Thursday, February 07, 2013

We belong here

Apparently there are ignorant, racially-insensitive white people at Duke. Who knew? Great for your reputation, Dukies. I'm simultaneously surprised and not surprised because ... this is America. -_-

I'm disappointed, but not entirely shocked. My heart goes out to the minority students at Duke who have to deal with this BS. (P.S. I'm refraining from going off on an "exoticizing/imperialist majority" rant; others cover that ground pretty well.)

The cynical part of me wants to say, "It's America folks. Get used to it." But then I rebel, because we are Americans, too -- not outsiders, not even immigrants. (Though all those cultural groups deserve respect.) We are as American as the next person sitting on the bus, or the neighbors who share the same communities we live in, or the teachers and students who walk along the hallways of our schools. We are also as American as a corn farmer in Iowa or a rancher in Montana. Engineers in Silicon Valley and environmentalists in Washington D.C. count too! Thus, the racially-charged actions by the Duke fraternity weren't just an attack on Asians and Asian Americans; they were an attack on the idea of a diverse America.

Yet I'm not giving up on my country, on our country, just because of the juvenile (and either malicious or devastatingly uninformed) actions of a few buffoons. There's nowhere else we belong more than here. I refuse to feel alienated; we aren't the ones being marginalized in society. The racist individuals are soon going to realize they just marginalized themselves.

Given that, I see why it's important for a united community reaction -- so those minority students don't feel alone, but know they have support, that they have allies, that there are people of decency who see and care. It's also critical for Duke to come up with an institutional response. They need to define what their university stands for.

Those fools picked the wrong ethnic minority community to mess with. We aren't quiet, docile and obedient anymore. We are educated, informed, outspoken, independent-minded and connected, and we aren't going to "take it" as our parents might have, the way earlier pioneering generations of AsianAms had to endure abuse without complaint, for fear of provoking further aggression.

Despite the stereotypical image of AsianAms staying silent, even before present times and the advent of social media, there already were courageous, articulate individuals in history who spoke up for our community. (Some of these heroes are still alive!) My hat goes off to all of them. Now, more and more as I write this, I am beginning to awaken to the important role an AsianAm *community*, including student groups, community centers and advocates, can play in the fabric of our schools.

I'll end by noting that I was actually born in North Carolina; and I'm sure glad my parents decided to move to Silicon Valley. My experience growing up here is one that AsianAm kids in other parts of the country might not have had, and this reminds me to be grateful for the Bay Area: its openness, its embrace of difference, its respect for those coming from distinct backgrounds (almost a given in a place that is a global crossroads), and the general sense of celebration surrounding all these variegated ideas and identities. We see diversity not only as part and parcel of daily life, but as something of value that enriches all of us.

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