Overcoming Asian American challenges
Submitted by Larry Ho, retired Harvard University professor of engineering and applied mathematics
In May 2000, during a celebration of Asian American Heritage Month, I was asked by the US Army Corps of Engineers to talk on “The Asian American Experience” (http://blog.sciencenet.cn/home.php?mod=space&uid=1565&do=blog&id=685780). In the talk, I briefly reviewed the history of legislation against Chinese Americans and Chinese immigration. I touched on various incidents, including the 1980 Vincent Chin case, the scandal of Chinese campaign financing in the ’90s, the Wen Ho Lee case and the covert college admission quota for Chinese Americans in the present day.
I was invited by the Sampan to update this talk and review new challenges facing our group. What are they? I’d say there are four issues.
- First, the covert elite college quota against Asian American applicants has become more visible and front and center. Reputable scholarly studies have detailed and documented these invisible quotas. Asian applicants in the 21st century have become the new Jewish applicants discriminated against in the early 20th century. Reportedly, Asian applicants must score 1000 points higher than white applicants in the admission threshold. The Supreme Court in fact will rule in the next months whether college admission should be race-neutral or not in the Fisher versus University of Texas case. (http://80-20initiative.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=39 and http://www.80-20educationalfoundation.org/projects/colleges.asp )
- The second issue is the glass ceiling in the workplace. Published data acknowledged by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Full-page Washington Post ad: http://www.80-20initiative.net/action/equalopp_washingtonpost_wpad.asp) that supports the fact glass ceilings for Asian Americans exist in the industry, academia and government. But the enforcement of the executive order EO11046 commonly known as affirmative action has not been applied for Asian Americans even during the Bush administration when Elaine Chao was the Secretary of Labor.
- The third issue is the changing complexion of Chinese American immigrants. Up until the 1990s, Chinese immigration mostly came from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Since then, a large number of immigrants came from mainland China, settled and brought their older relatives over. While it is a debatable point, there is a subtle difference in their outlook on life and purpose between Chinese from the mainland and those from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Some 50 years of isolation and the Cultural Revolution have impacted people’s thinking, particularly for the short term. It takes time for change despite being transplanted to the United States.
- Finally, Chinese Americans are slowly learning that the maxim of political reality —”you don’t get the treatment you deserve, you get what you can negotiate.” In this respect, the 80-20 Initiative, an empowering political action and education organization (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/80-20_Initiative) has been foremost in urging Chinese Americans to participate in mainstream American politics.
Locally, Chinese Americans are gradually participating in public affairs and volunteering for community work.
In Lexington, where I lived for 47 years, the Community Task Force of the Chinese American Association of Lexington took part in successfully electing Chinese-American town council members and officers this year and last. It took major responsibility in the town-wide 300th birthday celebration and food pantry drive, giving back to society for all the benefits of living in this country.
The road to “a more perfect union” is long. But we must first do our part.