Hello, greetings all. I hope you are in good health and having good days.
I wanted to talk about the idea of a pan Asian identity. In the United States and Canada, it is common to refer to, as a a single social group or voting bloc, Asians. The broad group is mostly made up of people who have one or more biological ancestors from the Asian continent, though many from the continent are excluded (Russians, Central Europeans). The group members represent a multitude of ethnic groups, religions, languages, and cosmologies and it sometimes includes the many Pacific Islander ethnic groups.
The borders of the Asian Canadian / Asian American groups are a little fuzzy, but race is socially constructed and not based in biology or geography, so it does makes sense that the borders aren’t well defined. I digress.
When I was growing up, as a kid, I didn’t have any concept of myself as a racial being. I don’t believe that any of us are born with an innate sense or desire of separation from others based on race. If you put babies in a group, they are not clamoring to only be around babies with a similar phenotype.
My experience is that racial attitudes and racial preferences are learned mostly subconsciously. As such, they can be unlearned. If unaddressed, racist attitudes go on undetected, masquerading as mere preferences, avoiding more meaningful examination.
Culturally, I did identify as being Chinese American. My life at home was a mixture of Chinese- and European-American traditions. My experiences were probably more similar to a German American family than a Hmong American family. At around middle school age, when I first heard the term Asian (I heard “Oriental” almost as often back then), it baffled me that anybody could make use of a group that included so many different people.
By birth and nationality I am an American. Eventually, I did accept Asian American as a political identity. It made sense as a matter of getting social equality. We all suffered the burden of racism in America similarly. Because of this we had a similar ideas and priorities for social change. It would force politicians to give us some kind of recognition, owing to the larger voting implications.
The downside, and it’s a major problem, is that well-defined ethnic populations within the larger pan Asian American identity face different forms of racial discrimination than other populations. Children of Laotian and Vietnamese refugees, for example, in the United States as a result of American bombing of their homelands, face increased chances for incarceration and less of a chance that they will attend a college or university. We’ve learned of the CIA involvement in Laos. Thai and cambodian populations, here for similar reasons, graduate in abysmal percentages in many California districts. Mixed race persons have yet another set of problems to deal with.
Grouping people in racial categories and taking broad social action based on a simple analysis, can leave many worse off. Have too many Asian American students made it into Harvard? What if we limit that number because we feel it is too high? I can tell you one thing that will happen, persons of sorely underrepresented ethnicities who have a harder time accessing the same educational opportunities as everyone else, they will have it even worse.
Edit 10 June 2015
Harvard routinely rejects “Asian” applicants in favor of whites and sought-after minorities with lower test scores and grades.
Enrollment data reveal that Harvard limits Asian-Americans to a flat 15-18 percent of the student body, year after year, though they increasingly dominate the top of the applicant pool.
To smoke out ethnicity, Harvard requires applicants to provide their parents’ place of birth, mother’s maiden name and whether their family has ever changed its name.
These questions, along with an interview requirement, were devised in the 1920s to limit the number of Jewish students. Now Asians are the new Jews, welcome only in limited numbers.
Last Friday, 64 Asian-American organizations filed a complaint with the Department of Education challenging Harvard’s quota system. Harvard denies it has one, but the evidence that it does is convincing — and sickening.
The complaint states that Harvard is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating on the basis of race. Harvard general counsel Robert W. Iuliano responds that the college’s admissions process is “highly individualized” and “holistic.” But admissions data say otherwise.
Amazingly, no matter how the racial makeup of the applicant pool changes year to year, the outcome is the same cookie-cutter student body: 15-18 percent Asian, 42-49 percent white, 6-8 percent African-American and 7-9 percent Hispanic, plus others.
It’s not believable that this could be happening absent racial quotas, when Asian high-school students make up twice the share of total college applicants that they did two decades ago, and they are sweeping up academic prizes everywhere.