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Right Intention: Minorities Need To Work Harder

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Minorities Need To Work Harder

This is absolutely, positively, on target:

On average, Asian students spend twice as much time doing homework as their non-Asian classmates. They believe they’ll get in trouble at home if their grades fall below A-, while for whites the ‘‘trouble threshold’’ is B-, and for blacks and Hispanics, C-. They don’t believe that success or failure in school depends on factors beyond their control. ‘‘They believed instead that their academic performance depended almost entirely on how hard they worked,’’ the Thernstroms write, summarizing the findings of survey researcher Laurence Steinberg. ‘‘Their performance was within their control. A grade below an A was evidence of insufficient effort.’’...

Which returns me to the University of Massachusetts, and the current flap over the decision to name Dr. Michael Collins to run the Boston campus instead of the acting chancellor, J. Keith Motley. One of three finalists for the job, Motley would have been the first black chancellor of UMass-Boston.

The chairman of the UMass board of trustees says the choice came down to Collins’s executive experience -- while Motley was a dean of student services at another university, Collins spent 10 years running a multibillion-dollar hospital network. But a vocal chorus of disgruntled Motley supporters are calling the decision racist...

Is there a connection between the Asian math whizzes at Quincy High and the accusations of racism against the UMass board of trustees? Not an obvious one. And yet I can’t help wondering what kind of message black students absorb when racism is invoked, as it so often is, to condemn anything black politicians and activists disapprove of. Who is more likely to succeed -- the child who grows up in a culture that tells him success depends on his own hard work, or the one who keeps hearing that until white prejudice is eradicated, minorities will never get a fair shake?

Asian kids don’t have a gene for calculus or getting into Yale. They have a culture that demands hard work, cares deeply about academic success, and rejects ‘‘racism’’ as an excuse for mediocrity. When the same can be said about black American culture -- or, for that matter, about white American culture -- the math club at Quincy High will look very different.


More people need to say this out loud. Victimization is one of the real sources of power for minorities in our culture as we play on the guilt of white people for past grievances to get what we want. It makes excuses for people's failures.

Shouting racism at every instance cheapens the word and makes actual instances of racism more difficult to believe. It needs to stop. Pass the word on to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

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