Regarding the May 16 news article “Duke professor’s remarks bring ire”: Duke professor Jerry Hough’s comments on a New York Times editorial were deeply misguided and fundamentally racist.
Hough’s fallacious argument – the Model Minority Myth – that Asians in America pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to gain socioeconomic success is based on a one-dimensional, non-intersectional narrative of Asian-American exceptionalism and perpetuates a dangerous assumption that establishes a simplistic division between a “good” versus a “bad” person of color.
Our communities, like all communities, are full of people with diverse class backgrounds, talents and shortcomings, including people who probably don’t meet Hough’s standard for civilized American citizens, although this fact is sometimes masked by United States selective immigration practices.
Asian-Americans are not one homogenous group, and we refuse to be defined by this erroneous myth. We believe that all people in all communities deserve to have their human dignity respected and valued, not only those who meet Hough’s impossible and fictitious standards.
In our longstanding state of deep racial tensions, made only more visible in recent months, we are outraged that an academic in our community would evoke this racist fiction in order to validate and protect institutionalized, anti-black racism.
As Asians and Asian-Americans, we reject Hough’s misuse of Asian-American experiences at large not only to berate African-Americans and deny them racial justice but also to uphold white supremacy. His offensive statements further ignore a shared history of struggle and solidarity between Asian-Americans and other people of color in this country, while dividing these communities in their mutual struggles against structural racism.
Hough hijacks his Asian students’ lived realities and reduces them to mere ideological cyphers, justifying his own thinly veiled antagonism under the guise of some “civil society.”
We refuse to serve as anyone’s excuse for anti-black racism. We refuse to be the wedge to separate communities of color. We resolutely stand in solidarity with Baltimore, Charleston, Ferguson, with black students and students of color at Duke, UNC and other educational institutions as well as with communities of color in the Triangle, Charlotte and across the state of North Carolina and against the continued harm being perpetuated against them in all forms, including Hough’s wrongful comments.
Assistant professor, UNC-Chapel Hill
Nayoung Aimee Kwon
Assistant professor, Duke University
The letter was signed by 26 more Asian-American faculty, staff and students at UNC and Duke. The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response.