Are some groups of people superior to others?

According to Amy Chua, a Chinese American law professor at Yale and author of the soon-to-be-released book “The Triple Package: Why Groups Rise and Fall in America,” the answer to this question is yes.

According to Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, co-author of “The Triple Package,” there are eight cultural and religious groups that are inherently more likely to succeed because of three specific traits.  Not surprisingly, the daring duo happens to belong to two of the groups who made it onto their exclusive list:

  • Jewish (Rubenfeld’s background)
  • Indian
  • Chinese (Chua’s background)
  • Iranian
  • Lebanese-Americans
  • Nigerians
  • Cuban exiles
  • Mormons

The underlying message in this book that some groups of people are “just superior to others and everyone else is contributing to the downfall of America” has already sparked a firestorm of controversy and has become a hot topic of discussion in the social media world.

Chua and Rubenfeld explain that these eight “cultural groups” — carefully avoiding the words “racial” or “ethnic” — have three traits in common, the so-called “triple package”: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. The sense of superiority allegedly generates a belief in deserving the best, while the underlying inferiority complex fuels the need to compensate for feelings of worthlessness. Impulse control is seen as not only the ability to delay gratification, but also the strength to persevere in the completion of difficult tasks.

As a follow-up to her previous highly controversial book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” where she boldly declared Chinese mothers to be superior, Chua and Rubenfeld are asking their readers to adopt a thought process which is eerily reminiscent of the type of thinking which fueled some of history’s most horrific events, such as slavery and the Holocaust, and which encourages belief systems that, to this day, continue to empower radical groups like the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church, by suggesting that one entire group of people is better than another simply based on race or religion or some other aspect of diversity.

According to the New York Post, “As for why African-Americans don’t make the list, the authors believe that the Civil Rights Movement took away any hope for a superiority narrative, and so the black community is screwed — even as they cite Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama as evidence of Mormon ascendancy.  ‘In this paradoxical sense, equality isn’t fair to African-Americans,’ they write. ‘Superiority is the one narrative that America has relentlessly denied or ground out of its black population.’”

“That certain groups do much better in America than others — as measured by income, occupational status, test scores and so on — is difficult to talk about,” Chua and Rubenfeld write. “In large part, this is because the topic feels so racially charged.”

Is it a racial issue?  Is it a religious issue?  Does Chua make a fair argument here?  Are some of us predisposed to live a “successful life” and some of us not?  What defines “success” for you?  If you happened to have drawn the short straw and were placed into this world within a cultural group other than the elite eight, such as myself, are we truly at a disadvantage and better luck next time?

Believing in the illusion of superiority could be one of the most damaging choices one can make to the well-being of humanity as a whole, not only because it perpetuates the disparity between the haves and the have-nots and fosters a “them” and “us” mentality, but it suggests that if God did not create you as one of the chosen few – or eight, as Chua opines – or if you do not select to associate yourself with the appropriate religion, that, well, you are doomed.

Your thoughts?  Your opinions?  Your insights?

(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation and lives in Orlando, Florida.  To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

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  • Stephen mills

    This shows you where the problems of humanity lie .Are these not eminent professors at one of America,s top university,s .This is a very responsible position to be in ,the people that run the world tend to come from these kinds of privileged elitist institution,s !

    This is the same argument they used to wipe out the Native American Indian and is caused massive needless suffering of Humanity, a look at our History proves this point.
    So the seduction of superiority is an illusion as it alway,s leads to people acting in inferior way,s .Have we learned nothing ? Could it be that we have a mistaken belief system that is dysfunctional for humanity ,the opposite of what would work for creating a more peaceful world .

    Freedom of speech is something that all of the world should aspire to as is having healthy discussions on divisive issues so I recomend that we challenge these kind of thought,s from whatever source they arrive especially from the most inteligiant and culturally superior university professors .

    • Umang Khetarpal

      Lisa, It’s a nice topic for discussion and debate. I happen to be Indian and successful but then “successful” in which terms. Financially I am less so than many and more so than others. There is no limit to upward success but there is a finite downward trajectory – and no one wants to go there. I think these authors completely forget some of the most important elements of all -Peer pressure and the hunger or desire to be something. The Jewish, Indian, Chinese and those from the middle East have a very long history and tradition and they are all proud of it. I don’t know if superiority complex is the basis or just a sense of pride about who they are as a people. When there are written texts from 4500 hundred years ago that define a culture such as an Indian or a Hindu, it is hard for any Indian not to be proud of their heritage, its culture, its literature, its language and its arts/architecture. I would suspect it is the same for the Chinese or the Arabs or Jews. But it should be no different for the Italians. The Germans have a long history and they are very successful. Now talk about superiority!!! However the authors do bring up the point about impulse control or what has been called emotional IQ: the ability to delay gratification. The Chinese and the Indian or the South Asian (Koreans/Vietnamese) have been taught to delay gratification. But these groups may be successful also because of intense pressure within their groups to stand out (the Jews, the Chinese and the Indians are very competitive). And if you don’t stand out you might just be left standing out. I remember a incident from the play “Oh Calcutta” distinctly that addresses this superiority issue. The son is talking to his racist father (in the deep South) and asks-“why do you hate the African Americans(different word used)?”. To which the father responds “Son, if we are not better than them then who are we better than”. If we start teaching everyone that it is not about being better than another, it is all about being better than who you were yesterday, the whole paradigm changes. Superiority comes from a false belief that you and I are separate.

  • Soami Saran

    My understanding is very simple on the subject. If we have
    come here for a purpose, each one has a purpose………..as an individual, as a
    group. Although, the ultimate purpose is same, normal manifestation of these
    purposes could be different. For ever evolving body of human civilization even
    the situations, the surroundings, the limitations, the possibilities could be
    different at different parts of this body and also at different times.

    Hands do not have the same purpose or same functions as the
    legs. Neither do they have same capabilities. I do not know if it makes one
    superior to other. They are what they are, for their purpose………….neither
    inferior nor superior………playing their role………to achieve the ultimate purpose of
    life.

  • Erin

    idk…This type of thinking is obviously perpetual…Kind of goes with the ‘need to be right’ style. And, as I’m sure a lot of their write is based in statistical facts, this is rather eye-opening to present realities.

    However, I will remain steadfast that this is of our history & is waning. None of these people’s is any more ‘safe’ than any other as Shift hits the fans. Nature cares not of IQ, status, or culture. The elementals care not of what color they touch, how expensive human builds were, nor how old their monuments may be. Nature can take down mighty militaries with a heartbeat, pummel grand Universities with a breath, and pull a ‘holy land’ or Wall Street into it’s seas with a single wave. A Reality Check-er, indeed!

    Human arrogance may be a tough wall to crack, but have We not taken down many walls just in recent times…Nature is just not as pragmatic about dismantling processes. Should prove interesting in the next texts of history, to say the least. 😀

  • Terri Lynn

    Hi Lisa. This just boggles my mind. I agree with all theose who commented so far. My mind cannot comprehend how such seemingly intelligent people can put such effort into a project that can only tear Global Oneness apart. What is the purpose of such effort? What is to be gained? I am not one of the elite groups listed and yet I feel very successful in my life. I am successful because I am who I am, nothing more nothing less, and no one can make me feel less because of some list.
    We all belong and are a part of all that is, and I have faith that the power behind Global Oneness will overcome any and all who buy into the superiority of the chosen elite on this list.
    Thank you for bringing this to light.