Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has become known for making jokes about his Asian heritage, which has led to criticism from some. Speaking to Vice News at the 2020 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum in Des Moines, the 44-year-old serial entrepreneur defended his use of stereotypes and suggested that humor is an effective way to expose their silliness.
“Making light of these stereotypes and dragging them into the light is not a bad thing,” Yang said. “By poking fun at these things, we can actually see them for how ridiculous they are.”
The Democratic candidate often notes his proficiency at math and has also joked that he “knows lots of doctors,” which has caused some pushback from the Asian American community.
Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Marie Myung-Ok Lee noted Yang has struggled to become noticed by mainstream media outlets — a pervasive pattern throughout his campaign — and suggested his deployment of stereotypes may be a strategy to subvert them to gain attention.
“I am not a Yang partisan. I wrote an article in September criticizing him for using model minority stereotypes, such as calling himself ‘an Asian guy good at math.’ But now, I’m wondering if Yang, denied visibility, is deploying stereotypes as a subversive way to actually get visibility.”
Regardless, Yang’s humor has been accepted by many of his supporters. In addition, he has drawn attention from numerous comedians, including Dave Chappelle, Norm Macdonald, and Hannibal Buress, all of whom have endorsed his campaign.
Elsewhere in the Vice News interview, Yang touched on his campaign’s signature proposal: the “Freedom Dividend,” which refers to a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 per month for every American. He also addressed the value-added tax (VAT) he proposes to pay for his UBI, which is criticized by some for typically falling heavily onto people with less money.
According to Yang, the VAT would certainly fall onto the poorest “in a vacuum.” However, he notes that his policy would make the tax fall heaviest on artificial intelligence and luxury goods while exempting products like milk, diapers, and toilet paper.
Despite some criticism of his approach, Yang said he is “100 percent confident” that putting over $40 billion into the hands of minority communities would be a “major positive.” He also said he would be “all for” adjusting his approach based on knowledge gained during its operation.
Yang is currently sixth in the polls, with an average of 3.8 percent support. He is behind Michael Bloomberg, who has 7 percent support, and ahead of Amy Klobuchar with 3 percent.