Today during casual conversations my 9 year old son and his best friend told me this event. Two weeks ago another friend (white, let’s call him Fred) made a rap song and shared with those boys in his small circle (2 out of 5 are minorities but no blacks). The song went like this: “black people suck, they suck less than a buck, they suck, suck, suck….” The rap shocked those boys and they scolded Fred for racism and made him stop. This incident touched a sensitive nerve of mine, so that I probed my son and his friend for more intelligence. I know Fred pretty well. He is nice to his friends and respectful to adults. Fred has some anger issues so that he took out from certain kids including his younger brother. In the same week the only black boy at 3rd grade was suspended for two weeks as a result of repeated kicking of another boy on his private part. Therefore Fred made the rap to bash the blacks in general. Apparently he made himself a fool and received scolding from his friends.
I immediately thought of the Peter Liang case. The black boy made a mistake and had been penalized with suspension. He should not be further penalized by receiving the outrageous rap. The black boy was spared from undue penalty by his friends which were properly taught by the school system. The difference in Liang’s case is he was not as lucky due to a corrupt system, the NYC government. The different treatments the black boy and Liang received amplify the importance of good systems. Bad systems make much harder to prevent damages to the societies and the people in them. Many schools are good but not flawless and people are not perfect. We may all be Fred or victimized by Fred once in a while. In those less than desirable situations minorities are usually more vulnerable. We all want our kids to have fun and prosper at school. I summarized the following ideas for young minority students and their parents to consider.
1. Assimilation is a powerful tool. Usually kids don’t have English issues. They may need to become culturally closer to the mainstream. Team sports or other group activities are effective means to help them blend into the environments different from their families. Kids are usually keen on what they need to do to be included. Immigrant parents lack of school experience at USA may need to pay extra attention to their kids behaviors and requests. Listen to your kids.
2. Make efforts to influence the systems. Decent US schools have high standards of fair play rules and little tolerance on bully. At school kids need to learn and practice how to raise attention and work with the authorities such as the teachers to seek protection or fairness.
3. Create alliances with other minority students. Recognize other Chinese, Indians or blacks can be your allies on certain issues. If seeing unfairness to other minorities, you should help them. That is good for you as well. My son’s grade there are less than 10% non-white students. I asked him to try to become acquainted with those minority students. At times they may need to unite for larger impact.
4. Make friends in general. Friends make each other happy and help each other out. The fact you have friends shields you from being picked on by bullies.
5. Know your status as a minority,. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and find your unique paths to your goals. Not every Chinese kids like to stay quiet and like only math and science. The Chinese kids are just as diverse as other races.
Lastly I think we should teach our young kids how to live happy and fulfilling lives. Everybody just gets to live once, and this is one of the few things that are absolutely fair regardless of race, gender or the family you are born into.
As one of the organizers of the Peter Liang rally in Philadelphia, I have to say I strongly disagree with your overall opinions on those rallies in 43 cities across the nation. As a Chinese American, I hate to tell you I am disappointed that you, a top university educated Asian descendent, unfortunately misconstrued the rallies and our pledges. Furthermore, your article is spreading the wrong messages and bringing more misinterpretation to the general public. I ask you to stop, listen to me, and think again for yourself.
You wrote “both black and white activists misconstrue Asian activists as protesting Liang’s conviction. What they are really protesting is the fact that so many white cops before Liang got away with the same crime scot-free.” You may believe you have possessed the insider’s viewpoints on these protests as an Asian descendent. Unfortunately I have to tell you, you can’t be more wrong! The black and white activists are correct. We are protesting Liang’s conviction. We are protesting the NYPD’s bureaucracy which has created two victims, Gurley and Liang. We intend to stop this bureaucracy further victimizing Liang by over-penalizing him with a conviction disproportional to his misconduct. Based on your article I had to guess you really knew little about the depths and magnitude of these rallies and our pledges. Please spare yourself five minutes to watch some YouTube videos on those rallies. I doubt you would find substances to support your claims. Could you possibly have misjudged your fellow Asian protesters?
You stated people went on protests “wasn’t because the verdict was unjust. They were angry because so many white police officers involved in fatal shootings before him were let off. Liang,” Again, you are wrong! We are protesting because the conviction was unjust! We don’t believe Liang’s conviction of 2nd degree manslaughter fits the facts of a misfired bullet bouncing off a wall and accidentally hitting Mr. Gurley in the dark. More evidences have surfaced with regards to the accidental and tragic nature of Mr Gurley ‘s death, and the political undercurrent of the subsequent conviction. Those new findings have cast serious doubt on various aspects of this conviction including mishandled court hearings. Questions for you, in your idealist mindset, have you ever wondered why a then 26-year old, only several years senior of you, who may not be as privileged to enter a top university, got convicted for reckless 2nd degree manslaughter from a gun accident in NYC, where NO police officers have been convicted in line-of-duty shooting deaths for over a decade? Have you ever wondered why the NY Police Union did not spare him a top attorney, as the Union had previously done in similar incidents, as many other police unions in the country may have done? Have you ever wondered what life and death really meant to two rookie cops while patrolling at night in NYC house projects which at times can be war-zone like, and near where two police officers were killed in execution style in 2014? Have you ever wondered why NYPD had two rookie officers without adequate training patrolling in those highly dangerous areas? Aren’t you suspiciouu? Had you thought through those facts, I doubt you would have stated “Liang is facing up to 15 years in prison, and rightfully so…for a police officer in a tense situation — especially in New York City — there is no room for panic”.
I trust you would do more research on this tragedy, rethink your opinions, and take corrective actions. If you need info, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate you have properly acknowledged a few good things of those protests such as breaking away from being the silent minority. Thank you.
I recently dug up this 2014 TED talk by Asian American author, civic educator and politics commentator Eric Liu. In this talk, Mr. Liu put forth the simple but often overlooked idea that the power of individual citizens are best realized at the local level, in the arena of the city. Mr. Liu was President Clinton’s speechwriter so of course his own talk is very engaging. I was reminded of Mr. Liu’s work by Wen’s recent essay urging Asian Americans to engage in local public service and politics.
A few days ago, a group of community volunteers started the Philadelphia Tri-State Chinese American Association. The mission of this nonprofit organization is to encourage and support Chinese Americans in local public service and politics. I think this is a wonderful and timely act.
I didn’t really think much about how my own race/ethnicity affected my life until 2011, when I read the ludicriously long piece in New York Magazine. It was called Paper Tigers, with the subtitle: “What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?” and it covered issues I had discussed occasionally with friends but rarely saw elsewhere.
Questions like how come Asians are rarely in leadership positions despite being “so smart”? Or is it possible to maintain traditional Asian values like being humble in a loud, show-off-to-get-ahead world? Or why the hell was dating so damn hard?
I thought Wesley Yang’s article was going to lead to a national conversation about these issues, given that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua had been all over the media for months. But it didn’t happen. It’s understandable in some respects because he admits that he is “in most respects devoid of Asian characteristics”. While born to Korean parents, he does not: speak Korean, believe in Asian values, date Korean women or have any Korean friends. Maybe this was all he wanted to say about being an Asian man.
And yet, there’s more to our story.
Asians are the fastest growing minority group in America, while in sheer number are far fewer than blacks or latinos. a far smaller minority group compared with blacks and latinos, but are also growing faster than either. We often get lumped into the same category as whites in tech diversity reports, but when it comes it executive leadership, Asians are 2.5x less likely to be in an executive role compared to whites.
I was having some conversations with an old friend of mine, who’s Chinese, and who has been grappling with these issues both at work (he’s a resident at a hospital in NYC) and in his dating life (where he’s single again after a 3 year relationship). He encouraged me to write more about this topic, and I decided that if I were to do that, I’d need a lot more than a few stories from my own life and from my friends.
Already, over 100 East, South, and Southeast Asian men living in the United States have taken the study, sharing their perspectives on how they’re treated compared to whites, and non-Asian minorities, how they feel their race affects their opportunities at work, and how it plays a role in who they date and who they settle down with.
If you’re are an Asian man living in America or you know some who might be interested in this, I’d love if you could share this study with them.
I’ll be closing results on November 30th and sharing results sometime in December.