Pharos-Tribune

Columns

March 30, 2014

CEPEDA: Taking it out on the messengers

Even before Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld’s “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America” was published, the book was being denounced as sociologically lightweight and packed full of historical blind spots. Chua, who gained notoriety as “The Tiger Mom,” was savaged as a “full-blown eugenics-pushing racist.”

The irony is delicious: An ultra-successful Asian-American lawyer-turned-author writes about how some marginalized groups rise to prosperity and all she gets for it are vicious attacks from people incensed that someone highlighted the achievements of certain groups.

There were many impassioned takedowns, but Jie-Song Zhang’s “Tiger Mom vs. Brooklyn Dragon: I Hereby Challenge Amy Chua to a Barefist Kung Fu Duel” on The Huffington Post, accusing Chua of “endangering the American future,” was among the shrillest.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We could shadow-box in the middle of the Stuyvesant High School cafeteria, amid a room full of Chinese kids taking the SATs and scoring perfect on the math sections. We could get real, real Chinese with it.

“I’m talkin’ the most Chinese Mahjong Fukien showdown. Ever.”

The uproar this book has inspired borders on the deranged. And over what? A slim volume that basically says that if you’re driven, work hard and think a lot of yourself — but not too much, no one likes a showoff — you can be successful in life.

This is what used to pass for common sense.

And the craziest part is that if you bother to actually read the book, you’ll see that it’s not at all about why some people are better than others but a manual for success in America.

The triple package that Chua and Rubenfeld describe rests on the premise that we live in a world in which “certain individuals and groups do strikingly better than others in terms of wealth, position and other conventional measures of success.” This assertion disgusts the book’s critics, but it’s just a fact.

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