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The Importance of the Asian-American Vote But Only If We Actually Vote

This is from Jesse Washington’s blog. How important is the Asian-American vote? Just ask Newt Gingrich. His failing battle plan rested on appealing to Asian-Americans: “Although his presidential campaign has all but imploded, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has at least one more big plan to boost his chances in the Republican primaries: an appeal to Asian-American voters. His staff already has him committed to a new batch of outreach efforts in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Hawaii, California, and—at the end of August—Virginia.”


What are the stats for the Asian-American vote? 

The National Asian American Survey (NAAS), a project of Rutgers, UC-Berkeley, UC-Riverside, and USC, is the first nationwide political opinion poll of Asian Americans, and can be found at: The Asian-American vote turns out to be critical in tight races such as these:

In a state where candidates are separated by about 3 points, AAPIs can affect this state’s results. 59,000 Asian American voters made up 2% of Minnesota voters in 2004, and also made up more than half of the Asian American CVAP, a proportion larger than the national AA average.


In 2004, approximately 45,000 Asian Americans voted, making up about 1.4% of Virginia’s 3.1 million voters. Eligible AA voters may make up only 3% of the state’s voters, but are still critical to such a tight race. Jim Webb’s won his 2006 race by 7,231 votes, an indication that AAPI eligible voters can impact the outcome in Virginia.

In 2004, approximately 169,000 AAPIs voted in Washington, making up about 5.9% of the state’s 2.85 million votes. Washington’s 300,000 eligible AAPI voters make up 7% of the state’s 4.2 million CVAP (2004). AAPIs could impact the outcome in Washington, with only a few points separating the candidates.
AP National Writer
October 26, 2008

LORTON, Va. (AP) — For a long time, says Loc Pfeiffer, his fellow Asian-Americans were passive participants in American politics. But things are changing.

“Asians don’t like confrontation or being adversarial, but that’s politics,” says Pfeiffer, a 41-year-old lawyer who was 6 when his parents brought him to America from Vietnam.

“The more we’re raised and bred here, the less likely we are to be passive. So much of our culture, it’s a very, very obedient culture. … You don’t argue with the government. You don’t argue with Big Brother. There’s the assumption that you give up all your individual rights for the whole. Which is astounding to me, because I’m American now.”

An assertive Asian America matters, especially in places like Virginia and Nevada, swing states where Asians have been growing in numbers and influence.

With a booming population of highly educated, increasingly Americanized voters, this former “silent minority” is entering the most engaged and visible era of its political history.

The number of Asians in the United States has grown 25 percent in the last seven years, to 15 million, said Jane Junn, an associate professor of political science at Rutgers University. Educated people are more likely to vote, and 50 percent of the Asian population has a college degree, compared with 25 percent of the U.S. population, Junn said.

“There comes a point where there’s a critical mass,” said Junn, whose parents were born in Korea. “When you’re only one person out of 100, you’re very self-conscious about (becoming politically active). But there is power in numbers.”

Asian attitudes toward the two presidential candidates are as varied as the nations stretching from India to Malaysia to Japan, lumped into one racial category by the U.S. Census.

Yet some say Barack Obama’s rise from humble origins resonates with many Asians who value education and hard work as the keys to success and have been forced to fit their heritage into an American framework.

In a recent column for the San Francisco Chronicle, writer Jeff Yang was even inspired to riff on President Clinton’s honorary black membership and ask if Obama’s background – parental academic pressure, struggle for identity, guilt-wielding mother, Harvard education – would make him the first Asian-American president.

“So much of what we deal with is the notion of being outsiders, foreigners, of being outside the social dialogue of the United States,” Yang said in an interview. “You look at Obama and those are some of the same aspersions and slanders being cast at him. He’s kind of the closest thing we can have legally to an immigrant in the White House. He’s somebody who understands this journey that Asian-Americans and other immigrants have made.”

Obama also spent much of his youth in Hawaii, with its Asian-American majority, and in Indonesia. Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, is the daughter of his white mother and an Indonesian businessman, and has helped reach out to the Asian-American community.

Yang added that his Taiwan-born parents, who had never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, were seriously considering Obama.

News of Yang’s Obama proclamation inspired hearty laughter at the gathering of a half-dozen lawyers at the home of 65-year-old Paul Nguyen in Lorton. Although many had voted Republican in the past, all but one planned to vote for Obama.

When Nguyen said Asians had to learn the American political system and form a bloc to demand something in return for their votes, the conversation bubbled over:

“We never ask for anything. We always work for what we get.”

“We’re too diverse. You can’t bring the Filipinos, the Koreans, the Japanese, everybody all together.”

“We’re still in the infancy of our presence here.”

“Now we’re more active, more aware. Over the last 10 or 20 years it’s happened very slowly.”

In the past, Asians were largely overlooked during past presidential campaigns because of their widely varied nationalities and concentration in the reliably Democratic states of California and New York.

Now, both campaigns have national Asian outreach efforts. In Virginia, Obama’s campaign is focusing on sending language-specific volunteers to register voters from particular countries. The McCain campaign’s priority is securing the support of community leaders from the Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian and Filipino communities.

Although no Democratic presidential candidate has won Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, polls show Obama edging ahead. Meanwhile, the state’s Asian population has grown from 3.7 percent in 2000 to 4.8 percent in 2006, above the national average of 4.4 percent.

Virginia’s Asians are concentrated in the D.C. suburbs, where the Asian population reaches as high as 16 percent in Fairfax County, as well as the Norfolk area, where the naval operations have attracted Filipinos.

There are roughly 300,000 voting-age Asians in Virginia, and about 100,000 registered Asian voters, according to estimates from the Obama and McCain campaigns.

In 2006, after incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen was caught on tape using the slur “macaca” to describe an Indian from the opposing campaign, he lost to Democrat Jim Webb by 7,231 votes out of 2.37 million ballots cast. Seventy-six percent of the Asian vote went against Allen.

In the past, many Asians nationally have leaned Republican because of the party’s record of fighting Communism, support for small business owners, and emphasis on personal responsibility and family values.

A Vietnamese group from northern Virginia recently endorsed McCain at a rally attended by about 200 people. Some Asian supporters point to McCain’s military service, Vietnam imprisonment, an adopted daughter from Bangladesh, plus his support in the Senate for issues such as free trade and visa waivers.

Tuyet Duong, who has been canvassing undecided Vietnamese voters for the Obama campaign, said many people she talks to are voting based on the candidates’ life stories rather than the issues, and the fact that McCain fought in Vietnam strikes a powerful chord.

Yet Asian voters nationwide appear to be favoring Obama, the Democrat, in greater numbers than the 54 percent who voted for Democrat John Kerry in 2004.

This could be explained by President Bush’s unpopularity, Obama’s recent rise in the polls amid the economic implosion, or the fact that Obama’s Senate chief of staff and legislative director are Asian. But it also has something to do with a new generation of Asian-Americans.

Two-thirds of U.S. Asians are foreign-born. Their American-born children are now thriving, many in professions like medicine, law and high-tech industries. English is the first language of this second generation. And they have landed squarely in the Obama sweet spot of young and educated supporters.

“I’ve lived my life trying to be kind of race-neutral,” said Michael Chang, 34, who was born in Washington, D.C. to Korean parents. After his father died when he was 10, Chang’s mother sent him to law school and his sister to two doctoral degrees, all on a legal secretary’s salary.

Chang, who is married to an Italian immigrant, plans to vote for Obama because he likes his stance on the issues and because he’s younger. He also believes that Obama’s background, coupled with his rejection of racial rhetoric, makes him more relatable for younger, mainstream Asians.

“I’m proud of my heritage, said Chang, “but I think of myself as American.”


Survivor: Cook Islands Winner Yul Kwon and Why Media Portrayal of Asian Americans Matters

Yul Kwon Asian American Survivor: Cook Islands winner TV personality JadeLuckClub Jade Luck ClubYul Kwon is the host of the PBS series “America Revealed” and winner of the reality TV show “Survivor: Cook Islands.” He has worked in law, government, business and technology, is the vice chair of the Council of Korean American Leaders and sits on the advisory boards of the Asian American Justice Center, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and NetKAL. 

But besides his impressive resume, I find Yul Kwon an interesting role model and thought leader for Asian Americans everywhere because he realizes the importance of the media and how much it influences Asian Americans to be either included as part of the cultural melting pot or marginalized as stereotypes on the fringe.

Here’s his story of how he came to be in a position to be a positive Asian American media role model, happily relinquishing his career as an Ivy League attorney. Will his TV presence make a difference for your kids or mine? I think so. I actually do. On Survivor: Cook Island he was both Asian American, smart, strong, athletically gifted, articulate and charismatic. And he still has a Stanford undergraduate, Yale Law School background both as fall back and to say to the Tiger Moms out there that there are other successful options besides Doctor/Lawyer/Engineer/Accountant. Thank god for that!

He brings up a good point: if we don’t see ourselves portrayed in the media, it marginalizes us as a group. He intends to change that by being a role model for Asian Americans. But to really change how the media portrays Asian Americans, we must be filmmakers, producers, writers,  directors, and reality TV stars. Do you agree? Why or why not? Please comment. Yul’s story is below.

From Red Chair Interview

“My parents immigrated to the United States fromSouth Korea in 1970 with big dreams, but little money. Since they couldn’t afford to put my brother and me in daycare or preschool, they encouraged us to watch television as a way to learn English. Every morning, my brother and I watched “Sesame Street” on PBS, which taught us how to count and recite the alphabet. Not only did our TV become another caregiver, it became the primary medium through which I learned about the world. It allowed me to see and experience things I’d never seen before.  It helped me imagine a better future for me and my family. I studied hard and eventually made my way to Stanford University and then Yale Law School. For a poor kid like me, television helped provide the inspiration and vision I needed to realize the American dream.

But as much as television was a source of empowerment and inspiration, it was also a powerful source of constraint. Television defined the way I saw myself and my relationships with other people, and I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me. Asian-American characters were few and far between, and for lack of better alternatives, my favorite childhood hero was Big Bird. He wasn’t real, of course, but I didn’t care. He was nice, had lots of friends and was yellow – and hence, clearly, Asian.

In the rare instances I did see Asian-Americans actors, they were always portrayed as one-dimensional stereotypes. Women were submissive sexual servants or exotic dragon ladies. Men were inevitably math geeks who couldn’t get a date, or kung fu masters who could kick butt, but couldn’t speak English. In almost every instance, people of Asian descent were depicted as foreigners, not as Americans.

Over time, I internalized those images and grew ashamed of myself and my ethnicity. At school, I would mumble and talk fast because I didn’t think anyone would listen. I had a lisp, which people would sometimes mistake for an accent. I became afraid to speak for fear of being ridiculed. I eventually developed obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety and paruresis (“shy bladder” syndrome), the symptoms of which arose after I was bullied relentlessly in the bathroom by kids who called me “chink” or “gouk.”

It wasn’t until I became older that I began to address these problems directly, but even so, it took years to develop the self-awareness and confidence I needed to overcome them. As I found the courage to share my experiences with other people, I found that I wasn’t alone, that others had grown up feeling ashamed and ostracized. I came to understand how deeply and pervasively media had shaped the way I and other people in my community understood ourselves, and resolved that if I ever got the chance, I would try to drive meaningful change. ”



Quotas for Asian American College Applicants? Yes and No

Dr. Ed Chin JadeLuckClub Jade Luck ClubFrom The Washington Post

Ed Chin is the lone voice out there that also is righteously aggrieved about the discrimination against Asian Americans who apply to elite, private colleges. Yes, these applicants are very qualified and apply in droves, yet should this mean that the bar should be raised for a minority “group?” Here’s one point of view about why this is happening. For more posts on Why You Shouldn’t Identify as Asian When Applying to Elite, Private Colleges or Grad Schools, please go here.

I happen to agree with Ed Chin that Affirmative Action is outdated, that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are very different and should not be lumped together as a group, and that admissions assistance should be doled out by socio-economic status NOT by race. What do you think?

By Jay Mathews

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2005; 10:12 AM

Asian American applicants to selective colleges appear to be at a disadvantage. Nationally, they have the highest average SAT scores, and yet many African American and Hispanic students with lower scores and grades are accepted to Ivy Leagues schools while high-performing Asian American students are rejected even when their families are similarly poor and undereducated.

My Oct. 12 column (“Should Colleges Have Quotas for Asian Americans?”) discussed this, and I assumed it would attract little comment. Unfairness to that relatively small minority group is almost never mentioned by major news organizations. Outspoken advocates for change, like New Jersey physician Ed Chin who inspired the column, are few in number and mostly ignored.

As Chin noted, the percent of African American and Hispanic students in selective college freshman classes is often higher than the percent of applicants from that group, while the opposite is true of Asian Americans. In 2001, 20.3 percent of applicants to Brown University’s class of 2005 were Asian American, but only 16 percent of the acceptances were. The percent of white applicants and acceptances was about the same, 66 percent, while African Americans comprised 9 percent of the acceptances and only 6 percent of the applicants, and Hispanics had 9 percent of the acceptances and only 7.1 percent of the applicants.But I was wrong. The e-mails poured in, obliging me to share the surprising reaction I received to this overlooked aspect of the affirmative action issue.

Chin is of Chinese descent, and was raised in New York City by low-income, immigrant parents. I thought I would hear from many Asian Americans who supported Chin, while other readers would be skeptical. But I was wrong. Readers of Asian descent were as divided on the issue as everyone else. The clash of race and class, of fairness and equity in this particular debate is so complex that nobody seems to have a predictable reaction, which is fine with me.

Virginia Y. Kim, for instance, is a lawyer in Chicago who grew up in an affluent, suburban Cleveland Korean-American family with what she called “the traditional Asian education ethos.” She said she has heard complaints like Chin’s all her life and her response has always been, “Who said life was fair?”

Huy N. Tran, a San Jose State University student of Vietnamese descent, said he thought it was wrong for Chin to suggest that other cultures do not value education as much as Asian American cultures do. “I have met students of all different cultures who take a full load of classes and work several jobs to pay for their education,” he said.

Anne Soh, a Korean-American Wellesley graduate, said she agreed with Chin that it is theoretically unfair that there is a quota at the top schools that works against Asians. But she said she would not want to attend a college that dispensed with the affirmative action race-balancing policies that Chin and others find so distasteful because part of the learning experience of college is getting to know people from different backgrounds.

On Chin’s side, however, was Arun Mantri, who was born in India and has children at a very selective public school, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County. He said it was wrong that high-quality Asian students at that school were being rejected by top colleges. “Their chances would improve dramatically if race was not used as a factor in admissions, perhaps at the cost of the white applicants, something that only a few selective schools have dared to do,” he said.

Also supporting Chin’s argument was a member of one of the minority groups that tends to get more of a break in college admissions than Asian Americans do. Paul Grandpierre described himself as “a first generation Haitian American from a really poor family who managed to graduate law school.” He said he thought affirmative action was better than doing nothing about the “inclination of the human heart to rationalize superficial differences into fundamental differences.” But, he said, “I agree with Mr. Chin that today, affirmative action should focus on the poor and not merely on blacks. . . . I can tell you that from my experience that being poor presented more powerful obstacles to my unlikely ascent than being black.”

Chin also had support from non-Hispanic white readers. Jeff Werthan said it was paternalistic and patronizing for me to suggest that “a hard-working and brilliant Asian student and his or her family . . . should be satisfied with the other admittedly good schools out there if they are otherwise deserving of admission to Harvard or Yale.”

A white reader, who declined to let me use his name because he does not want to offend the university that employs him, said his experience as an admissions officer confirms Chin’s sense of unfairness. “What scares the top colleges is what their campuses might look like, racially speaking” if they followed Chin’s suggestion and rejected middle-class African American and Hispanic students in favor of higher-scoring, low-income Asians. They fear, he said, “the sort of intense heat they’d take for the presumed drop in ‘diversity.'”

Chin’s argument does, however, rest upon sophisticated analysis of test scores and a willingness to emphasize averages, rather than the many individual cases that do not support his point. Many readers saw that as a weakness.

Mike Martin, a research analyst with the Arizona School Boards Association, warned Chin against putting so much weight on test scores in determining who is being discriminated against, particularly when looking at the narrow band at the very top of the SAT scale. “So if you accidentally mismark a question, or misconstrue a question, only one question, you could drop out of the 1600 club,” he said. “In W. Edward Deming’s preaching about corporate management he warned about making decisions based on differences that were within normal variation.”

Michael J. McCabe, whose children have attended the challenging D.C. private school, St. Anselm’s Abbey, noted that white kids are also rejected by selective colleges for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their applications. His older son graduated in the top five of his high school class, had a 1470 SAT, was an Eagle Scout, captain and founder of the school’s Science Bowl team and co-captain of its “It’s Academic” team. Yet he was rejected by Dartmouth, Rice and the University of Virginia. McCabe thinks U-Va. had reached its quota for students from D.C. private schools, not an unreasonable theory given the way such colleges fill their classes.

So now, McCabe said, his son is thriving academically at Carnegie Mellon, but he and his roommate, who is from China, often complain about “the large proportion of Asians in the engineering and computer programs and the limited interaction they have with students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Most of the people who responded to the column appeared sympathetic, however, to Chin’s view that colleges should make less of race in their admissions decisions and look more closely at family income. A student who had overcome difficult circumstances to compile an impressive high school record was likely to appreciate what a great university had to offer.

If the system is to change, and worthy Asian American students are to get what they deserve, they are going to need more advocates than just Ed Chin and the few other civil rights and admissions experts who have raised these issues. Shellye McKinney, a former college admissions officer, said that “affirmative action was created because people fought for it” and those who think it is hurting students of Asian descent are going to have to struggle in the same way to make themselves heard.

As I usually tell Chin when he rails against the American media in general and me in particular for not giving his concerns enough attention, there has to be dramatic evidence of support for his thinking before editors and news directors will get interested. Street demonstrations, boycotts, major conferences, bills in Congress — all those things would help.

The press tends to pay attention to those who are shouting the loudest, and so far the people Chin is trying to help have been very quiet.


What Ethnic Groups Benefit From Affirmative Action for College Admissions?

What Ethnic Groups benefit from Affirmative Action issues racial fissures JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club

This is a great article that sums up the issues that make Affirmative Action outdated.

  • Asian Americans: Those with Southeast Asian origins tend to be lower income and less educated than their counterparts from South and East Asia, alike. Given this, should a Vietnamese-American college applicant and a Japanese-American college applicant be subject to the same affirmative action policy?
  • African Americans: Among African Americans, class divides exist between blacks native to the United States and foreign-born blacks, with the latter achieving higher incomes and levels of education than the former.
  • Is affirmative action reaching the most vulnerable segments of underrepresented groups?
For more posts on Asian Americans, Affirmative Action, and Admissions Policies, please click here.


By Guide

Affirmative action and minorities are often linked, but are the ethnic groups who need it most reaping its benefits in college admissions? A look at how affirmative action plays out among Asian-American and African-American students suggests maybe not.

The Diversity of Asian America

In the educational realm, colleges and universities often exclude Asian Americans from receiving affirmative action benefits. That’s because the racial group is already highly represented on college campuses nationwide. But a closer look at Asian America reveals distinct class divides among its ethnic groups. For instance, those with Southeast Asian origins tend to be lower income and less educated than their counterparts from South and East Asia, alike. Given this, should a Vietnamese-American college applicant and a Japanese-American college applicant be subject to the same affirmative action policy?

The African American Dilemma

Among African Americans, class divides exist between blacks native to the United States and foreign-born blacks, with the latter achieving higher incomes and levels of education than the former. In fact, the U.S. Census indicates that African immigrants to the U.S. are the most highly educated group of people in the entire country. In America’s most elite colleges and universities, the blacks on campus are often immigrants or the children of immigrants. Does this mean affirmative action is failing to serve the descendants of slaves, the group some scholars argue that it was designed to help?

Who Was Affirmative Action Meant to Serve?

How did affirmative action come about, and who was meant to reap its benefits? In the 1950s, civil rights activists successfully challenged segregation in the education, food and transportation realms, to name a few. Due to the thriving Civil Rights Movement, President John Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925 in 1961. The order made reference to “affirmative action” as a means by which to end discrimination. Affirmative action prioritizes the placement of underrepresented groups in sectors from which they were categorically barred in the past, including the workplace and the academy.

Back then, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans faced a wide range of barriers because of their racial backgrounds-from being forced to live in segregated neighborhoods to being denied adequate medical care and fair access to employment. Because of the pervasive discrimination such groups faced, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was created. It functions, in part, to eliminate employment discrimination. The year after the act passed, President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, which mandated that federal contractors practice affirmative action to develop diversity in the workplace and end race-based discrimination, among other sorts. By the late 1960s, educational institutions were using affirmative action to diversify the nation’s colleges.

How Deep Are Intra-Racial Divides?

Thanks to affirmative action, college campuses have grown more diverse over the years. But is affirmative action reaching the most vulnerable segments of underrepresented groups? Take Harvard, for example. In recent years, the institution has come under fire because such a large number of black students on campus are either immigrants or immigrants’ children. It’s estimated that two-thirds of students there come from families which hail from the Caribbean or Africa, the New York Times reported. Therefore, blacks who have resided in the country for generations, the ones who endured slavery, segregation and other barriers, aren’t reaping the benefits of affirmative action en masse.

Harvard isn’t the only elite institution to see this trend play out. Inside Higher Ed magazine cited a study published in the Sociology of Education which found that selective colleges enroll just 2.4 percent of native black high school graduates but 9.2 percent of immigrant blacks. Another study cited by Inside Higher Ed, published in The American Journal of Education, found that 27 percent of black students at selective colleges are first- or second-generation immigrants. However, this group makes up only 13 percent of all black people between the ages of 18 and 19 in the United States, leaving little doubt that immigrant blacks are over-represented in elite academic institutions.

A large number of Asian Americans are first- or second-generation immigrants, of course. But even in this population, divides exist among native and foreign-born individuals. According to the 2007 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census, just 15 percent of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have bachelor’s degrees, and just 4 percent have graduate degrees. Meanwhile, 50 percent of Asian Americans overall have bachelor’s degrees and 20 percent have graduate degrees. While Asian Americans generally are highly educated and well represented on the nation’s college campuses, clearly the indigenous segment of this population is being left behind.

What’s the Solution?

Colleges which seek multicultural student bodies must treat African Americans and Asian Americans as diverse groups and not as homogenous entities. Achieving this requires taking into account an applicant’s specific ethnic background when considering students for admission. If not, America’s intra-racial divides will likely soon rival the nation’s inter-racial fissures.




Asian Americans: Can We Be Bohemian? Nah!

Bohemian Grove JadeLuckClub Can Tiger Mom Moms Parents Asian Americans be Bohemian? Jade Luck Club 

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits.

In this context, Bohemians can be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.

This use of the word bohemian first appeared in the English language in the 19th century to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artistswritersjournalistsmusicians, and actors in major European cities. Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which were often expressed through free lovefrugality, and voluntary poverty.

The term Bohemianism emerged in France in the early 19th century when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class gypsy neighborhoods. Bohémien was a common term for the Romani people of France, who had reached Western Europe via Bohemia.


I had no idea that there was an actual country called Bohemia from which the term Bohemian is derived. In my mind, Bohemian is Haight-Ashbury San Francisco in the 60’s. I’ve had several mom friends recently who described their families as “bohemian.”

“You know,” they’d say, “We’re creatives/counter-culture/Bohemian.”

And it sounded good. You know, non-rule followers. Independents on many levels. Accountable to no one or sort of like that. And I wanted to try it out. We did have some similarities, after all. We all worked from home and had our own businesses. We were at the same schools.

In my head, I rolled it around: “We’re a Bohemian family too…” And it just didn’t work. Not only did it not roll of the tongue, but the image of an Asian American Bohemian was laughable, ridiculous, and even downright embarrassing.

Is it true that Asian Americans can’t be Bohemian?  Even the pop/rock musicians that I’ve tracked down — The Slants and David Choi — exhibit a strong work ethnic that is more Confucianism than Bohemian. There are no Asian American parents that I know of exposing free lovefrugality, and voluntary poverty as a parenting message. Nope, the message that I hear more often is work hard, try harder, be better.

Confucianism Confucius Can Asian Americans be Bohemian? JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club

 Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (Kǒng Fūzǐ, or K’ung-fu-tzu, lit. “Master Kong”, 551–478 BC).

The core of Confucianism is humanism, the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation.

What do you think? Can Asian Americans be Bohemian? Do you know of any? Please share!


Bingo Game: Asian American Success Stories

Successful Asian Americans Bingo Card JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club

I found this bingo card online at here. It struck me as both funny and slightly odd but I am going with it. Maybe someday I would play bingo using Asian American role models. There are other minority group bingo cards available too: African  American, Hispanic American, and American Women. View this as a social commentary on minority success, I suppose though I am not sure this card needs to be updated.

Who would you pick to put on this bingo card?


Anti Asian American Racism Perpetrated by Other Minority Groups: Black Racism by Ying Ma

Black African American Racism against Asian Americans JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club

If you are a minority, can you be racist?

This is a thorny topic that Asian American activists don’t want to talk about: racism by African Americans in inner cities across America against Asian Americans. Because I grew up in a suburb of California, I personally am not familiar with this but I have to say that since I have been blogging about how Asian Americans are discriminated against by elite private colleges and universities, the most extreme responses from my alumni group (Harvard Alumni in LinkedIn) have come from the African Americans who find the success of Asian Americans to be very threatening in the college admissions arena.

Ying Ma’s article is very interesting in that it sums up what is most Asian about all of us: we Asian Americans are culturally raised to be  non-confrontational whether this means ignoring vicious bullying to not acknowledging racism from another minority group. Even our activists are intimated into silence, acceptance and/or denial that African Americans harbor resentment of Asian Americans which manifests into bullying, harassment and acts of violence. Could it be that African Americans prejudice stems from our “Model Minority” success that reflects back on them, making them look bad? Or just that a minority group that is successful is to be resented? Will Latino Americans also receive this same treatment as they continue to improve their economic status?

What do you think of this article? Have you been the target of black racism? Do you think this exists? Do you think it should be acknowledged and confronted? Do you find that this is subject that makes Asian American leaders very squirmy and uncomfortable? Is this idea that minorities unite against racism a pipe dream? Please comment!


Nov/Dec/1998 Fresh Thinking About Race in America

Black Racism
by Ying Ma

In what passes for discussions on race these days, small problems are often blown up large, while real traumas are completely ignored. For instance, despite what President Clinton’s “Race Initiative” panel has said, the very rawest racial conflicts in present-day America don’t even fit into the tidy mold of white-majority-oppressing-colored-minority that activists constantly promote. Though civil rights groups and most of the media studiously ignore this fact, the nations most fractious racial battles are now conflicts between minority populations. Particularly horrific is the animosity directed at Asian Americans by blacks in low-income areas of urban America .

At age ten, I immigrated from China to Oakland , California , a city filled with crime, poverty, and racial tension. In elementary school, I didn’t wear name-brand clothing or speak English. My name soon became “Ching Chong,” “Chinagirl,” and “Chow Mein.” Other children laughed at my language, my culture, my ethnicity, and my race. I said nothing.

After a few years, I began to speak English, but not well enough to trade racial insults. On rides home from school I avoided the back of the bus so as not to be beaten up. But even when I sat in the front, fire crackers, paper balls, small rocks, and profanity were thrown at me and the other “stupid Chinamen.” The label “Chinamen” was dished out indiscriminately to Vietnamese, Koreans, and other Asians. When I looked around, I saw that the other “Chinamen” tuned out the insults by eagerly discussing movies, friends, and school.

During my secondary school years, racism, and then the combination of outrage and bitterness that it fosters, accompanied me home on the bus every day. My English was by now more fluent than that of those who insulted me, but most of the time I still said nothing to avoid being beaten up. In addition to everything else thrown at me, a few times a week I was the target of sexual remarks vulgar enough to make Howard Stern blush. When I did respond to the insults, I immediately faced physical threats or attacks, along with the embarrassing fact that the other “Chinamen” around me simply continued their quiet personal conversations without intervening. The reality was that those who cursed my race and ethnicity were far bigger in size than most of the Asian children who sat silently.

The racial harassment wasn’t limited to bus rides. It surfaced in my high school cafeteria, where a middle-aged Chinese vendor who spoke broken English was told by rowdy students each day at lunch time to “Hurry up, you dumb Ching!” On the sidewalks, black teenagers and adults would creep up behind 80-year-old Asians and frighten them with sing-song nonsense: “Yee-ya, Ching-chong, ah-ee, un-yahhh!” At markets and in the streets of poor black neighborhoods, Asians would be told, “Why the hell don’t you just go back to where you came from!”

When it came time for college, I left this ugly world for a beautiful school far away. Finally, it was possible to pursue a life without racial harassment backed by the threat of violence. I chose not to return to my old neighborhood after college, but I am often reminded of the racial discrimination I endured there. On a bus not too long ago I saw a black woman curse at a Korean man, “You f—ing Chinese person! Didn’t you hear that I asked you to move yo ass? You too stupid to understand English or something?”

In poor neighborhoods across this country Asians endure daily racial hatred just as I did. Because of their language deficiencies, their small size, their fear of violent confrontations, they endure in silence. Unlike me, many of them will never depart for a new life in a beautiful place far, far away. So each day they grow more bitter against a group that much of America refuses to acknowledge to be capable of racism: African Americans.

In a fair and peaceful world, racial harassment will be decried without regard to its source. The problem today is that prominent black leaders rule out even the possibility of black racism. Activists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson intone that racism equals “prejudice plus power,” and that since blacks in America lack power, they are simply not capable of practicing racism against anyone. John Hope Franklin, chair of President Clinton’s race panel, angrily insists that racism is something suffered, not dished out, by blacks. Many black professors, writers, polemicists, and politicians repeat the same mantra. What might appear to be black racism, writes syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, actually boils down not to racism but to acts of crime and rudeness from the perpetrators, and tough luck for the recipients.

Rationalizers of black racism ignore the fact that identical actions inflicted by whites would be universally decried as intolerable. Ultimately, their arguments simply grease the skids for further traumatizing of “unlucky” victims. And to real-life casualties of racial animosity, motivation is not especially relevant. Loss is loss. Pain is pain.

Unfortunately, Asian Americans and especially their leaders have failed to speak out on this matter. Complaints from wounded individuals regularly boil into public view, however. In mid-August, I attended a crowded press conference held in New York’s Chinatown to discuss Indonesia s history of discrimination against ethnic Chinese (which peaked this May in a wave of bloody anti-Chinese riots). One woman at the event began to hysterically scream out her frustrations over black American racism against Asians. The woman, Mee Ying Lin, shouted, “Chinese suffer from racial discrimination by blacks every day. We should help persecuted Chinese overseas, but why is no one dealing with our own troubles in America ?”

Rose Tsai, head of the San Francisco Neighbors Association, and candidate for a seat on the citys Board of Supervisors, suggests that everyday Asians rarely defend themselves against ghetto racism because “Asian culture is just not that confrontational. Asians are unlike blacks who got to where they are in politics by being militant.”

Tsai explains that Asian involvement in politics is at a nascent stage, that it is difficult for her organization even to convince Asian immigrants to vote, let alone make a political stink against racial harassment. “Asians are just not used to standing up for our own rights,” says another Bay Area Chinese activist with frustration.

That might explain the quiescence of recent immigrants who speak imperfect English. But what about the growing cadre of Asian activists? They are far from passive or non-confrontational. In just the past two years, organizations like the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, the National Asian-Pacific American Legal Consortium, the Organization for Chinese Americans, and others have voiced loud condemnations of “racism” in American society. But they have focused on events like the recent investigation of Asian donors of illegal campaign funds, the Republican opposition in Congress to Bill Lann Lees nomination as director of the Office of Civil Rights, a cover drawing for National Review that showed the President, Vice President, and First Lady dressed in Manchurian garb, and even a recent cover photo for this magazine that showed a handsome Asian male scowling angrily at the camera.

If vocal Asian activists are able to work themselves into a frenzy attacking everyday political tussles and editorial cartoons for their alleged racist motivations, they are obviously capable of confrontation. Why then do we never hear these national activists condemning black racism against Asians in our inner cities?

Some Asian-American activists say the reason they have not confronted anti-Asian racism among blacks is because the tension does not exist on the national level, but is merely confined to some local areas. Karen Narasaki of the National Asian-Pacific American Legal Consortium claimed in a recent interview that black animosity is different in each city and ought to be handled differently in each case by local organizations. David Lee, executive director of one such local organization, the San Francisco Voters Education Committee, concurs: “There may be a few communities and a few areas where tensions existso it is better for community groups rather than a national organization like the Organization of Chinese Americans to deal with such problems.”

Representatives of national Asian organizations also cite resource constraints to explain their quiescence. They say black-Asian clashes are not a serious enough national issue to expend scarce time and money on.

There is a difference, however, between not being able to expend effort and not wanting to. Asian activists on the national level also matter-of-factly justify black racism in inner cities as a direct result of competition between Asians and their black neighbors over limited economic resources. Narasaki, while acknowledging she is not an inner city expert, insists that many black and Asian conflicts “have to do with the lack of economic opportunities” in cities. Echoing this refrain, Stanley Mark, program director of the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, asserts that “we can’t talk about race without talking about economic disparities.”

In this vein, Asian activists consistently mention that racial problems occur when Asian merchants move into predominantly black neighborhoods and flourish. The vicious year-long black boycott of a Korean store in Brooklyn in 1990, and the looting and burning of Korean stores in south-central Los Angeles during the 1992 Rodney King riots serve as shining examples of conflicts linked to economic disparities.

The excuse of economic disparities fails miserably to justify violence and harassment, however. For some observers, it also brings up memories of Nazi persecution of Jews, African attacks on Indian merchants, and recent murders, rapes, and robberies of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia . All of these atrocities were committed against people deemed economically well off by larger masses facing difficult times.

In any case, the economic disparities rationale falls apart in the many instances where racism flourishes in the absence of class differences. At San Francisco’s Hunters Point public housing complex, for instance, low-income Southeast Asian residents, who are in the minority, have consistently encountered racial harassment from their black neighbors. Racial slurs, physical threats, violence, and destruction of property have festered for years. Philip Nguyen of the Southeast Asian Community Center, who has worked on the case for years, notes that there are no economic differences between the Asian and black families in the complex. The Asians, he says, are very quiet and have made every effort to befriend the black residents, yet serious friction has persisted for ten years.

Joe Hicks, executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission, painstakingly tried to bring blacks and Asians together after the Rodney King riots. He believes that “much of the hostilities are due to blacks jealousy of Asian economic success, a sense of alienation, and the self-perpetuating belief that blacks will always lose out in the racial equation in America .” He adds that “certainly economics gives a basis to many of the problems,” but asserts that “even if tomorrow we can have a level playing field for both racial groups, we would still have animosity and racial strife” because prejudices would still remain.

Asian activists who are not otherwise inclined to ignore prejudice are often strangely anxious to apologize for black racism. In interviews, they note that Asians harbor many prejudices against blacks too. This explanation, however, has no power to explain the kind of harassment I and many others like me experienced as young immigrant children beginning life with no animus toward anyone.

Asian prejudice toward blacks surely exists. But whatever biases might be harbored in the minds of Asian immigrants, many of whom had never seen a black person before arriving in the U.S., they certainly don’t rate at the level of destroying black people’s property, scaring their elderly folk, or threatening and assaulting their children the kinds of pressures Asians in many urban areas now endure routinely. Asian youths in particular typically start out with little or no inclination to distrust or dislike African Americans. Young Asians are usually far more willing than their parents to accept a new country and new friends, including black ones. In many cases, it was only after innumerable frightening chases, assaults, and humiliations that Asian attitudes toward blacks turned defensive. Those of us whose open minds were confronted with hostility and hatred will never accept the insulting assertion that our suffering resulted from our own prejudices.

It seems that leaders of the Organization of Chinese Americans, the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, and related groups are disconnected from the real concerns of many of the Asians they claim to represent. David Lee, whose Bay Area organization is attempting to promote local dialogue among minority journalists, believes that a fundamental disconnection exists between the national Asian spokesmen and the new majority of Asians who are recent immigrants. The prominent Asian civil rights leaders, he notes, tend to be American born, to speak little of their ethnic languages, and to be unable to read the local ethnic newspapers. Many of them do not know or understand the problems in low income areas, because they live comfortable middle-class lives. And so “it is not surprising that they are silent about black-on-Asian discrimination,” Lee summarizes.

Bong Hwan Kim, executive director of the Korean Youth and Community Center in Los Angeles and an active member of the Black-Korean Alliance that attempted to bring African- and Korean-Americans together in the eight years before the south-central riots, describes a disconnection in the Korean community between first-generation immigrants and acculturated second generation residents with less familiarity with inner-city life. After the shops of Koreatown were looted or burned, he reports, the more suburbanized Koreans pushed inter-ethnic bridge-building efforts, while the first-generation immigrants who toiled in menial jobs, bridled at having to sit across the table from those who looted and burned their property. Meanwhile, few of the prominent national Asian organizations even condemned the violence perpetrated against Koreans in L.A.

Stanley Mark of the Asian American Legal Defense Fund argues in defense of the national Asian organizations that people hear less from the Asian leaders about black-on-Asian racism than white-on-Asian racism simply because there is less of the former than the latter. Mark insists he knows of no case where an Asian was seriously hurt or killed by a racist black American.

Underlining the disconnect between national and local perceptions, Liu Yu-xi, an organizer of the New York coalition of Chinese Americans that mobilized hundreds of thousands of normally politically apathetic Chinese to protest Indonesian violence against Chinese residents, chuckled at Stanley Marks ignorance of cases of black racism. Liu, who has known of many racially motivated physical attacks against Chinese in New York , observes, “Such crimes are reported often in the local Chinese papers, but the national Asian activists obviously do not know how to read Chinese.”

When asked why prominent Asians have said little about racial harassment by African Americans, Bill Tam of San Francisco s Chinese Family Alliance flatly stated, “I think they are afraid to say anything.” To him, it appears that Asian leaders are often fearful of the national black leadership. National Asian organizations generally follow the lead of black civil rights groups like the naacp so slavishly, another Bay Area activist told me, that even when the latters stances (for instance, on quotas and preferences) are opposed to the interests and beliefs of many Asian citizens, the Asian activists don’t challenge their allies.

Rose Tsai of the San Francisco Neighbors Association was a little more blunt: “Most Asian leaders do not wish to acknowledge that there exists a problem because they do not want the minorities to fight amongst themselves.” As a result, national Asian spokesmen speaking for their brethren are without any inkling of the real problems they face, or what kind of racism is dragging them down. Recognizing the complex issues between blacks and Asians, Philip Nguyen of the Southeast Asian Community Center has a simple proposal: “Fight, not against or for any group, but against racial discrimination.”

Ying Ma, who immigrated to the United States in 1985, is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York .


Inexplicable Suicides at MITand Cal Tech? The Price of Tiger Parenting and Model Minority Pressures?

MIT suicides MIT professor son Satto Tonegawa JadeLuckClub Asian American suicidesIt would seem that Freshman Satto Tonegawa had much to celebrate. He was starting at M.I.T. where his father was a professor. And at MIT, the grading system for Freshman is pass/fail to decrease the pressures of adjustment for the new incoming students. But less than two months into the school year, Tonegawa is discovered dead in his dorm room of apparent suicide. His family is in shock. And Tonegawa’s suicide comes on the heels of Sophomore MIT student Nicholas Del Castillo, a native of Bogotá, Colombia, just three days before school started. Two years ago, MIT’s first student from Swaziland, Kabelo Zwane committed suicide during his sophomore year.

Are MIT students at higher risk of committing suicide? It turns out that MIT has the highest suicide rate at 10.2 per 100,000 undergraduate and graduate students from A Boston Globe study of college suicides, 1990-2001. MIT graduate Molly B contests their study:

“My final statistics lesson has to do with something you may have heard — that MIT supposedly has a stratospherically high suicide rate. This is a contention supported by the Boston Globe, a group of stellar journalists, I’m sure, but not so good at the statistics thing. (I can’t find the original Globe article, but the article here makes all the points the original article made.) The Globe basically looked at the MIT suicide rate between 1990 and 1999, compared it to suicide rates at other schools, and decided it was too high. (Let’s just say there’s a reason the Globe article wasn’t published in a scientific journal. Sweeping conclusions backed up by questionable data like that make scientists — including me — want to bang their heads on hard surfaces.)

Now let’s look at some problems with the Globe’s grandiose conclusions:
1. People who successfully commit suicide are significantly more likely to be young and male. In the 1990s, the average MIT student was both those things; since then, the population has famously evened out. (Source here; relevant quote: “In fact, MIT’s suicide rate is below the national average if one adjusts figures for the school’s overwhelmingly male student body [during the years of the study].”)
2. Moreover, science, engineering, and business students have significantly higher suicide rates than do liberal arts students. MIT undergraduates are almost exclusively science, engineering, and/or business majors. Given that both those things are true, one would expect MIT to have a high suicide rate based on those demographics alone. (Source here; relevant quote: “Based on 10 undergraduate suicides over 11 years, the article concludes that suicide is a greater danger at MIT than elsewhere. When one factors in that science and business students have considerably higher suicide rates than liberal arts students, and that male college students kill themselves five times more often than female college students, the figures quoted prove nothing. MIT is cited as currently being composed of 59 percent male students; that fact alone would make the suicide rate differences with most other colleges understandable; but in the early 1990s an even higher percentage of the students at MIT were male.”)
3. The Globe compared MIT to other schools with engineering programs, which is a terrible control. Other schools have engineering programs, yes, but few other schools have 50% of the undergraduate student body majoring in engineering. If you don’t have appropriate controls (and it’s difficult to think of a school which would be a good control — Caltech is science/engineering focused too, but only having one school as the control population would be pretty sketchy.)
4. Statistics like this are terribly vulnerable to small swings in absolute numbers. The absolute number of suicides is very small, and therefore it takes many of them spread over many years to accurately determine whether or not the rate in one place is higher or lower than the rate in another. (Source here; quote: “Because of small number statistics, the “true” suicide rate — i.e., that that would be measured by an very large MIT in the limit of an infinite number of students — is, to 95% confidence, approximately 100,000*(11 +/- 2*sqrt(11)/48,000). At this level, MIT’s suicide rate is consistent with the national average… it would take approximately another thirty three years in order to obtain a measurement of the MIT suicide rate that could be distinguished from the national average at 95% confidence.”)”

And yet, while my analysis is not scientific, I can only wonder about Satto Tonegawa. It’s clear that he was unhappy at MIT but grades were not yet a factor. Perhaps there was undue pressure on him to go to MIT since his father taught there, but maybe this was not where he wanted to go. A highly accomplished musician might be more at home at a music school across the river from MIT.  I’ll never know and perhaps the loved ones that he leaves behind will not ever know why he killed himself.

I don’t know his father, but the negative press generated over “inappropriately discourag[ing] neuroscientist Alla Y. Karpova from taking a job at MIT because their research interests overlapped” leaves the impression of a person who was neither generous in spirit or nurturing.

Finally, one thing is apparent. Asian American young women, in particular, have some of the  highest suicide rates in the country and the reason is linked to Model Minority pressures from their parents. In fact, if you listen to New American Media story here, suicides by youths are quite common in Asia and are the result of not meeting high parental expectations, and the rise Asian American youth suicides stem from similar pressures.

While the MIT suicides hit home since I live in Boston, there are similar numbers at other prestigious colleges that involve an even high percentage of Asian Americans:

There were three Chinese American suicides at Cal Tech in just three months in 2009. “Three Chinese-American students at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have killed themselves in the last three months. Two died by helium asphyxiation and the cause of death of the third student, though deemed a suicide, is yet to be determined. Their stories have been covered in the Chinese language media, but remain virtually unreported in the mainstream.”

“At Cornell University, for instance, 13 of the 21 student suicide victims between 1996 and 2006 were Asians or Asian Americans. That picture is not complete unless you consider that Asians make up of only 14 percent of the total Cornell student body. Cornell is so concerned that in 2002 it formed a special Asian and Asian American Campus Climate Task Force to look into the reason behind the high number of suicides.”

What do you think the root cause of the rise of Asian American youth suicides are? What can be done? Please leave a comment.


“The 18-year-old son of a Nobel Prize-winning MIT professor was found dead this week in his room at the university, the second MIT undergraduate to be discovered dead in a dormitory this school year, authorities said.

Satto Tonegawa, an accomplished pianist and cellist who as a high school student was selected from thousands of young musicians to perform at Carnegie Hall, had entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a freshman this fall after graduating cum laude from Milton Academy.

Tonegawa’s body was found Tuesday, university and law enforcement officials said. They declined to provide details about the circumstances of his death.

“At this time, it does not appear to be suspicious or involve foul play,’’ said Cara O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office.

She said the cause of death is pending an autopsy with the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

In September, Nicolas Del Castillo, a sophomore from Bogota, Colombia, was found dead in his dorm after he hanged himself, just three days before classes began…

The last suicide at MIT before this year was the death of Kabelo Zwane in 2009.” from


“Tonegawa is the second MIT student to have died in less than two months. Nicolas E. Del Castillo, a sophomore, was found dead in his East Campus dormitory room on Sept. 4 in an apparent suicide…

Tonegawa was an avid musician, playing both piano and cello. He attended the Milton Academy before coming to MIT this fall, according to the Academy’s website, and graduated cum laude. Like his father, Tonegawa had an interest in the life sciences — he worked in the Orr-Weaver lab at the Whitehead Institute as a high-school student.

Prof. Tonegawa, recipient of the 1987 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, is a controversial figure. In 2006, Tonegawa resigned as director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory after an investigation found he had inappropriately discouraged neuroscientist Alla Y. Karpova from taking a job at MIT because their research interests overlapped.” from The Tech (MIT Online Newspaper)


Are Elite Universities Discriminating Against Asians? Yes and No.

Ivy League Asian Americans Discrimination Acceptance how to get in JadeLuckClubFrom CBS Are Elite Universities Discriminating Against Asians? by  Lynn O’Shaughnessy

This is the key point:

  • Not long ago, the issue of “Asian bias” was discussed at a major higher-ed conference and the panelists acknowledged that there could be bias from teachers, counselors and admission officers.
  • At the same time, the experts suggested that many Asians make the college admission process more difficult for themselves by tending to ignore the vast majority of colleges and universities.
Why are we Asian Americans applying to a narrow window of just ‘Top Schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Stanford, Northwestern, MIT, Cal Tech  END STOP. That’s crazy. It’s the same narrow reasoning why we also only play classical music and push for “safe careers” as doctors/lawyers/engineers/finance END STOP. It comes from the parents (I know — I’m a parent –) but we, ALL OF US,  need to take a fresh view on this because it’s not only hurting our children’s chances for acceptance but it’s also hurting their mental health.

For all posts on why you should not identify as Asian when applying to college, please click here.


Are Ivy League schools and other elite universities guilty of an Asian bias?

It’s a natural question to ask based on a new book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal:  Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life.

According to Thomas Espenshade, the author and a sociology professor at Princeton, elite private schools are far more likely to reject Asian American applicants than students of other races. The professor discovered that white students were three times more likely to get admitted to an elite school than an Asian applicant.

Espenshade  drew this conclusion after examining the admission records of seven highly elite (unnamed) schools from 1997. While the admission figures are admittedly old, higher-ed observers suggest that these admission patterns are still in place.

This finding will surely bolster the complaint of Asian American students and parents that they unfairly face higher admission hurdles because of discrimination.

Espenshade, however, cautions parents from using his research as a smoking gun. Asians are still attending elite private institutions and flagship state universities, such as  Cal Berkeley,  UCLA and UC-San Diego at far higher numbers than their percentage in the general population, which is less than 5%.

I was curious to see for myself just how high the Asian American concentrations are at a sampling of elite universities so I headed to where I found the following Ivy League statistics:

Percentage of Asian undergraduates

  • Harvard         19%
  • Cornell          18%
  • U. of Pennsylvania  18%
  • Princeton       17%
  • Brown U.        17%
  • Columbia U.   17%
  • Dartmouth     15%
  • Yale               14%

The Asian presence at the University of California system, which is forbidden from using affirmative action, is even greater because the schools rely heavily on grade point averages and class rank:

Percentage of Asian undergraduates

  • UC-Berkeley       42%
  • UCLA                 38%
  • UC-San Diego    49%
  • UC-Irvine           54%
  • UC-Davis           39%

A major reason why top research universities turn away so many bright Asians is because so many of them are applying to the same tiny handful of brand name elite universities. Often a third of the teenagers knocking on these doors are Asian.

Not long ago, the issue of “Asian bias” was discussed at a major higher-ed conference and the panelists acknowledged that there could be bias from teachers, counselors and admission officers. At the same time, the experts suggested that many Asians make the college admission process more difficult for themselves by tending to ignore the vast majority of colleges and universities.

Most schools would love to see more Asian teens apply to their institutions. No matter what a student’s ethnicity is, I’d suggest that it’s often wise to case a wider net.

To view the book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.


How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others

Russell K. Nieli professor at Princeton University JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club How Diversity Punishes Asians Poor Whites and other groups

Russell K. Nieli received his Ph.D. in political philosophy from Princeton University and currently works for Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He has been a lecturer in Princeton’s Politics Department and for ten years was an academic adviser to Princeton freshmen. This is from Minding the Campus: Reforming Our Universities.

Some interesting quotes:

  • A diverse college campus is understood as one that has a student body that — at a minimum — is 5 to 7 percent black (i.e., equivalent to roughly half the proportion of blacks in the general population).
  • As a secondary meaning “diversity” can also encompass Hispanics, who together with blacks are often subsumed by college administrators and admissions officers under the single race category “underrepresented minorities.”
  • Asians, unlike blacks and Hispanics, receive no boost in admissions. Indeed, the opposite is often the case, as the quota-like mentality that leads college administrators to conclude they may have “too many” Asians.
  • Indeed, there is probably no other area where college administrators are more likely to lie or conceal the truth of what they are doing than in the area of admissions and race.
  • On an “other things equal basis,” where adjustments are made for a variety of background factors, being Hispanic conferred an admissions boost over being white (for those who applied in 1997) equivalent to 130 SAT points (out of 1600), while being black rather than white conferred a 310 SAT point advantage. Asians, however, suffered an admissions penalty compared to whites equivalent to 140 SAT points.
  • Espenshade and Radford also take up very thoroughly the question of “class based preferences” and what they find clearly shows a general disregard for improving the admission chances of poor and otherwise disadvantaged whites.
  •  I suggest a different approach: elite colleges should get out of the diversity business altogether and focus on enrolling students who are the most academically talented and the most eager to learn. These students should make up the bulk of their entering classes. Call it the Cal Tech Model since the California Institute of Technology seems to be the only elite institution that comes close to realizing such an ideal.

For more posts on Why You Shouldn’t Identify as Asian When Applying to College, click here.


By Russell K. Nieli

When college presidents and academic administrators pay their usual obeisance to “diversity” you know they are talking first and foremost about race. More specifically, they are talking about blacks. A diverse college campus is understood as one that has a student body that — at a minimum — is 5 to 7 percent black (i.e., equivalent to roughly half the proportion of blacks in the general population). A college or university that is only one, two, or three percent black would not be considered “diverse” by college administrators regardless of how demographically diverse its student body might be in other ways. The blacks in question need not be African Americans — indeed at many of the most competitive colleges today, including many Ivy League schools, an estimated 40-50 percent of those categorized as black are Afro-Caribbean or African immigrants, or the children of such immigrants.

As a secondary meaning “diversity” can also encompass Hispanics, who together with blacks are often subsumed by college administrators and admissions officers under the single race category “underrepresented minorities.” Most colleges and universities seeking “diversity” seek a similar proportion of Hispanics in their student body as blacks (since blacks and Hispanics are about equal in number in the general population), though meeting the black diversity goal usually has a much higher priority than meeting the Hispanic one.

Asians, unlike blacks and Hispanics, receive no boost in admissions. Indeed, the opposite is often the case, as the quota-like mentality that leads college administrators to conclude they may have “too many” Asians. Despite the much lower number of Asians in the general high-school population, high-achieving Asian students — those, for instance, with SAT scores in the high 700s — are much more numerous than comparably high-achieving blacks and Hispanics, often by a factor of ten or more. Thinking as they do in racial balancing and racial quota terms, college admissions officers at the most competitive institutions almost always set the bar for admitting Asians far above that for Hispanics and even farther above that for admitting blacks.


“Diversity” came to be so closely associated with race in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bakke decision in 1978. In his decisive opinion, Justice Lewis Powell rejected arguments for racial preferences based on generalized “societal discrimination,” social justice, or the contemporary needs of American society as insufficiently weighty to overrule the color-blind imperative of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. That imperative, however, could be overruled, Powell said, by a university’s legitimate concern for the educational benefits of a demographically diverse student body.

Virtually all competitive colleges after Bakke continued with their racial preference policies (“affirmative action”), though after Powell’s decision they had to cloak their true meaning and purpose behind a misleading or dishonest rhetoric of “diversity.” Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a critic of racial preferences, accurately explains the situation: “The raison d’etre for race-specific affirmative action programs,” Dershowitz writes, “has simply never been diversity for the sake of education. The checkered history of ‘diversity’ demonstrates that it was designed largely as a cover to achieve other legally, morally, and politically controversial goals. In recent years, it has been invoked — especially in the professional schools — as a clever post facto justification for increasing the number of minority group students in the student body.”

While almost all college administrators and college admissions officers at the most elite institutions think in racial balancing and racial quota-like terms when they assemble their student body, they almost always deny this publically in a blizzard of rhetoric about a more far-flung “diversity.” Indeed, there is probably no other area where college administrators are more likely to lie or conceal the truth of what they are doing than in the area of admissions and race.

Most elite universities seem to have little interest in diversifying their student bodies when it comes to the numbers of born-again Christians from the Bible belt, students from Appalachia and other rural and small-town areas, people who have served in the U.S. military, those who have grown up on farms or ranches, Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, lower-middle-class Catholics, working class “white ethnics,” social and political conservatives, wheelchair users, married students, married students with children, or older students first starting out in college after raising children or spending several years in the workforce. Students in these categories are often very rare at the more competitive colleges, especially the Ivy League. While these kinds of people would surely add to the diverse viewpoints and life-experiences represented on college campuses, in practice “diversity” on campus is largely a code word for the presence of a substantial proportion of those in the “underrepresented” racial minority groups.

The Diversity Colleges Want

espenshade.jpgA new study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and his colleague Alexandria Radford is a real eye-opener in revealing just what sorts of students highly competitive colleges want — or don’t want — on their campuses and how they structure their admissions policies to get the kind of “diversity” they seek. The Espenshade/Radford study draws from a new data set, the National Study of College Experience (NSCE), which was gathered from eight highly competitive public and private colleges and universities (entering freshmen SAT scores: 1360). Data was collected on over 245,000 applicants from three separate application years, and over 9,000 enrolled students filled out extensive questionnaires. Because of confidentiality agreements Espenshade and Radford could not name the institutions but they assure us that their statistical profile shows they fit nicely within the top 50 colleges and universities listed in the U.S. News & World Report ratings.

Consistent with other studies, though in much greater detail, Espenshade and Radford show the substantial admissions boost, particularly at the private colleges in their study, which Hispanic students get over whites, and the enormous advantage over whites given to blacks. They also show how Asians must do substantially better than whites in order to reap the same probabilities of acceptance to these same highly competitive private colleges. On an “other things equal basis,” where adjustments are made for a variety of background factors, being Hispanic conferred an admissions boost over being white (for those who applied in 1997) equivalent to 130 SAT points (out of 1600), while being black rather than white conferred a 310 SAT point advantage. Asians, however, suffered an admissions penalty compared to whites equivalent to 140 SAT points.

The box students checked off on the racial question on their application was thus shown to have an extraordinary effect on a student’s chances of gaining admission to the highly competitive private schools in the NSCE database. To have the same chances of gaining admission as a black student with an SAT score of 1100, an Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have a 1230, a white student a 1410, and an Asian student a 1550. Here the Espenshade/Radford results are consistent with other studies, including those of William Bowen and Derek Bok in their book The Shape of the River, though they go beyond this influential study in showing both the substantial Hispanic admissions advantage and the huge admissions penalty suffered by Asian applicants. Although all highly competitive colleges and universities will deny that they have racial quotas — either minimum quotas or ceiling quotas — the huge boosts they give to the lower-achieving black and Hispanic applicants, and the admissions penalties they extract from their higher-achieving Asian applicants, clearly suggest otherwise.

Espenshade and Radford also take up very thoroughly the question of “class based preferences” and what they find clearly shows a general disregard for improving the admission chances of poor and otherwise disadvantaged whites. Other studies, including a 2005 analysis of nineteen highly selective public and private universities by William Bowen, Martin Kurzweil, and Eugene Tobin, in their 2003 book, Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education, found very little if any advantage in the admissions process accorded to whites from economically or educationally disadvantaged families compared to whites from wealthier or better educated homes. Espenshade and Radford cite this study and summarize it as follows: “These researchers find that, for non-minority [i.e., white] applicants with the same SAT scores, there is no perceptible difference in admission chances between applicants from families in the bottom income quartile, applicants who would be the first in their families to attend college, and all other (non-minority) applicants from families at higher levels of socioeconomic status. When controls are added for other student and institutional characteristics, these authors find that “on an other-things-equal basis, [white] applicants from low-SES backgrounds, whether defined by family income or parental education, get essentially no break in the admissions process; they fare neither better nor worse than other [white] applicants.”

Distressing as many might consider this to be — since the same institutions that give no special consideration to poor white applicants boast about their commitment to “diversity” and give enormous admissions breaks to blacks, even to those from relatively affluent homes — Espenshade and Radford in their survey found the actual situation to be much more troubling. At the private institutions in their study whites from lower-class backgrounds incurred a huge admissions disadvantage not only in comparison to lower-class minority students, but compared to whites from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds as well. The lower-class whites proved to be all-around losers. When equally matched for background factors (including SAT scores and high school GPAs), the better-off whites were more than three times as likely to be accepted as the poorest whites (.28 vs. .08 admissions probability). Having money in the family greatly improved a white applicant’s admissions chances, lack of money greatly reduced it. The opposite class trend was seen among non-whites, where the poorer the applicant the greater the probability of acceptance when all other factors are taken into account. Class-based affirmative action does exist within the three non-white ethno-racial groupings, but among the whites the groups advanced are those with money.

When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low.

Poor Non-White Students: “Counting Twice”

The enormous disadvantage incurred by lower-class whites in comparison to non-whites and wealthier whites is partially explained by Espenshade and Radford as a result of the fact that, except for the very wealthiest institutions like Harvard and Princeton, private colleges and universities are reluctant to admit students who cannot afford their high tuitions. And since they have a limited amount of money to give out for scholarship aid, they reserve this money to lure those who can be counted in their enrollment statistics as diversity-enhancing “racial minorities.” Poor whites are apparently given little weight as enhancers of campus diversity, while poor non-whites count twice in the diversity tally, once as racial minorities and a second time as socio-economically deprived. Private institutions, Espenshade and Radford suggest, “intentionally save their scarce financial aid dollars for students who will help them look good on their numbers of minority students.” Quoting a study by NYU researcher Mitchell Stevens, they write: “ultimate evaluative preference for members of disadvantaged groups was reserved for applicants who could be counted in the college’s multicultural statistics. This caused some admissions officers no small amount of ethical dismay.”

There are problems, however, with this explanation. While it explains why scarce financial aid dollars might be reserved for minority “twofers,” it cannot explain why well-qualified lower-class whites are not at least offered admission without financial aid. The mere offer of admission is costless, and at least a few among the poor whites accepted would probably be able to come up with outside scholarship aid. But even if they couldn’t, knowing they did well enough in their high school studies to get accepted to a competitive private college would surely sit well with most of them even if they couldn’t afford the high tuition. Espenshade and Radford do not address this conundrum but the answer is easy to discern. The ugly truth is that most colleges, especially the more competitive private ones, are fiercely concerned with their ratings by rating organizations like U.S. News & World Report. And an important part of those ratings consist of a numerical acceptance rate (the ratio of applicants received to those accepted) and a yield score (the ratio of those accepted to those who enroll). The lower the acceptance rate and the higher the yield score the more favorably colleges are looked upon. In extending admissions to well-qualified but financially strapped whites who are unlikely to enroll, a college would be driving both its acceptance rate and its yield score in the wrong direction. Academic bureaucrats rarely act against either their own or their organization’s best interests (as they perceive them), and while their treatment of lower-class whites may for some be a source of “no small amount of ethical dismay,” that’s just how it goes. Some of the private colleges Espenshade and Radford describe would do well to come clean with their act and admit the truth: “Poor Whites Need Not Apply!”

Besides the bias against lower-class whites, the private colleges in the Espenshade/Radford study seem to display what might be called an urban/Blue State bias against rural and Red State occupations and values. This is most clearly shown in a little remarked statistic in the study’s treatment of the admissions advantage of participation in various high school extra-curricular activities. In the competitive private schools surveyed participation in many types of extra-curricular activities — including community service activities, performing arts activities, and “cultural diversity” activities — conferred a substantial improvement in an applicant’s chances of admission. The admissions advantage was usually greatest for those who held leadership positions or who received awards or honors associated with their activities. No surprise here — every student applying to competitive colleges knows about the importance of extracurriculars.

But what Espenshade and Radford found in regard to what they call “career-oriented activities” was truly shocking even to this hardened veteran of the campus ideological and cultural wars. Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student’s chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. “Being an officer or winning awards” for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, “has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions.” Excelling in these activities “is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission.”

Espenshade and Radford don’t have much of an explanation for this find, which seems to place the private colleges even more at variance with their stated commitment to broadly based campus diversity. In his Bakke ruling Lewis Powell was impressed by the argument Harvard College offered defending the educational value of a demographically diverse student body: “A farm boy from Idaho can bring something to Harvard College that a Bostonian cannot offer. Similarly, a black student can usually bring something that a white person cannot offer.” The Espenshade/Radford study suggests that those farm boys from Idaho would do well to stay out of their local 4-H clubs or FFA organizations — or if they do join, they had better not list their membership on their college application forms. This is especially true if they were officers in any of these organizations. Future farmers of America don’t seem to count in the diversity-enhancement game played out at some of our more competitive private colleges, and are not only not recruited, but seem to be actually shunned. It is hard to explain this development other than as a case of ideological and cultural bias.

This same kind of bias seems to lurk behind the negative association found between acceptance odds and holding leadership positions in high school ROTC. This is most troubling because a divorce between the campus culture of its universities and its military is poisonous for any society, and doesn’t do the military or the civilian society any good. The lack of comfort with many military commanders that our current president is said to have seems to be due not only to his own lack of military experience but to the fact of having spent so many of his formative years on university campuses like Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, where people with military experience are largely absent and the campus culture is often hostile to military values and military personnel.

In an attempt to find out what kind of diversity exists — or doesn’t exist — on the Princeton University campus, I once asked students in a ten-member discussion group to raise their hands if they knew one or more Princeton undergraduates who had served a year or more on active military duty (in the late 1940s or early 1950s, of course, undergraduates at Princeton would have encountered legions of such people coming back from WWII and the Korean War). I made it plain that I wasn’t asking if the students had a close friend or roommate who was a veteran, just a single person with military experience that they had at sometime encountered during their Princeton undergraduate careers. Only one student — a female — raised her hand: this student once met someone who had served in the Israeli military. On a second occasion I asked this question to a larger group and again only one hand went up — this student once met a Princeton undergraduate who had served in the Turkish military.

Many universities, including Princeton, are interested in enrolling foreign students, along with students from disparate regions of the U.S. But the more competitive private universities seem to have little interest in diversifying their student bodies when it comes to people who have served in the American military or people who intend to make a career out of military service. Even if they don’t shun such people, or hold their military service or aspirations against them, they clearly don’t seek them out or court them the way they do “underrepresented” racial minorities. And while many universities host college-level ROTC programs (often for financial reasons), the military/civilian relationship on campus is usually far from amicable.

Military veterans and aspiring military officers, like poor whites and future American farmers, are clearly not what most competitive private colleges have in mind when they speak of the need for “diversity”. If nothing else the new Espenshade/Radford study helps to document what knowledgeable observers have long known: “diversity” at competitive colleges today involves a politically engineered stew of different groups. drawn from the ingredients selected by reigning campus ideology. Since that ideology is mainly dictated by the Left, it is no surprise that the diversity achieved is what the larger American landscape looks like when it is viewed through a leftist lens. I suggest a different approach: elite colleges should get out of the diversity business altogether and focus on enrolling students who are the most academically talented and the most eager to learn. These students should make up the bulk of their entering classes. Call it the Cal Tech Model since the California Institute of Technology seems to be the only elite institution that comes close to realizing such an ideal. Or call it the U.S. Olympic Team Model, or the Major League All-Stars Model, since it is based on the same strict merit-selection principle governing our Olympic sports teams and our major league baseball all-star teams. Let the diversity chips fall where they may and focus on recruiting the most intelligent, most creative, and most energetiic of the rising generation of young people. In my naive way this is what I always thought elite universities were supposed to be about.

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