Are Asians the Smartest Race?

I have to be honest, I didn’t want to write this article. It’s such a touchy subject but the more I looked into it the more I realized that it is something we SHOULD talk about. I promise that I’m not going to make jokes. In fact, I’m going to cut and paste most of the article and cite/link as much as possible. I’ll offer my opinion in the end and I welcome your thoughts as well.

Where do I begin? The first thing I did was ask Google who was the smartest race. And apparently the entire Internet universe thinks Asians are the smartest.

Here is one of the first sites I found.

Scientists proved that east asians (chinese japanese korean etc…) have the highest IQ

do white people feel bad about it because in the past they thought they were the smartest and looked down on all the other races?

Here’s another one:

Ask any kid in grade school, and s/he will probably tell you that the smartest person in their class is an Asian. Why is this? Are Asians just naturally smart? Is that another piece of evidence proving that America deserves its place as the 17th smartest country in the world?

Even hip hop forums seem to want in on the discussion:

I’m not Asian but I have to wonder if Asians are the smartest race. They established advanced civilizations long before the whites, and are now the economically strongest civilization in the world. N****s is always good at math and shit too. Thoughts?

Of course Urban Dictionary defines Asians as:

The smartest race in the world, they fall into many categories for example, you have smart nerdy asian, dumbass cool asian, and normal asians. They all have 5 ninja death stars strapped to their belt buckles, and they all have samurai swords strapped to their back. They can whip out the sword in 0.3738921 seconds and cut your stupid fucking head off. Not to be fucked with.

Most surprising of all, even the openly racist websites say that Asians are pretty much the smartest race. Warning, this is very very very offensive in so many ways. (I would offer the link but I don’t want to give them any more traffic.)

I guess we all agree here that races differ from one another. However, they differ in many different ways. For example, blacks are better speed runners than whites due to a larger proportion of fast-twitch muscles, while we (whites) are better adapted to high latitudes.

However, the attribute that most separates humans from animals is intelligence. Our concept of master race must therefore coincide with it when performing any calculation of superiority, and intelligent people of all races (individual blacks may possess high IQ, although they are a lower proportion of the general population that whites of similar IQ) should be actively encouraged to breed, at the expense of the stupid.

Richard Lynn and others have proved that while blacks have an average IQ of 75-85, whites have about 95-100. But East Asians have an average IQ of about 105, while Ashkenazi Jews are at about 110 (not surprising, given the disproportionate amount of Nobel prizes and scientific discoveries by Ashkenazim)

According to this line of thought, the Holocaust might have actually been the very destruction of the master race that Hitler desired. A bitter irony that should teach us the importance of rigorous science as opposed to wishful thinking, self-serving bias (saying that our own race is the one superior without clear evidence) and envy of the accomplishments of genetically superior people.

So my question is this: why is everyone so white-centric around here? The hierarchy of racial superiority over here should look like this:

Ashkenazim > East Asians > Europeans > American Indians, Arabs, Indians, mulattos, South East Asians > Blacks > Khoisan

But even when people say Asians are the smartest, they usually qualify it with Asian stereotypes. Here is one example:

If you know any asian students. You know they study, study, and then study more. Education is highly encouraged in asian families. Their high IQ”s are only due to hard work and not genitics.

Let’s take a step back and look at the history of the question of race and intelligence:

(Just a FYI, when it comes to the discussion of race and intelligence, Wikipedia was by far the best and most informed site. So I’m going to cut and paste a lot from there here on out.)

From Wikipedia:

The connection between race and intelligence has been a subject of debate in both popular science and academic research before the inception of intelligence testing in the early 20th century, particularly in the United States. In earlier periods, scholars thought they had numerous ways to detect differences in intelligence, including measuring the skulls of individuals. There is no consensus on either the social constructs of race or intelligence in academia. Discussions of their relationship draws from multiple disciplines, including biology, anthropology, sociology, and psychology.

Needless to say, the question of race and intelligence is controversial and there has been some really bad things that have come of it:

From Wikipedia:

Claims of races having different intelligence were used to justify colonialism, slavery, social darwinism, and racial eugenics. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, group differences in intelligence were assumed to be due to race and, apart from intelligence tests, research relied on measurements such as brain size or reaction times. The first IQ test was created between 1905 and 1908 and revised in 1916 (the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales). Alfred Binet, the developer of these tests, warned that these should not be used to measure innate intelligence or to label individuals.[7] However, at the time there was great concern in the United States about the abilities and skills of recent immigrants

Smarter people than myself (like the American Anthropological Association, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, UNESCO, and the American Psychological Association) have concluded that there is no “innate differences in metal capacity between the races.”

So why do people think that Asians are the smartest? For most people, they just believe the stereotype or have known smart Asians at school but I was surprised to find a study that concluded that Asian American indeed had the highest IQ.

From Wikipedia:

The IQ distributions of other racial and ethnic groups in the United States are less well-studied. The Bell Curve (1994) stated that the average IQ African Americans was 85; Latino 89; White 103; Asian 106; and Jews 113. Asians score relatively higher on visuospatial than on verbal subtests. The few Amerindian populations that have been systematically tested, including Arctic Natives, tend to score worse on average than white populations but better on average than black populations.[61]

Some other researches tested people outside the United States/Europe and apparently found similar results:

From Wikipedia:

“…some researchers have attempted to measure IQ variation in a global context. Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen reviewed worldwide IQ testing and in the books IQ and the Wealth of Nations (2002) and IQ and Global Inequality (2006) estimated the average national IQs of the countries of the world.[67][68] In his 2006 book Race Differences in Intelligence Lynn adopted the ten-category classification scheme of human genetic variation introduced in The History and Geography of Human Genes by Luigi Cavalli-Sforza and colleagues. Lynn argues that mean IQ varies by genetic clusters, or “race”. According to his calculations, the East Asian cluster (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans) has the highest mean IQ at 105, followed by Europeans (100), Inuit-Eskimos (91), South East Asians (87), Native American Indians (87), Pacific Islanders (85), South Asians & North Africans (84), sub-Saharan Africans (67), Australian Aborigines (62), and Kalahari Bushmen & Congo Pygmies (54).[5][69]

I think that all these “intelligence tests” should be taken with a grain of salt:

From Wikipedia:

Numerous factors that could influence the development of intelligence have been advanced as possible causes of the racial IQ gaps. It is generally agreed that both genetics and environmental and/or cultural factors affect individual IQ scores, but while part of the difference between groups is caused by environmental factors, some researchers argue it is not yet known whether another part of the difference can be attributed to hereditary factors.[3] Others argue that the evidence supports an all-environmental explanation.[4] A third position is that the evidence supports a partial-genetic explanation.[5] A fourth position holds that IQ does not exist, that it is a socially constructed concept, and that the source of the difference resides in the nature of the tests, which favor particular ethnic and linguistic groups.[6]

But why the different scores between the racial groups? Here is an explanation that made a lot of sense to me:

From Wikipedia:

Stereotype threat is the fear that one’s behavior will confirm an existing stereotype of a group with which one identifies; this fear may in turn lead to an impairment of performance.[90] Testing situations that highlight the fact that intelligence is being measured tend to lower the scores of individuals from racial-ethnic groups that already score lower on average. Stereotype threat conditions cause larger than expected IQ differences among groups but do not explain the gaps found in non-threatening test conditions.

A lot of people have come up with “theories” as to why Asians scored so high on the IQ tests. Here are some of the most popular explanations:

From Wikipedia:

Complex logographic writing systems have been proposed as an explanation for the higher visuospatial IQ scores of East Asians. Critics argue that the causation may be reversed with higher visuospatial ability causing the development of pictorial symbols in writing rather than alphabetic ones. Another argument is that East Asians adopted at birth also score high on IQ tests. Similar relatively higher visuospatial abilities are also found among Inuit and American Indians whose ancestors migrated from East Asia to the Americas.[109][110][111] Korean Hangul is not logographic.

From Wikipedia:

Several studies have reported that races overlap significantly in brain size but differ in average brain size. The magnitude of these differences varies depending on the particular study and the methods used. In general, these studies have reported that East Asians have on average a larger brain size than whites who have on average a larger brain size than blacks

Here’s another explanation:

In his monograph on Asian Americans and IQ, Flynn claims that Chinese Americans’ occupational achievements well exceed their IQ. He argues that the best explanation for this is environmental, and is due to such things as education, work ethic, and family values. Flynn also argues that the Asian-American dominance in math has been in spite of their IQ, not because of it (Gladwell 2008: 231n). In chapter eight of Outliers: the Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell presents the case that the main cultural factors that explain Asian dominance in math are rooted in the history of rice growing and the way numbers are named, written, and conceived.

So are Asians really the smartest race? I believe that saying that one race is smarter than any other is ignorant. I’ve known smart Asian American and not so smart Asian Americans. I can say the same thing about every type of person I have ever come into contact with. I am inclined to believe that intelligence is based on a combination of genetics and environment, not to mention other factors that would be impossible to quantify.

Most worrisome to me is what affects this debate has on our society. The conversation tends to reinforce stereotypes and justify institutional and societal racism. I hope we can eventually get to a day when we can be seen not as a homogeneous group but as individuals.

I’ve told some Asian American friends that I was working on this article. Lots of them asked me why it was a bad thing that people thought Asians were the smartest. There isn’t an easy answer because seemingly people thinking Asians are smart is a good thing, right? Wrong.

Instead of me telling you why. Let me allow Frank Wu to educate everyone:

The model minority myth hurts Asian Americans themselves. It is two-faced. Every attractive trait matches up neatly to its repulsive complement, and the aspects are conducive to reversal. If we acquiesced to the myth in its favorable guise, we would be precluded from rejecting its unfavorable interpretation. We would already have accepted the characteristics at issue as inherent. The turnaround is inevitable during a military crisis or economic downturn. To be intelligent is to be calculating and too clever; to be gifted in math and science is to be mechanical and not creative, lacking interpersonal skills and leadership potential. To be polite is to be inscrutable and submissive. To be hard working is to be an unfair competitor for regular human beings, and not a well-rounded, likable individual. To be family oriented is to be clannish and too ethnic. To be law abiding is to be self-righteous and rigidly rule bound. To be successfully entrepreneurial is to be deviously aggressive and economically intimidating. To revere elders is to be an ancestor-worshipping pagan, and fidelity to tradition is reactionary ignorance. (Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, page 67)

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About Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (, the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
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