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Are Asians the New Jews?

TJI Pick
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Published: 3 March 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Despite similar backgrounds, the fates of Asian and Jewish Americans are now diverging

In countries where Asians and Jews immigrated in large numbers, they have long followed a common path. Both groups occupy a dual position: discriminated against for standing out, while at the same time held up as models of success.

But increasingly, that success has itself become a liability. Jews and Asians outperform the overall population in such critical areas as education and income, in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK, and as a result are collectively held a party to supposedly oppressive power structures in those countries.

According to progressive ideas being taught by public schools and diversity departments, Jews are bearers of “white privilege,” no better and sometimes worse than the white Protestant descendants of slaveholders. Similarly, Asians are said to be “white adjacent,” a clever way of making them complicit with white racism despite their visible nonwhiteness.

Jews sometimes had to force the country to be fairer and more meritocratic but were able to make the most of America’s openness. Today, that door may be slamming shut on the next generation of Asian American aspirants as values like hard work, thrift, and sacrifice are deemed inherently “reflective of white racism.”

A record of achievement does not seem to be making these groups more secure. The assault from the nativist right has grown while antisemitic memes remain de rigeur in white and Christian nationalist circles. The other, potentially more damaging assault, comes from the progressive left, which views ethnic success as socially regressive rather than a validation of societal openness.

Are Asians the New Jews? (Tablet)

Photo: A scene from Crazy Rich Asians, which satirises Asian success (Netflix)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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