andrew yang

Andrew Yang Pledges to Continue Making Hacky Asian Jokes

The opposite of Donald Trump. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images

After months of clamoring for more attention from the political media, Andrew Yang is finally starting to get it. It’s not clear though that this is what he had in mind.

In the days since last week’s Democratic debate, a handful of reporters have written about the varied reactions to Yang’s jokes about being Asian. Among the one-liners:

“Now, I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.”

“The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.”

“Well, I’m Asian, so you know I love to work.”

His campaign gear plays it up too. There are hats that read “MATH,” buttons that refer to Yang as “The Man, The Math, The Legend,” and calculators with his name printed on them.

Clearly, there’s an audience for this. Yang has surprised many with his popularity among Democratic primary voters, and he’s been praised by some Asian-Americans for his wisecracks. But Yang has also been criticized for advancing harmful stereotypes about Asians by “obtusely reinforcing the model-minority myth.” His jokes have been referred to as “dangerous and exploitative.” He’s been called just plain hacky.

It’s not just Asian-Americans who are demeaned by Yang’s language and the model-minority myth, Indiana University’s Ellen Wu told the Washington Post. “The biggest risk in my mind is … the work that this stereotype does to dehumanize, to criminalize African-Americans,” Wu said. “I’m not saying Andrew Yang himself is doing this but that the larger cultural work, political work of this stereotype that’s been around since the 1950s and ’60s has functioned in upholding assumptions about African-Americans.”

On Wednesday, in an interview with Politico, the entrepreneur and universal-basic-income advocate said he’s heard the criticism and he doesn’t plan to stop telling jokes on the stump. “We’re a very diverse community, and if Asian Americans disagree with my response to a particular issue, or a joke I tell, that’s something I would expect and accept,” he said. “I don’t see any reason to dramatically change anything I’ve been doing to date.”

Andrew Yang Pledges to Continue Making Asian Jokes