The Three Bears Effect is the name given by Aiyo at the blog Black British Girl for how whites stereotype blacks and Asians as opposites while putting themselves in the middle as “just right” – like in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.
For example, black men are stereotyped as having big penises but not much intelligence while Asian men are the other way round, leaving white men in the middle as “just right”.
It works so well in America that in most cases you can tell what the Asian stereotype will be by taking the opposite of the black one:
- If blacks are cool, then Asians are nerdy.
- If black women are disagreeable, overbearing and loud, then Asian women are sweet, submissive and quiet.
- If blacks are lazy, then Asians are hard working.
- If blacks have a lower IQ than whites, then Asians have a higher one.
- If blacks have a higher poverty rate than whites, then Asians have a lower one.
- If blacks have less education than whites, then Asians have more.
- If black women are “mannish”, then Asian women are “ultra-feminine”.
It does not always work. For example, Asian Americans are not seen as truly American, but then neither are Black Americans. But in general it works surprisingly well. Too well.
White Americans think they are merely seeing the world as it is. But they do not know enough about blacks and Asians to make that claim. If they did:
- They would know that some of these statements are false, like about poverty rates, IQ and penis size.
- They would know that blacks and Asians are individuals just like whites are and cannot be stereotyped.
- They would know that among “blacks” and “Asians” there are all sorts. For example, Cambodian Americans drop out of high school at a higher rate than blacks, while black immigrants from Africa and the West Indies do better than Asian Americans.
They tend to notice the facts that support their stereotypes and overlook those that do not. It is called confirmation bias.
The main advantage of Three Bears thinking: it allows White Americans to think that they and their society are not racist. It allows them to say stuff like:
- “If Asians can do so well, then it is not racism that is holding back blacks.”
- “How can I be racist if I think Asians have more intelligence than whites?”
- Asian Americans still face racism. For example, in spite of all their supposed hard work and intelligence, they still have higher rates of poverty than whites.
- Racism against blacks is even worse.
- Even a “good” racist stereotype is still racist: it judges people according to their race, not their personal merits – as Asians discover when they apply to top American universities.
By playing up Asians as the opposite of blacks, White Americans can tell themselves they are not racist while keeping their racist views about blacks untouched.
- Black British Girl: The Three Bears Effect
- I am shocked simply shocked – among those in America with a university degree, only blacks have a higher unemployment rate than Asian Americans.
- colour-blind racism