganda after Pearl Harbor. Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?

I’m kind of amazed that no editor stopped him and said something about that — I just assumed that they were too exhausted after reading the previous droning paragraphs, which were mostly something about how everything is Hillary Clinton’s fault. But you’d think even a sympathetic editor would stop and pause at a recitation of white America’s crimes against humanity that culminates in blaming black people for lying there bleeding after centuries of oppression.

Let’s not forget the stereotyping of Asian-Americans, and using them as a club to beat down those blacks some more. There’s something to offend everyone in that mess!


  1. says

    placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it?

    No. What happened is that Asian people are simply stereotyped in a different way now, the stereotypes didn’t go away, and they set people up for enormous stress and unrealistic expectations.

  2. chigau (違う) says

    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Sullivan before.
    Is he usually that incoherent?
    What was that article about?

  3. says

    “Why are Asian Americans doing so well? It couldn’t be that there are lots of hypotheses informed by research, easily discovered by googling that very question? No, let’s only consider the most racist hypothesis, that Asian Americans are just inherently better. Also, phrase it in the form of a question to add deniability.”

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I read that as saying Asians and every other oppressed group worked harder to overcome their oppression and therefore became successful. Therefore blacks remaining in the underprivileged class must be their fault, not the people blocking them from exceeding.
    Also, Asian-Americans are only “doing so well” to a racist viewpoint. Disregarding all evidence of everyday casual suppression and focusing solely on stellar representatives of the heritage.
    One example, recently, an aisian american was slightly late for an airBnB reservation due to weather, and was completely denied due to racism. Accused of being a “foreinner” [sic] even though a full 2nd generation american citizen with asian cultural ancestry. Oh I see how that can bounce back, “see, even though oppressed ASIANS still very successful. So there harrumph”. Sorry, No.
    sorry not getting anywhere. You know what I’m trying to say. okay?

  5. chigau (違う) says

    I know a lot of people who came from the geographical area called “Asia” and a lot more whose ancestors were from there.
    I have never heard any of them refer to themselves as “Asian”.
    Who is Sullivan refering to?

  6. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @7:
    sheet, really? sheet.
    I thought “Asian” was the preference over the previous “Oriental” to racially refer to a person with that heritage.
    sheet that means I’m racist too. fark sheet gorr ahmit.
    [I’ll see myself out]

  7. weylguy says

    The difference is that Amerika didn’t enslave Jews and Asians. After 250 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow and ongoing disdain for black people, Amerika needs to recognize that reparations need to be paid out for the next 400 years. If blacks are still not self sufficient by then, give it another 400 years. That’s how bad slavery was.

  8. ShowMetheData says

    Just a question
    Back in 1890, did the average Asian-American have it good? (“most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups”)

    They didn’t. Because they were facing – in his words – “oppression, racial hatred, and open[ly] discrimina[tory]” conditions

    Now blacks in America(on average) don’t have it good.
    Could it be that they are facing “oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimina[tory]” conditions?

    If you ask even the most basic of questions – he didn’t – it would seem likely that their lack of success stems from the same conditions that prevented Asian-American from succeeding in the 1890’s

    Work on removing and improving those conditions and you will have another American success story.

    And a note about those conditions of “oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination” These are not like uncanny clouds that have just rolled in, but are generated today by the white majority and how they use the power they have.
    And Sullivan has some of that power – what’s he done with his? And we are just getting apologia for keeping the crappy conditions the way they are.

  9. rgmani says

    Leaving aside the undertones of racism in Sullivan’s article, my biggest problem with it is that he seems to get his facts wrong. He portrays Asian-Americans as this persecuted group that somehow overcame all obstacles and became the highest achieving ethnic group in the US. Nothing could be further from the truth. The number of Asians in the US at the end of World War 2 was around 300,000. Today, the population is around 19-20 million. The descendants of the pre-World War 2 population make up only a tiny fraction of that latter number. The overwhelming majority of the population growth comes from immigration. In fact more than 80 percent of Asians in this country came here in the last 40 years or so – which makes most Asians either first or second generation immigrants. The majority of these immigrants were highly educated and ended up in high-paying, high-skill jobs. It is no wonder that the Asian community is doing so well. I hate using terms such as “cream of the crop” but that might be an accurate description of the Asians who immigrate in this day and age.

    The source of most of the above data is the following Wikipedia article

    While much is made of the success of Asian-Americans, the same patterns can be seen in any immigrant group consisting largely of highly educated individuals. For example, Nigerian-Americans (who would be considered “black” or “African-American”) show similar levels of education to Asians and have an average income that is significantly above the national average.

    Unfortunately the number of Nigerian-Americans is too small relative to the size of the African-American population to make any kind of impact on African-American income statistics.

    What is lost among these gaudy statistics showing Asian-American achievement is that there are a lot Asians who live below the poverty line. I’m pretty sure that had there not been this huge influx of highly-educated Asians, the Asian-American income statistics would not look nearly as good.

    – RM

  10. screechymonkey says

    Andrew Sullivan is a particularly dramatic illustration of the “I’ve got mine” school of conservativism. He was a standard-issue conservative with no regard for minority rights except in one instance: gay marriage. He was a slobbering supporter of George W. Bush up until the 2004 midterms when Karl Rove employed the strategy of using anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives to drum up conservative turnout, and then suddenly George W. Bush didn’t seem like such a great conservative leader after all.

    As to race specifically, wasn’t Sullivan the guy who, during his tenure as editor of The New Republic, first brought The Bell Curve to national attention, and proceeded to defend it for years?

  11. chigau (違う) says

    slithey tove #8
    I said nothing about “oriental”.
    When speaking English, the Japanese people refer to themselves as Japanese
    the Chinese refer to themselves as Chinese
    Koreans refer to themselves as Koreans

  12. unclefrogy says

    conservatives seem to consistently see things the way they want to see them and not the way they are.
    maybe that is the modern definition of a conservative. they sure as hell like to distort reality pretty severely to make a point.
    uncle frogy

  13. says

    Slithey tove @8
    There’s nothing derogatory about “Asian”, but it’s not a great category in this context because some Asian groups are doing much better than others. Probably because immigration patterns from different countries are different.

    I often ID as Asian because it’s too hard to explain the Filipino/Chinese/Korean thing.

  14. says

    It may be the unaddressed contrast that bothers me the most:
    1) “Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years.”
    2) “It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?”

    So, I am confused. He seems to be suggesting that the racism went away sometime between then and now. But, if true, why would that have happened? I guess he’s implying the racist attitudes went away as Asian-Americans lives improved? Where is his evidence? This reeks of “correlation implies causation” irrational thinking.

  15. says

    that article seemed to be three spliced together. Also, any calculation that doesn’t place most of the blame for Trump on the les deplorables is fundamentally wrong.

    Also, it can both be true that Clinton ran a very bad campaign AND forces beyond her control did her in. (i.e. sexism, Comey, media bias).

    Sullivan is an idiot.

  16. says

    As my dear friend, recently departed, liked to say, “Everyone said Jews were rich and powerful. Well, they forgot to tell my father.”

    The stereo-type of Jews and Asian-Americans ignores those who didn’t become “rich and successful nerds,” while the stereotype of African-Americans ignores those who did become successful (by Sullivan’s not just faintly ridiculous standards, at least).

    And the entire mess plays against the usual subtext of white privilege: When I succeed (I’m a white guy), it’s because I work hard. When a person of color succeeds (or doesn’t) it’s because they’re a person of color.


  17. John Horstman says

    At this point, Sullivan reminds me a lot of a gay Ross Douthat, with their sole remaining difference being their opinions of gay marraige.

    Anyway, here’s Charles Mudede explaining the fundamental flaw of that third section (not that the first two sections make much more sense, but they’re less racist, though the sexism denial is itself sexist).

  18. cavebear says

    Oh please, not Andrew Sullivan. The comparison (#20) to Douthat was apt. Both are Catholic and both are clever apologists for conservative dogma. The rhetorical style of apologetics — start with an unerring belief/faith and argue a “rational” justification for that belief — makes it pretty difficult to argue against. It may look like a rational argument but it really isn’t.

  19. Saad says

    The Asian category (as officially used in the United States at least) is basically a white supremacist/orientalist thing.

    I check the “Asian” box despite being from an entirely different ethnicity and culture than a Japanese or Korean person. What me checking that box and a Japanese person checking that box is supposed to tell them about us, I have no idea…

    They’ve literally taken a massive landmass and said, “Right, people from here are all similar so just put them in one category.”