Yesterday, I met this kid who just entered UC Berkeley for undergraduate. I had known him when I was a kid through friends of parents, though of course, when you’re a kid that kind of age gap disallows much meaningful social interaction. I vividly remember senior year of high school in my Spanish class, we were in the school library computer lab doing some project with a partner, and on the front page of the school district, there was news that this kid won a state math competition. I immediately said to my partner: “I know that kid!” And yesterday, he told me that he made AIME in 8th grade, and also later the USAJMO, which shows that he is highly gifted, perhaps more so than I am.
His dad, who is also a super interesting and humorous guy, told me that his son felt volunteering to put on resume for college applications is complete bullshit. I think the same. Whether or not to do it, to game the silly system, is another question. I thought: wise men think alike.
On this, I recall reading this article by a guy with the surname Mak (Cantonese, not so obviously Asian, unlike say “Ma”) about how he pretended not to be Asian deliberately for all four years of high school in order to get into Yale, which he did. He eventually regretted it deeply, as he expressed in his article.
It is quite sad that the discrimination has brought Asians to such desperate straights, to the mark of overtly rejecting their heritage to appease the white admissions officers who judge them. This is price of being the “model minority.” I don’t even think that works very well in the long run. The plum positions not requiring real skills obtained through connections will still go to the rich well connected WASP kids. For most of us, it would be more worthwhile to develop some real, hard employable skills, even if it means not going to an elite school.
I am angry that Asians are being used as pawns in America. I am angry that Asians here have to grow up hearing all these negative stereotypes which affect their self-esteem and steer them in questionable directions. I encourage Asians not to buy into this BS and know for a fact that American society systemically discriminates against them and deal with it both with the realism that it is there and will likely be slow to change, which means acting prudently with respect to their career prospects, and also to make some effort to fight back against it in a way that does not jeopardize them much. Asians are generally pretty reasonable. They do not demand beyond their ability, beyond what they’ve contributed. If anything, Asians are too passive in this regard, especially in America, where they are very much an invisible minority.
It is disgusting that elite American institutions at the undergraduate level are a mechanism for uplifting the Asians they view as likely to be spineless lackeys for the American WASP-dominated elite agenda in such an egregious way. It is expected behavior of course, but it is done so unabashedly so as to make it vile in its very nature. It degrades the credibility of American elite institutions and America at large to a group who have roots in one of the most economically vibrant areas on earth, a group that contributes enormously to America’s competitive and leading position in science, technology, and economics.
My final word to Asians in America. Be more daring in your ambition and individual pursuits, and at the same time realistic about what people have to offer. Asians are often told in America that they are tools, drones, not creative, and that they are “deferential to authority.” If so, why is it that China has arguably the richest revolutionary tradition and history of the 20th century, producing so many who fought fearlessly and relentlessly against oppressors, against old, outdated traditions, for a system more in tune with the modern world that eventually enabled China to thrive, in the face of powerful opponents? If so, why is it that there are so many Asians at or near the top of mathematics and theoretical physics, fields with arguably the deepest and most vibrant of thinkers, when the past generations were disadvantaged in their access to opportunities and material circumstances? If so, why is it that Japanese anime and video games are so popular across the world? My generation of Asians, unlike the previous ones, have substantially more economic resources at our disposal, and as a corollary, we can afford to care less about what other people think and follow more of our inner heart. With this, it may well be that in the next generation, those who continue on with such stereotypes of Asians will be seen as no more than a laughing stock.