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Pet Sins October 2009

Consumers of luxury goods - 'hardworking, deserving Asians' vs 'criminal, spendthrift blacks and Hispanics'?

Sometime back, I overheard an Asian American man complaining about how blacks and Hispanics in this country whined about being poor, and yet spent their money on frivolous, unnecessary things like luxury goods.

Now I don't agree with his opinion, since the majority of individuals I'm friends with do not fit that stereotype, and I've seen people of all economic classes and various ethnic backgrounds indulge in unnecessary, irresponsible spending. But people will always find enough anecdotes and examples to support their point of view, be it for or against that Asian American man's opinion.

Not long after, on another occasion, the same man was overheard ranting fiercely about how his father just got robbed by two black men who took his father's expensive luxury watch. He spoke angrily about how many blacks were social parasites who robbed hardworking people instead of working hard to make their own money. He then went on to say that the watch they took from his father at gunpoint was a watch that the family had bought the father some time ago to lift his father's spirits after a lay off. Oddly enough, on previous occasions, he had been complaining to his friends about how financially strapped his family was, and how they had to tighten their belts to get by.

I would say then that buying a luxury item like a branded watch when you're already struggling to get by and when there is a new lay off in the family is also an unwise, unnecessary expenditure. The money is better saved for necessities like food and utilities. He and his family seem to be doing the exact thing he complains that blacks and Hispanics in general are doing, and yet he doesn't see the irony. He sees the purchase of a luxury watch for his financially struggling family as an emotional and symbolic boost that they, self-described hardworking Asians, deserve, and yet if other minorities do the same thing, they're seen as financially irresponsible. Well, people see what they want to see.

Sometimes, I overheard him talking about not having enough money for school, and then on other occasions, he would talk about new video game he just bought. Now shouldn't he be saving that video game money for school instead? Well, we can argue that saving that little bit of video game money won't help pay the tuition, but from my personal experience, it is a matter of habit that can add up - save a bit here, and a bit there, and pretty soon you have a bigger chunk of cash than you thought you would have.

But having pointed out his double standards, I believe there is a reason for his biasness against blacks and Hispanics. (Not that the reason necessarily justifies the prejudice) I overheard him telling his friends that the black and Hispanic students in his high school routinely bullied the Asian students, to the point of physical violence and even robbery, and he believed their hostility was racially motivated. And apparently some of his Asian friends shared similar experiences.

R.D.
2008