Candice Chung writes an interesting blog in the Transcontinental about something she calls “Asian Privilege.” Chung is actually from Australia and is writing for an Asian Australian audience. But the author finds a connection with Asian Americans and the attitudes she encounters as a minority in Australia.
In her piece, she openly wonders if there is such a thing as Asian privilege. She defines that as the attitude of the majority culture whenever someone from the minority Asian culture succeeds. She points to the recent appointment of Alexander Wang as Balenciaga’s new creative director as an example. If you are not into fashion, its suffice to know that Balenciaga is a prestigious high end fashion house. Wang is just 29 years old and many openly questioned how someone so young could advance to such a lofty position.
Suzy Menkes of New York Times wrote “The real secret behind Mr Wang’s appointment may lie in his ties to China. He speaks Mandarin, and Balenciaga has expanded rapidly in China in recent years.”
To that, Chung counters:
Indeed, the consensus is that Wang has somehow been given a career boost because of his Asian heritage. Despite the fact that the 29-year-old was born in San Francisco and lives in New York city, suddenly all that mattered was his ethnicity.
Was this some kind of reverse racial privilege? Were other designers being sidelined because they lacked the so-called “Chinese connections” that every high end retailer so badly needs in order to protect their bottom line?
While I don’t claim to know the intricacies of the fashion world, I have observed how the advancement of minorities in the United States is often dismissed as an “affirmative action” hire. If that person happens to eventually fail, its proof to some, that affirmative action is prone to advancing the unqualified. It’s as if no white person has ever failed after getting a promotion.
Bad hires are made of people of all colors, including minorities. Let’s not assume that when a minority fails that its due to affirmative action. Just as when a white person fails, the hire was plain simply a bad one. There’s no need to look deeper than that.
What do you think? What has your experience been? Share your thoughts and observations below.