Authors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld link keys to success to ethnicity and religion
African American Barack Obama may have defeated Mormon Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.
But that hasn't stopped self-described U.S. Tiger Mom Amy Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, from claiming that Mormons are superior to most Americans.
Their new book, The Triple Package, says it all in a simplistic subtitle: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.
I haven't read the book, but I can already guess that it's going to trigger a wave of accusations of racism and ethnocentrism.
The three traits, according to Chua and Rubenfeld, are "superiority complex", "insecurity", and "impulse control", according to an article in today's New York Post.
Chua and Rubenfeld declare that Jews, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles, and Mormons have these qualities to a greater degree than other cultural groups.
This type of cultural stereotyping utterly ignores what the great Nobel Prize–winning Indian economist and author Amartya Sen covered so well in his landmark book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny.
Sen pointed out that we're all a multiplicity of identities. We define ourselves not only by our ethnicity or our religion, but also by our occupation, our class, our educational level, our hobbies, our marital status, our sexual orientation, or any number of other aspects of our being.
As a result, two people of different racial backgrounds may find they have a lot more in common with one another than with people of their own race.
Of course, Chua and Rubenfeld might argue that Sen is so great precisely because he's of Indian descent, which means he has the gift of the "triple package".
To reduce humanity to religion or ethnicity is to deny who we are. The way that Chau and Rubenfeld have done so is quite shameful.
No doubt, there will be a market for their book. They'll do the rounds on talk shows, get written up in magazines, and make a lot of money.
But they'll never be seen in the same light as the true giants in our midst, no matter how many articles get written.
It's reductionism run amok.