November 1, 2017
Have you ever experienced the model minority paradigm?
Have you been systematically labeled as "un-personable" and "unlikeable"? Isn't that unfair? Would those adjectives make you feel human? Or validated? If not, then why do you do this to Asian American applicants?
Why does the model minority status feel more like an insult than a compliment? If economic and racial equality matters, Harvard, then why are some Southeast Asian Americans punished in the admissions process for holding this "prized label" when their circumstances are anything but? Can you comprehend the position that I, a liberal Asian American, am facing? How should I remedy my cognitive dissonance? How can I continue fighting for the rights of others when the system inadvertently hurts my Asian peers? How can I support a policy that puts Southeast Asian Americans at a disadvantage that they do not deserve?
Moreover, when did equality come with a fine-print agreement? Why can't equality simply be equality? Why are admissions standards for Asian Americans noticeably higher and more difficult than those for white Americans? For African Americans? For Latino Americans?
What do these extraneous labels accomplish except for a) polarization, b) implicit racism, and c) marginalization?
Harvard, what is it about Asian Americans? Are we too American? Are we too Asian? Or perhaps, according to you, are we just "bright and busy" robots that lack substance? Why is my ethnic background stained with a single, unwavering stereotype?
But Harvard, did you ever consider that this lawsuit is more important than just affirmative action? Did you ever consider that this lawsuit is reopening the painful reminder that Asian Americans lack a tangible place in American society? How can America allow a large segment of its citizens to be rendered into nothing but white background noise?
Why am I, like many Asian Americans, uncertain of my position in America? Harvard, my grandparents, two U.S. citizens, were interned during World War II and stripped of all of their possessions--does that injustice mean so little? Did you know that my family lost years of records and family history just because those documents were written in Japanese script? Did you know that in Japanese culture you are supposed to revere a federal power and to follow the rules? Can you understand why my immigrant great-grandparents put up little fight when Executive Order 9066 was implemented by the United States government?
How can I connect with my culture when it was forcibly suppressed and subsequently extinguished by the American government on December 7, 1941?
Let's do a quick poll--do you ever dread Pearl Harbor Day?
Have you, perhaps, experienced that swirling ache of discomfort?
Sadness at the injustice that your family faced?
Anger at the fact that not one of those aforementioned presentations ever talked about the 110,000 to 120,000 Japanese Americans who were carted off to internment camps?
Have you ever felt the weight of an auditorium full of people watching you as a World War II veteran recounts his memories of defeating those "sneaky Japs?" Do you ever feel ashamed of who you are? Your ethnicity? Have you ever wished that you could just be white?
Harvard, are you aware of the fact that it is not just Asian American youth who feel this way? Did you know that these stereotypes affect all generations of Asian Americans? Did you know that, according to research studies, my parents' generation is the ethnic group who is least likely to get promoted to positions of leadership?
Why are we solely viewed as diligent, hard-workers? How can Asian Americans break this "worker bee" mold and prove that we have voices, opinions, and ideas? Or that we are capable of being leaders? Why is no one speaking out about the Asian American experience? Will any of my questions ever receive an answer?
Harvard, this brings us back to my original point: what is affirmative action? If affirmative action is a policy that fosters diversity and brings different viewpoints together to provide an enriching learning experience, then what's so negative about that?
Truly, at its core, affirmative action is not terrible politics; however, once these policies begin to ostracize and specifically suppress certain ethnic minorities, is it not safe to conclude that the policy begins to undermine its original goal of objectivity and equal opportunity? Did you know, Harvard, that the recent case, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, serves as a harsh reminder of the precarious (and real) position Asian Americans face within the United States? Broadly speaking, aren't all experiences equal and valid? If this statement holds true, then shouldn't the conversation shift? For instance, instead of focusing on who has suffered the most, why can't our society embrace these stories and experiences to help enact a true equality for all?
Harvard, do you know that you are not the only target? Do you realize that the discussion of Asian Americans within America permeates not only higher education but also the workplace, government, and more? Are you aware of this permanent limbo that Asian Americans are relegated to? Can you relate to the stage of "not-quite-a-person-of-color" yet "not-white-either?"
Honestly though, do you really attribute those demeaning characteristics to Asian Americans? Do you think that little of my ethnicity? Of my history? Of my story?
Finally, did you ever get my application materials? My two recommendation letters? Did my alumni interview review sheet make it to Cambridge? Did the College Board send you my SAT score? What about my two subject tests?
If so, you can shred those and delete my file--I will not be needing them.
Inspired by Pete Well's Review of Guy's American Kitchen and Bar published in the New York Times.