The Asian-American Age
This past week the Trump Justice Department threw its weight behind a high-profile lawsuit against Harvard University, in which a group of Asian-American plaintiffs claim — with a great deal of evidence — that the famous Ivy school discriminates against them as it once discriminated against Jews. This happened in the same moment that the No. 1 movie in America is “Crazy Rich Asians,” a guilty-pleasure romantic comedy about a young female Chinese-American economist in love with a Singaporean heir.
上周，特朗普的司法部鼎力支持了对哈佛大学的一起引发广泛关注的诉讼，本案中一组亚裔美国人原告——凭借大量证据——提出主张，称这所著名的常春藤名校鄙视他们，就像它曾经鄙视犹太人一样。在这起诉讼发生的同时，美国票房第一的电影是《疯狂的亚洲富人》(Crazy Rich Asians)，一部让人有负罪快感的浪漫喜剧，讲的是一位年轻的华裔美国女经济学家与一位新加坡豪门继承人相爱的故事。
The convergence illustrates an underrated reality about Trump-era America. Our polarizing immigration debate revolves around the Wall and the border because we’ve just experienced a long wave of immigration from our southern neighbors. But that surge is diminishing, and for almost a decade the United States has taken more Asian than Hispanic immigration. So after the Trumpian moment passes, our ethno-political fights will be gradually reshaped by how Asians relate to American culture, how American politics relates to them, and how they (because "Asian" contains multitudes) relate to one another.
The term “model minority” often gets thrown around (and deplored) in discussions about Asian-Americans, and what’s interesting is that both narratives I’ve just described traffic in versions of that trope. The older narrative portrays Asians as the hard-working, industrious natural conservatives who don’t need handouts (in contrast with other immigrants, other minorities). The newer narrative casts them as the liberal coalition's noblest group — willing to put solidarity with fellow minorities above the economic concerns that might tempt them rightward, and willing to accept, for the greater good, a system of racial preferences that benefits others more than them.
This idea informs a lot of liberal arguments about the Harvard lawsuit, which tend to portray conservative critics of affirmative action as tempters invading the multicultural Eden, and urge Asian-Americans to maintain their model-minority purity and resist the lure of mere meritocratic self-interest.
But in addition to the whispering conservative serpent, the Harvard lawsuit’s liberal critics increasingly have an Asian scapegoat too — specifically recent Chinese immigrants who hang out on WeChat, the popular social-media app, which a Vox writer complains has “become an echo chamber for stories of anti-Asian discrimination.”
For liberals these are the Bad Asians, putting their tribal resentments ahead of the racial-progressive cause. Which makes it striking that they are also the demographic being celebrated in “Crazy Rich Asians,” a movie that begins with a sequence in which Chinese-expat gossip spreads from New York to Singapore via, you guessed it, WeChat.
The only certain takeaway from this complexity is that the new liberal model-minority image, like the old conservative one, is likely to break down with increasing Asian numbers, influence, diversity and power.
Where strong Asian support for affirmative action endures in this new landscape, it will probably be as part of a more consciously ideological progressivism — one adopted by some second-generation Asian-Americans, as Reihan Salam suggested recently in The Atlantic, as a distinctive means of assimilation to the American cultural elite.
亚裔对平权行动的强有力支持将在这种新形势下受来考验，如果得以连续的话，那就可能会成为一种更自觉的进步主义意识形态的一部分，一些第二代的亚裔美国人已经接受了这种意识形态，正如赖汉·萨拉姆(Reihan Salam)最近在《大西洋月刊》(The Atlantic)上指出的那样，这是与美国文化精英同化的一种特殊方式。
Where Asian support for racial progressivism breaks down, meanwhile, there are two possibilities. There could be a real swing back rightward among some Asian voters — a possibility that the Trump White House obviously entertains, but which can only happen if the Republican Party finds a way to lose its Trumpian aura of white identity politics and bigotry.
Perhaps more plausibly, Asian-Americans who reject affirmative action could begin to form their own centrist bloc within the Democratic Party, one that pulls the party back toward a kind of 1990s-style Clintonism, in the opposite direction from Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez。
或许更有可能的是，那些拒绝平权行动的亚裔美国人，可能会开始在民主党内部形成自己的中间派阵营，这个阵营将把民主党拉回来某种20世纪90年代的克林顿主义，与伯尼·桑德斯(Bernie Sanders)和亚历山德里娅·奥卡西奥-科尔特兹(Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)所代表的方向相反。
Or both things could happen, within different parts of the Asian-American community — with Chinese-Americans tilting more Republican and Indian-Americans staying firmly on the center-left。
But no matter what, this week’s multiplex-courthouse convergence isn’t an anomaly. It’s a hint of both Asian-American influence and Asian-American divisions yet to come.