Asian American

Does City Hall endorse racial profiling by advocating for a Market Street casino - AGAIN?

No casino sign

In posts too many to name, I’ve shared concerns many of us in the Asian community have about the gambling industry’s penchant for racial profiling. Sometimes, though, it’s refreshing when the industry just speaks for itself:

Philadelphia's large Asian and Slavic populations help make it the right place for a second casino, an attorney for a company that had pondered bidding to run a casino here told the House Gaming Oversight Committee Thursday.

“It is known that we have the two ethnicities that frequent the gambling,” said James J. DiVergilis, who represents Global Gaming, a company that operates no casinos, but considered seeking one of the two Philadelphia licenses awarded in 2006 and now wants to open one in the Meadowlands. “The two ethnicities that go to these are the Slavic community and the Asians,” he said. And “outside Brooklyn, North East Philadelphia is the highest Slavic community in the country.” . . . . .

. . . But freshman legislator and committee member John Lawrence, R-Delaware, was clearly flabbergasted by what he heard.

“Sir, with all due respect, your comments with regards to particular ethnic groups being more or less likely to participate in gambling was somewhat surprising and shocking to me. And disturbing, frankly,” Lawrence said. “I wonder where you come across this information, and how you justify it, frankly.”

DiVergilis told Lawrence that this was not his personal opinion, but what he has read in the gaming trade publications [sic]. “It's all in the literature,” he said.

I have to give it up to you Mr. DiVergilis, gambling industry rep, for your brutal honesty in laying out the cold reality of the predatory gambling industry. You’re hardly wrong to be baffled by anyone’s naivete about your industry’s success in free-range racial profiling. In an investor phone call, Steve Wynn cited the proximity of “a Vietnamese neighborhood” as one of the reasons he contemplated (for a nanosecond) taking over the failed Foxwoods project. Sugarhouse is advertising for an Asian Marketing Executive whose primary job is to “attract an Asian player base to the property.” Earlier this month, Sugarhouse filed a request with the Gaming Commission to create an “Asian themed room” with a noodle bar.

So if there’s little pretense about the fact that the gambling industry has its sights set on the Asian community, explain to me why the City not only continues to endorse that industry but enable it by advocating a casino return to Market Street:

Could the idea of a Market Street casino be back on the table?

Mayor Nutter and his staff are still very much opposed to a casino on Columbus Boulevard at Reed Street in South Philly and are keen on a gaming hall on Market Street East in Center City near the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center. Alan Greenberger, Nutter's deputy mayor for planning and economic development, told the state House Gaming Oversight Committee this morning that the administration would like the see a second casino in Philadelphia used to "leverage" a larger project such as a hotel near the Convention Center.

Tiger Moms, the model minority stereotype and the impact on Asian youth in schools

Earlier this month, Yale Law Professor Amy Chua wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that set off a media and cultural firestorm. Titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” the piece’s outlandish assertions about “Asian immigrant parenting” hit the requisite rounds on the 24-hour news cycle. From Time to Stephen Colbert, media pundits wondered: Are Asians superior in education? What should Westerners do about it? What the mainstream media has not adequately addressed is Chua’s calculated exploitation of two pernicious stereotypes about Asian America every educator needs to consider – the first being the model minority stereotype and the second the threat of a “rising” China.

Chua’s Journal excerpt essentially asserted that Asian immigrant parents are a relentless and constant presence in their children’s lives, one that demands academic excellence and supports non-stop tutoring and music – even on vacations. The media focused on the controversy over whether her authoritarian methods allowed for verbal and psychological abuse and looked down upon other cultures and forms of learning and education.

“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”

It certainly didn’t hurt that Chua’s Journal piece served as a promotion for her novel, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a memoir that by all accounts is not as sensationalistic as the Journal piece that catapulted her book to the top of the charts and made her the subject of talk shows across the country.

While Chua has reportedly backed off some of the assertions in her Journal piece – she claims she didn’t pick the headline for example – there’s no doubt that what made Chua’s essay register on the national media consciousness had less to do with her extreme parenting style than the racialization of the discourse around parenting. Let’s face it: another parenting how-to manual? Snooze. But a parenting manual that plays off the Asian model minority stereotype and the U.S.’s growing fears of an unstoppable China? A marketing and media bonanza.

In particular, Chua’s essay exploits the “model minority” stereotype that has done great harm to Asian American youth in schools. This stereotype promotes the idea that Asian youth will succeed academically under any circumstance because they have families at home that push them toward academic excellence, because Asians understand and support the U.S. system of education, because Asians have access to more resources than others, and because they are resilient and can withstand any manner of abuse. The model minority stereotype implies that Asian Americans are a docile group with a pull yourself up by the bootstraps culture – a group that doesn’t need services or much political or cultural attention and resources.

It leads to the notion that Asians are far from a minority, they’re a super privileged class who evoke fear and competition from American educators. As such, it’s a stereotype that also creates and widens divisions between Asian Americans and other people of color.

The media hype around Chua’s essay also exploits vulnerabilities within the Western psyche about a rising China, fears that gain even more traction when the U.S. struggles economically. We saw this type of Asian xenophobia with Japan in the 1980s. Today it’s China, where the political ads from the November election reflect a calculated attempt to sell voters on candidates who won’t allow the U.S. to fall behind.

These are stereotypes and images that haunt many of our Asian youth in schools, resulting often in the denial of a host of educational services from language services to lack of testing for special ed, counseling services, or multiracial ethnic studies in schools. These stereotypes have led to informal quotas in higher education and the neglect of racial harassment and violence in schools. Consider these challenges:

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