Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Little Asia on the Hill

So here's my two cents on Little Asia on the Hill, that article that's been making the rounds. Whatever, I've got the day off, I've got time. I have to give the writer credit, he is a kind of crafty, and steps around making an egregious error that someone can then call him out for. He covers the history of racism against Asian Americans and the recent lawsuit by Jian Li, charging that universities discriminate against Asian Americans by holding them to higher admissions standards. He even mentions something about model minority myth, quoting from Daniel Golden's book, "'Asian-Americans are the odd group out, lacking racial preferences enjoyed by other minorities and the advantages of wealth and lineage mostly accrued by upper-class whites. Asians are typecast in college admissions offices as quasi-robots programmed by their parents to ace math and science.'"

All very well and good. However, sandwiched in between these examples, Egan will wave the yellow peril flag a ton. For example, the accompanying photographs consistently portray, as my sister astutely pointed out, the people in the picture are all East Asian Americans, and all seem to be fairly clean cut and honestly rather nerdy looking. Seriously though, shouldn't we have at least had one spiky haired dude just for representation's sake?

Characterizing Berkeley "overwhelmingly Asian" he goes on to paint this picture of the campus.

And at least on this morning, there is very little speech of any kind inside the Free Speech Cafe; almost without exception, students are face-planted in their laptops, silently downloading class notes, music, messages. It could be the library but for the line for lattes. On mornings like this, the public university beneath the towering campanile seems like a small, industrious city of über-students in flops.

So wait a minute, from the little table that the NY Times provides, Asian Americans are 46% at Berkeley 43% at Davis, 56% at Irvine and 43% at UCLA. So hold up, if there was a college campus was 46% or 56% white, would this college be described as "overwhelmingly white"? Overrepresentation of Asian Americans in proportion to their numbers in the populations aside, 56% of one ethnic group does not merit the charge of "overwhelming." And then tying it to a studious campus, and connecting it to the apparent lack of political activism on campus just seems sort of low.

The big stumbling block that Egan encounters is his inability to comprehend, as is the case with many journalists, that Asian Americans are a diverse group, with many different origins and economic backgrounds. He does pay some lip service to it. "A little more than half of Asian freshmen at Berkeley are Chinese, the largest group, followed by Koreans, East-Indian/Pakistani, Filipino and Japanese." So where are the Vietnamese Americans? If Egan did his research he should know that Vietnamese Americans are a fairly significant portion of the population of California. Poorer Asian Americans are hurt just as much by the absence of affirmative action as poor whites, poor African Americans and poor everyone else. Not that Egan sees this,

IF Berkeley is now a pure meritocracy, what does that say about the future of great American universities in the post-affirmative action age? Are we headed toward a day when all elite colleges will look something like Berkeley: relatively wealthy whites (about 60 percent of white freshmen’s families make $100,000 or more) and a large Asian plurality and everyone else underrepresented? Is that the inevitable result of color-blind admissions?

Why are white people the only ones who get the benefit of class analysis? Everyone else just kind of gets lumped together regardless of economic background. Perhaps this is the future of great American universities, minorities are not allowed to have an economic background. Then Egan definitely goes the yellow peril route with this little gem

One study at the institute looked at Asian-American students in lab courses, and found they did better solving problems alone and without conversations with other students.

What the HELL does this have to do with affirmative action? I mean, I thought the article was about affirmative action. What does this one study on Asian American study habits have to with anything? However, it does have a lot to do with conflating all Asian Americans and reinforcing the robot-like model minority stereotype which Golden condemns in the quote on the first page. Awesome.

One final kick in the teeth
But Berkeley is freighted with the baggage of stereotypes — that it is boring socially, full of science nerds, a hard place to make friends.

Honestly is this really true? I've never heard that about Berkeley.

Well if you've made it to the end you deserve some sort of prize. I'll go out and take some pretty pretty pictures today to make it up to you.


nien said...

we want pictures of you in that sweater vest.

exangelena said...

I'm sending you a super long e-mail about this. I have so much stuff to say.

lovelesscynic said...


lovelesscynic said...

話説回來,你的要求跟Little Asia On The Hill有什麽關係?