It seems as though “TOO ASIAN” is becoming a common term to talk about racial imbalance on university campuses in the U.S. The article “Too Asian” by Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Kohler has been stirring international controversy over the issue of racial imbalance (or rather, segregation) on college campuses and causing a disturbing uproar within the Asian American community for antagonizing an entire population. White parents are complaining that their kids didn’t get into XYZ University because another Asian student took the seat. How unfair is that? The dangers of the blame game scapegoat Asian students when the real problem should be pointed at our fractured educational system and the University’s lack of diversity efforts to constantly conduct racial awareness and empathy through campus programming and diversity learning requirements.
Below is a brief excerpt from the original article where a student expresses her annoyance at schools becoming “Too Asian”:
“Alexandra puts it—she asked that her real name not be used in this article, and broached the topic of race at universities hesitantly—-a “reputation of being Asian.”
Discussing the role that race plays in the self-selecting communities that more and more characterize university campuses makes many people uncomfortable. Still, an “Asian” school has come to mean one that is so academically focused that some students feel they can no longer compete or have fun. Indeed, Rachel, Alexandra and her brother belong to a growing cohort of student that’s eschewing some big-name schools over perceptions that they’re “too Asian.” It’s a term being used in some U.S. academic circles to describe a phenomenon that’s become such a cause for concern to university admissions officers and high school guidance counsellors that several elite universities to the south have faced scandals in recent years over limiting Asian applicants and keeping the numbers of white students artificially high. “
There are so many things terribly wrong with this statement–not to mention overtly ignorant. Let’s recap the main points:
1) The student implies that Asian students are hard workers, high-achievers and maybe even genetically engineered to be smarter because she feels like she cannot compete. (Spoiler: Asian students are NOT genetically engineered to know Calculus, Stats or even the Political History of the Middle East any better than the next student. This is not possible. This is just a lame excuse for those who are unhappy with their grades and choose to point out the “abnormality” of Asians rather than self-reflect on what they could’ve done better or how they could’ve worked harder.)
2) The student implies that Asian students do not have fun. (I am having fun right now. And I am also Asian.)
3) Rather than adjust to the competitive environment and be challenged in her capacity and potential, she implicitly admits that she prefers an easier academic experience so she can have more fun.
4) Instead of pointing to her lack of drive, she points to Asians as having too much drive—thus, messing up the college experience for others; thus, the Asians must be removed!
5) Now, university admissions officers and high school guidance counselors want to punish overachieving students? What happened to a high caliber of learning? So all those years of schools telling us “Be the best you can be!” was false pretense? That’s like them saying, “Be the best you can be. Well, wait, now you’re better than everyone else and the white kids and white parents are complaining so we have to deny what you rightfully worked hard for all 18+ years.” Pure abursdity.
When schools were “Too White” (most still are) A.K.A. not enough students of color (blacks, Latinos AND Asians) having access to higher education, historically marginalized groups pointed out the inequities. Officials responded with (this is a paraphrase), “Well, let’s not blame white people’s success for the problem. Maybe if your people focused LESS on shooting each other, stopped being lazy and focused MORE on working harder, the American dream can be theirs too!” Now, how is today’s claim of “Too Asian” any different? It’s not. It is racism, as blatantly showcased by reactions and responses.
The article, “Yes, Calling a School ‘Too Asian’ is Racist” by Anna North, provides a firm argument as stated in its title. Read for extra insight.
Another serious (and all too common) problem with the discourse of “Too Asian” is the ignorant clustering of ALL ASIANS as the same. Generally, when non-Asian people talk about Asian people, they fail to distinguish the difference because most likely, they are ignorant of the distinctions. The culture, political histories and immigration/refugee backgrounds vary dramatically across different Asian ethnicities (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Sri Lankan, Indian, etc.). Some populations have been here for 4+generations (e.g. Chinese railroad workers), while some have been here for only a few decades (e.g. Southeast Asian refugee diaspora). By framing all Asians as overachieving (blanket statement), it disregards the language and cultural barriers many recent Asians still face in their struggle to live in America. When everybody believes that “all” Asians are too damn smart for their own good, Asians from recent immigrant and refugee backgrounds become forgotten in the creation of laws, policies and resources to provide much-needed community support in their academic/professional endeavors.
Ultimately, the article exposes several layers of problems: 1) institutional issues with diversity/segregation, 2) personal self-reflexive issues of drive and achievement, and 3) interpersonal issues of racializing the problem and pointing fingers at entire populations. Rather than respond to “Too Asian” complaints by rebuking Asian American students, educational institutions need to protect any and ALL populations from the dangers of becoming antagonized. Universities and schools are responsible for promoting cultural awareness, ethnic diversity and racial understanding by addressing hostility (by rebuking THOSE who express hostile sentiments against OTHERS), being proactive in creating diversity programming and courses, and being committed to providing a safe learning environment for ALL students. For the complainers, rather than point fingers at students who are working “too” hard and blaming others for their lack of success, they need to reflect upon their own motives, intentions and desire for the success they claim is being “taken away” from them. On an interpersonal level, the issue expands beyond a “white” vs. “Asian” matter. By incriminating Asians as the problem, this plants the false and negative perception in the minds of all others within “lower academic achievement”—pitting Asians against other races such as blacks and Latinos. And all this because of what? Because Asians (not all) are performing high in academia? Where’s the justice in that? From poverty to overcrowded classrooms, there are many problems in this country—but Asian American students as success stories is NOT one of them (unless in the eyes of the seemingly threatened racist). The real problem here is the overt ignorance and racism in wanting to denounce a group of hard working students for the shortfalls of our educational system and indignantly self-righteous individuals.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions.
Post written by Sahra