Norman Hsu is a Model Minority


Every campaign season seems to throw political pundits and journalists in a tizzy when sources of big donations are revealed to be Asian-Americans. When John Huang and other Chinese-Americans were revealed as fraudulent donors in Clinton’s second presidential bid, the March 1997 cover of National Review featured Clinton, Hillary and Gore in yellowface with various accoutrements like pigtails, coolie hats, and begging bowls. The point was that while Huang and his ilk might be de facto citizens but they were indisputably alien and other. It was not simply money to influence policy on China that was the problem; it was yellow money.

Asian-Americans have always been seen as alien, as the yellow hordes who descended California in the late nineteenth century, ate too little, worked too hard, saved too much and therefore were a threat to the economic well being of the nation; as untrustworthy enemies who needed internment so the nation could be safe. Since the Sixties, however, Asian-Americans could be counted upon to be model minorities (as opposed to be irascible and demanding "bad" minorities such as African-Americans and Hispanics). In 1966, Berkeley sociologist William Peterson offered a diagnosis of Asian-Americans that was immensely pleasing to white America and self-defensively internalized by many Asian-Americans. Internment, he argued, had not hampered Japanese-Americans but rather enhanced their determination to succeed. Japanese-Americans were model minorities because they worked hard, expected nothing in return, respected authority, didn’t complain, and stayed away from crime. Soon, most Asian-Americans were labeled model minorities. Almost half a century later, although young Asian Americans are being seen as constituting a nerd peril at Ivy League universities, the need for white America to see Asian-Americans as model minorities continues.

Enter Norman Hsu, New York businessman, mega donor to the Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign, a fugitive with a fifteen year old outstanding warrant for defrauding investors since he failed to show up in San Mateo County courtroom. So what’s so unusual about a possible crook being a major political donor? To a public weary with the machinations and political coziness of the Halliburtons and Bechtels, Hsu should hardly be big news. But if the consummate (if criminal) political businessman whose political donations help him raise money for his investment schemes is Asian-American, our racial roadmaps go haywire. Hsu looks almost white and we can’t let that happen.

But if we think hard enough, we can see that Hsu is simply a model minority who knows his place. Hence the September 16, 2007 article in the _New York Times_: "Troubled Fund-Raiser’s Wallet Matched His Need to Please." Even though Hsu’s business motivations are mentioned in the article­Hsu’s political status "helped him raise money for his investment schemes"­ this little nugget is buried within the larger story of the troubled Hsu’s motives. We are relieved because Hsu can’t be confused with white/insider. He is the perpetual alien, the weirdo, who desperately wants in but has no demands. As the New York Times puts it, "Norman Hsu was desperate for invitations" but once he got in, he "seemed awkward and out of place." He donated generously but "appeared to want nothing in return." He was "eager to please," "never said no" and hardly sought acknowledgment. Political acquaintances either remembered his awkwardness, their discomfort at being with him, his nervous mannerisms, his unintelligible speech or barely recalled him. The bottom line was "He wouldn’t ask for anything." In case we were worried we were losing a minority that was undemanding, unthreatening and in its place, we can all relax. Criminal or not, we can be relieved knowing that Hsu confirms the existence of a model minority.

MALINI JOHAR SCHUELLER is a professor at the department of English at the University of Florida where she teaches courses on American literature culture. She is the author of U.S. Orientalisms and most recently, "Exceptional State: Contemporary US Culture and the New Imperialism," published by Duke University Press in June 2007.

November 26, 2015
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration