June 20, 2022
WASHINGTON – On good days, Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua, 59, feels hopeful.
But on most days, she is a little worried about the future of the United States amid its hardening divisions.
“Everybody wants to be completely segregated now. So there are ethnic and racial divisions that are hardening,” said Prof Chua, the celebrity author of books like the 2011 Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother and the 2018 Political Tribes: Group Instinct And The Fate Of Nations, in The Straits Times’ Conversations on the Future – a video series featuring prominent global thinkers.
“We have a lot of unhappiness and I’ve never seen my students more tense and more miserable, so that’s a bad sign,” she said.
And cosmopolitan elites are part of the problem.
One huge factor, new in its intensity, is “the division between cosmopolitan elites… on the one hand (and) on the other hand, America’s rural, working class, southern population, many of them white working class, but not entirely”.
“The difference between these two groups now is so intense, that there is almost no intermarriage between them,” she said.
“You can learn a lot about group dynamics from dating apps,” she added. “My young students say they will say… Trump supporters need not apply.
“And… if you’re in a situation where the cosmopolitan coastal urban elites are not interacting or intermarrying with any of the rural, southern, working class whites, you start to get into a situation that (is) more like an ethnic divide.”
Another warning comes from history, in which hyperpowers (like the Roman empire or the Persian empire), as they decline, become xenophobic and intolerant, she contended. The phenomenon is explored in her 2007 book Day Of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise To Global Dominance – And Why They Fall.
Citing anti-immigration, anti-China and anti-Muslim sentiment, she described the US currently as “hunkering down, and in a kind of very open way”.
Internally, “it used to just be the minorities who felt threatened”, Prof Chua added.
But “now you have whites feeling threatened”.
“It used to be a just hugely majority white country that dominated everything politically, culturally, socially, economically,” she said.
But “today… we are on the verge of an unprecedented situation, in which whites are about to lose their majority status at the national level for the first time in US history”.
“There’s a lot of debate about when that will happen… (and) if you look at our major cities, whites – non-Hispanic whites – are no longer a majority in many, many major cities.
“And… you could think that’s something to be celebrated. But one result of that is that every group in the United States now feels threatened.”
- The Conversations on the Future series focuses not on current news but on broader, and larger, long-term issues and trends. Among the interviewees are Harvard professor Graham Allison, historian Wang Gungwu, science fiction writer Chen Qiufan, and diplomats Tommy Koh and Bilahari Kausikan.