It’s clear many people need to understand that Asian Americans’ excellence comes not from privilege, but from hard work and cultural virtues accessible to all.
A San Diego-area superintendent was placed on administrative leave last week after her disparaging remarks about Asian students sparked outrage.
During a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training on April 11, when asked why Asian students perform so well in school, Cheryl James-Ward attributed it to family wealth. She said: “We have an influx of Asians from China, and the people who are able to make that journey are wealthy. You cannot come to America and buy a house for $2 million unless you have money. You cannot come to America and buy a house for $2 million unless you have money.”
James-Ward doubled down when the board’s president pushed back. She said: “In my community, Carmel Valley, I have, not so much today, but up until a couple of years ago, we had a large influx of Chinese families moving in sight unseen into our homes, into the community, and that requires money.” In comparison, according to James-Ward, “in some of our Latinx communities, they don’t have that type of money, parents are working two jobs. They’re working from sunup to sundown.”
James-Ward’s attempt to use the wealth of a small subset of Asian Americans to explain away Asian students’ overall academic achievements is a common false narrative spread in an attempt to explain away why, as a group, Asian-Americans tend to perform the best academically and often economically.
This narrative is ignorant, false, and rude in a way that would not be culturally acceptable were it spread about other racial groups. So let’s look at her comments and the truth, as it’s clear many people need to understand that Asian Americans’ excellence comes not from privilege, but from hard work and cultural virtues accessible to all.
Asians Have Been in America for a Long Time
Contrary to James-Ward’s remarks, not all Asian Americans are new immigrants. Some Asian families have been in the United States for more than 150 years. Their ancestors helped build transcontinental railroads and turned swamps in California into thousands of acres of fertile farmland between 1860 and 1880.
Yet some in America still treat Asian Americans as forever “outsiders.” Many of us have been told to “go back to where you come from.” As an educator, James-Ward should have known better than perpetuating this offensive stereotype.
Second, James-Ward ignored the ethnic and economic diversity among Asian Americans. There are about 22 million Asian Americans in the United States, and we trace our roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia. In addition, according to Pew Research, while Asian Americans as a group have the highest earnings in the nation, they have displaced blacks as the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the United States.
via The Federalist