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The 7 Worst Asian-American Stereotypes

Need I mention William Hung?

by
Maya M. Noronha

Bio

November 24, 2012 - 7:00 am

5. An Asian Is A Doctor, But Definitely Not a Lawyer, or Indian Chief.

The 1945 #1 hit “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” offers the memorable lyrics, “There’s a doctor livin’ in your town / There’s a lawyer and an Indian, too / And neither doctor, lawyer nor Indian chief / Could love you any more than I do.”

Let’s set aside the fact that “Indian” here is probably a false name resulting from Christopher Columbus’s massive navigational error — discovering the “New World” by accident on the way to Asia. But let’s discuss this lyrics, pretending that “Indian” here means “from India.”

The stereotype at issue is that Indians can be and are doctors, shouldn’t or can’t be lawyers, and will probably face the bamboo ceiling before they can ever rise to the rank of “Indian chief” executive officer. In The Big Bang Theory, the character Raj Koothrappali is an astrophysicist. In ER, Parminder Nagra was cast as a doctor. Is art imitating life? Asian-Americans constitute 9% of scientists and engineers in the United States while only composing 3% of the overall population. Many Asians learn that a liberal arts degree is in fact “B.S.” The B.S., the bachelor of science degree, may be more highly valued by Asian parents.

Interestingly enough, while a significant proportion — 26% — of engineering faculty tend to be Asians, a very small proportion of Asians — a mere 3% — teach psychology. If you didn’t already think that your IT support technician is (or should be) an Asian, commercials by Staples, CVS, Best Buy, IBM, and others perpetuate the stereotypical Asian technological expert. If their child isn’t aiming to “do her medicine” or “do his engineering,” the Asian parents stereotypically worry.

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