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'Tiger Mom' Amy Chua Is Not a Racist

Photograph by Getty Images

Amy Chua, the author who made moms all over the world cringe when she published Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (the controversial book about an extremely strict parenting style), is back with a new book that promises even more fists being raised in frustration. Chua, a Yale law professor, has partnered with her husband Jed Rubenfield to present The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, a book that claims that certain cultural groups in America have a higher aptitude for success than others.

She claims she has research that proves that Jews, Mormons, Chinese Americans and Nigerians are among the cultures that thrive in the U.S. due to the development of three specific personality traits that are instilled into their youth and push these cultural groups to the forefront of success and prosperity.

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A Salon writer calls Chua’s new book despicable and writes that she is trolling America with another personal rant about her cultural superiority, but before we roll our eyes and dismiss her claims, let’s be adults about this and hear her out.

Chua’s book isn’t due to be released until February, but the Amazon book description makes a few very heavy claims. From Amazon:

"It may be taboo to say, but some groups in America do better than others. Mormons have recently risen to astonishing business success. Cubans in Miami climbed from poverty to prosperity in a generation. Nigerians earn doctorates at stunningly high rates. Indian and Chinese Americans have much higher incomes than other Americans; Jews may have the highest of all."

On the surface, this assertion seems like it is a direct insult to the other groups; I am certain you can guess which ones didn't make the cut. But I do believe that there is validity behind Chua’s argument. In order to gain something from this scholar’s work, we have to fight back the very traits that hinder our progress and remove our defenses; then we can seek the wisdom she so pointedly shares.

Chua claims the vital personality traits that these "super cultures" instill in their children are a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control. Did the mere mention of these traits make you scratch your head or are you still reading this article, tight-lipped, desperately trying to be offended?

While Chua’s definition of success is completely related to Western society’s capitalist ideals, her premise should not be dismissed because her top 10 list didn’t include you.

Look around you. Be honest with yourself. Were you and the members of your social circle raised to believe that you were superior to others and that more was expected from you because of your culture? It does not matter if these words were merely mentioned to you. Were these words ingrained in you and the evidence of this expectation demanded from you by your parents? Are you raising your children this way?

Do you have a constant fear that everything you have worked for can be taken away by someone at any given time or do you have a sense of entitlement that no matter what happens you will still come out on top? Do you push yourself because you are insecure and you need external validation that you are indeed successful, or do your treasures lie within your heart, or even more commonly recognizable, in heaven?

Do you and other members of your culture have a propensity to live for today because you are afraid of what tomorrow will bring, or do you believe some mystical figure is trying to hold you back (or that you will not make it to tomorrow)? Can you spend an hour preparing a meal after work, or do you routinely stop for fast food because the long-term benefits of a healthier diet are not as important as your desire to have your hunger satisfied right now? This is a perfect example of Chua’s opinion that certain cultures fail to achieve what she deems as success because of impulse.

Depending on your background, your immediate reaction when confronted by this book’s concept could be a defensive one, or you might hungrily search her words for a key to unlock the barriers that have been standing in your way of achieving financial freedom ... if financial freedom is even a goal for you. Perhaps your parents didn't teach you this concept at all.

While Chua’s definition of success is completely related to Western society’s capitalist ideals, her premise should not be dismissed because her top 10 list didn’t include you. If Chua’s book has the data to back up her claims, that the aforementioned cultures are more successful financially, and you have the desire to achieve this particular goal, learn from it and leave your emotions at the door. If your parents had taught you that you were superior, then you might just align yourself with her teachings instead of feeling rejected by them.

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If financial success and capitalist gains are not as important to you and your family as they are to Chua’s and the other groups that she claims have a cultural advantage, then her words should not offend. She is providing insight into raising children who will achieve financial privilege. This is what she believes is success in life. If for some reason, your version of success does not align with a corner office, a fancy title, a lofty nest egg for retirement and the all the grandeur (and demands) of a corporate or white-collar lifestyle—this book was not written for you.

But regardless of what culture you were raised in, if what you want for your children is to make financial security, high-profile awards and community recognition their goals, then Chua’s book may be the life-changing kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for. It’s not about emotion, it’s about information. If you want your children to have what Chua has, she is teaching you how to help them achieve it.

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