After watching Hasan Minhaj's episode on affirmative action in the "Patriot Act," it became clear to me that the socioeconomic disparity between Asians and other minorities in the U.S. eliminates any solidarity amongst people of color, making the fight against racial inequality much more difficult. In the episode, through many iconic hand gestures, Hasan references many Indian and Chinese "uncles" who argue against the case for affirmative action in the college admission process. Now, I'm not saying Asians and Asian-Americans don't work hard for their success. Believe me, we do. However, so do Latinos and blacks who have resided in this country for essentially hundreds of years with little to show for it.
The lack of empathy of Asian-Americans for other people of color is justifiable, to them, through the term "model minority." As an Asian-American, it first makes me feel proud and slightly arrogant, but then for some reason, I feel shameful and pathetic in my pride. That is because this term fails to acknowledge the enslavement of black people for centuries, the dispossession of Mexican land, and the genocide of Native American peoples... all of which Asian Americans did not suffer from. Tell me, what do I have to be proud of? Privilege? The truly dangerous part is the fact that we, people of color, are still falling for this tactic of "innate superiority" or "inferiority." Simply put, the term is evidence of a larger pattern practiced by the West: placing a small group above other minorities based on a slight, false difference. If you look back at history, you'll see that white colonizers consistently used hierarchy amongst non-whites to distract them from those at the top: whites.
Have you ever heard about the Rwandan Genocide? For those who have never heard of it, the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 can be traced back to its German and Belgian rulers. The Germans stated that out of the three ethnic groups in the African country (Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa) the Tutsi were genetically superior as their physiques resembled Europeans. They were supposedly slightly taller and had raised noses. However, as these differences were so minimal the Germans and later the Belgians mandated that ethnicity is stated on identification. The Tutsi made up approximately 18% of the population, the Hutu 80%, and the Twa 5%. Once again, a smaller group was chosen as superior and looked down on the greater minority. At the time of Rwanda's independence in 1962, Belgium did nothing to maintain the power of the Tutsi. Through decades of this hierarchy and the implementation of identification cards, the genocide of nearly 1 million Tutsi occurred.
My fellow Asian-Americans, we make up 5.8% of the population. Whenever you oppose affirmative action because it does not work in your favor or you blame blacks and Latinos for their suffering, just remember that we are the Tutsi. Our "natural intelligence" is temporary.
Does anyone remember the Japanese prior to World War II? They were seen as the most developed people in Asia by the West. In 1945, that same West dropped the atomic bomb on them. Does anyone remember Nelson Mandela and apartheid? Mahatma Gandhi was a South African lawyer before becoming a freedom fighter in India. He was able to become a lawyer because he was brown, not black. Indians in South Africa were seen as better than blacks, but they didn't see that that still made them less than whites. Regardless of what you feel about the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Israel is an instrument in which for some time Europe laid back and watched a formerly persecuted people battle another formerly colonized people.
If you haven't gotten my point yet, it's this: Whatever hierarchy the West spouts, forget it. Today, Asian-Americans are sadly the instrument through which whites oppress people of color without getting the blame. I don't want my people to be part of the problem. That's why I look in the mirror and acknowledge the color of my skin. That's why I educate myself on my history as a people. That's why I see a broken American class system. Just as Hasan said, "I'm ripping on uncles in our own community who lack self-awareness, and propagate anti-black and anti-brown rhetoric just so Asians can get ahead." I don't want to be part of a "model minority," I want to be human. Sorry, uncle.