Success: Intrinsic, genetic or environmental? By Obi Ihekweazu There's been a lot of fuss lately about Asian-Americans and their abilities to elude the strongholds of oppression and poverty. Some people attribute this group's success to genetics or intrinsic qualities - things minorities such as blacks and Latinos supposedly do not possess. This claim can be backed up by statistics that show Asian-Americans have been able to reach higher levels of education than blacks and Latinos and that their earnings are at a level comparable to whites - if not higher. Ironically then, because of their general success, Asian-Americans have cast a huge stigma on blacks and Latinos. Essentially, Asian-Americans have become the model minority. In return, this question begs to be asked: If Asian-Americans are able to succeed, why can't blacks and Latinos? A popular presumption seems to be that blacks and Latinos are lazy and genetically inferior. But this stereotype is untrue. By using Nigerian-Americans as an example, I think you'll find that success is not determined by race, but rather by the nature of one's personal environment and upbringing. Nigerian-Americans are similar to Asian-Americans in that despite being a minority, they have been able to succeed to a high level. Most Nigerian-Americans' parents arrived in the United States in the '70s and early '80s on student visas to pursue professional degrees in law, education, engineering and medicine. A large number of their offspring were born and raised in the states, and they are scattered across the country, with New York and Houston being the two largest Nigerian-American population centers. Nigerian-Americans are black, though. But still, they have had very different environmental influences than the typical black American. Unlike the typical black in the United States, most Nigerian-American families tend to have mid- to upper-middle class status; most households have stable marriages with both spouses having at least undergraduate degrees, and their children, many of which who are now college-aged, are successful in academics and extracurricular activities such as athletics. They tend to have academic records similar to their Asian-American counterparts. Do these people sound inferior to you? If Nigerian-Americans are succeeding at a level disproportionate to other blacks in the United States, this proves that success does not stem from race. It is derived from the environment. Most Nigerian-Americans have stable homes, educated parents, and financial stability to the point where they can actively promote education. And that is the key. Asian-Americans here have been lucky enough to find communities here that help foster education and financial success. They have also found the value of education, which is a valuable tool for combating oppression. However, their success, like the success of Nigerian-Americans, is an example of the power of environment, not of racial superiority. Nigerian-Americans are just one example of minorities who have managed to distance themselves from the constant cycle of poverty and intellectual suppression that minorities tend to face. It is imperative that we find a way to incorporate the same proactive, nuturing elements of "model minority" culture into the environmental structures of blacks and Latinos. After all, blacks and Latinos have had to deal with more rigid and overt forms of oppression - slavery, generations of poverty and poor education. If you plant a seed in the concrete, what are the chances that it will grow? Slim to none. But if that same seed is nurtured with all the proper ingredients, chances are that it will blossom into something special. Nobody debates the potential of a seed, so there's no need to use race to debate the potential of a human being. Ihekweazu is a sociology senior.