Thursday, November 01, 2012

Wash it white

This line from an article in The New York Times on Asian Americans and affirmative action kind of pisses me off:
"More important, some argue, Asian-Americans themselves benefit from the campus diversity the system produces. Schools where admission is purely through a test, like the elite public New York City high school Stuyvesant, often have large percentages of Asian-Americans. The University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles are more than half Asian. That doesn’t help them integrate effectively, to pierce what some call the bamboo ceiling in the corporate and political worlds."
So we should "integrate effectively" by acting white? The problem of discrimination originates with the person who discriminates, not with the victim.

While I support diversity, and believe it is vital to respect and learn about the experiences of other cultural groups, this backward line of reasoning appears to delegitimate the heavily "Asian American" experience of students at UCB and UCLA. Somehow, they're "too Asian", and that's why they can't break through the bamboo ceiling? Maybe the bamboo ceiling is the problem, and the AsianAm culture extant at Berkeley is actually a legitimate form of being.

There may be features of the culture at those institutions that can be adjusted -- we can always talk about that -- but just because they don't mimic the dominant forms of the mainstream doesn't make them wrong.

Look, I get that there are advantages in learning to "play nice" and interact with people of different races. That's all well and good. But you shouldn't have to pretend to be something you are not in order to get ahead. That's like telling Tibetan minorities in China, "You should learn Mandarin and stop acting so Tibetan. That way you can reap the benefits of China's economic growth." That may be a personally strategic course of action, but you shouldn't have to do that just to live a decent life or be treated with dignity. Otherwise, you deny the validity of the minority community's way of life.

Just my off the cuff reaction.

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