In many poor countries, markets concentrate wealth in the hands of prosperous ethnic minorities. In these places, democracy can be an engine of vengeanceby Amy Chua / December 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2003 issue of Prospect Magazine
One reason for global anti-Americanism is that Americans are perceived as the world’s dominant minority, wielding disproportionate economic power. A similar kind of resentment towards economically successful ethnic minorities motivates social tension in numerous countries—from Zimbabwe to the Philippines
One morning in September 1994, I received a call from my mother in California. In a hushed voice, she told me that my Aunt Leona, my father’s twin sister, had been murdered in her home in the Philippines, her throat slit by her chauffeur. My mother broke the news to me in our Hokkien Chinese dialect. But the word “murder” she said in English, as if to wall off the act from the family through language.
The murder of a relative is horrible for anyone, anywhere. My father’s grief was impenetrable; to this day, he has not broken his silence on the subject. For the rest of the family, though, there was an added element of disgrace. For the Chinese, luck is a moral attribute, and a lucky person would never be murdered. Like having a birth defect, or marrying a Filipino, being murdered is shameful.
My three younger sisters and I were very fond of my Aunt Leona, who was petite and quirky and had never married. Like many wealthy Filipino Chinese she had multiple bank accounts, in Honolulu, San Francisco and Chicago. She visited us in the US regularly. Having no children of her own, she doted on her nieces and showered us with trinkets. As we grew older, the trinkets became treasures. On my tenth birthday she gave me ten small diamonds, wrapped in toilet paper. My aunt loved diamonds and bought them by the dozen, concealing them in empty Elizabeth Arden moisturiser jars. She liked accumulating things. When we ate at McDonald’s, she stuffed her Gucci purse with free packets of ketchup.
According to the police report, my Aunt Leona, “a 58-year-old single woman,” was killed in her living room with a “butcher’s…