What inspired me to reflect on my own particular educational journey was how much it contrasts to those of the women featured in the article. For example, one of the women opens up about the lack of encouragement she received, even being told that she “wasn’t college material.” Nevertheless, she worked towards an associate degree from a community college over four and a half years and eventually ventured on to graduate work. Another of the women only started looking into the possibility of attending college after others expressed surprised to hear that she did not plan to apply. The third woman, who was on a more traditional educational track (going to college right after high school and then on to be a full-time graduate student), still notes wistfully that Latina/os often experience an identity crisis in classrooms where “your culture is repressed and your language isn’t validated” (emphasis added). Continue reading →
Maybe I’m naïve, but when I stepped on the campus of my New England public university, I was dumbstruck by the whiteness of it all. I was literally the only person of color in a sea of white people. This had never happened to me before. I grew up in New York City and had never been to a school that was predominantly white. As such, I was partial to the color-blind politics of the day. This is not to say that I never experienced racism, but I was lucky enough to discount the few times I had encountered racism as the statistical outliers of my life. However, I was surprised to learn that my peers at university had rarely come in contact with people of color and often times lacked any sort of tact when dealing with people of color. After revealing that my last name is Mohamed, the questions and comments that followed without fail went something like: A) “You don’t look Muslim! Are you religious?” B) “Is your family…y’know, religious?” C) (A look of relief when I revealed that, no, they aren’t that religious) “Oh! Good, cause I know how crazy they can be.” My friends at other universities felt the same alienation and we started to really pay attention to the racism surrounding us.
Most of my class and dorm mates were white, middle class kids who lived in small, predominantly white towns. As a light skinned Guyanese-American woman, they found me hard to peg and I was privy to my share of racist “jokes.” Once, during Black History Month, our dining hall happened to be serving fried chicken and watermelon, in addition to numerous other options. A girl on my floor dim wittedly cracked, “What a way to celebrate Black History Month!” Half the room shared an uneasy silence, while the other erupted into laughter. I was shocked into silence and, looking back, I wish I could have said something. Since then, I’ve found that dealing with racist jokes is best handled by playing dumb. A simple, “I don’t get it,” and a couple of leading questions will encourage them to try and explain their joke and help them realize that relying on tired and racist stereotypes isn’t funny or clever in the least.
I’ve also encountered a very common situation: People saying racist things, but not realizing, or refusing to acknowledge that they’re racist. The most bizarre example of this occurred as a group of friends and I were walking back from a party. Shortly after chastising someone for using the word “Jiggaboo” to describe his black friends back home, my roommate and another girl began to discuss the physical differences between white people and black people. A snippet of the conversation? “And why does their hair do that? Like, why is it like that? It’s like they’re a whole different species! They kind of,” here she lowered her voice, “look like animals a little.” I shared a look with another friend and simply said, “Whoa, I’m not even gonna participate in this conversation.” However, my roommate and the girl she was talking to still didn’t understand why what they said was offensive. Continue reading →
From the “some good news for once” files, here’s a piece from the Washington Post on how Towson University is one of eleven schools nationwide where graduation rates for minority students “meet or exceed those of whites.”
In 10 years, according to school data, Towson has raised black graduation rates by 30 points and closed a 14-point gap between blacks and whites. University leaders credit a few simple strategies: admitting students with good grades from strong public high schools, then tracking each student’s progress with a network of mentors, counselors and welcome-to-college classes.
“Regardless of your background, there’s people here for you who understand what you’re going through,” said Kenan Herbert, 23, an African American Towson senior from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Thanks to the group of readers who tipped us off to this: apparently Maclean’s Magazine is saying Canada’s a nice place to visit for people from China – just as long as they don’t stick around and have kids who attend college there.
Wednesday, the magazine released an article originally titled“‘Too Asian,’” with the sub-headline, Some frosh don’t want to study at an ‘Asian’ university. The article opens by introducing us to a group of white students put off from even considering going to the University of Toronto in part because of its’ reputation for being “too Asian.” Of course, this is followed up by the explanation that the sentiment is “not about racism”:
Many white students simply believe that competing with Asians— both Asian Canadians and international students— requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make. They complain that they can’t compete for spots in the best schools and can’t party as much as they’d like (too bad for them, most will say).
As one reader noted via e-mail, these fears are nothing new: In 1979, the CTV network aired a news piece called “Campus Giveaway,” that misrepresented Chinese Canadian students as foreigners, and inflated enrollment statistics. The story led to protests against both the network and W5, the program on which the story aired. The controversy was cited as the impetus for the formation of the Chinese Canadian National Council.
After being taken off the magazine’s website, a edited version of the story resurfaced Thursday: some paragraphs in the story were re-arranged; the headline had been changed to”‘Too Asian?’” – note the question mark – and the sub-headline was changed to a more sedate-sounding, Worries that efforts in the U.S. to limit enrollment of Asian students in top universities may migrate to Canada. The CCNC will reportedly meet today with Maclean’s management and Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Koller, who wrote the article.
Let’s set the scene: Friday afternoon, Stanford powwow–one of the largest powwow’s on the West Coast. Three Native powwow committee members and a friend are checking in on the vendor booths, making sure things are ready to go, and they come across the group pictured above. 6 non-Native girls, decked out in warpaint, feathers, fringe, and moccassins–playing Indian at its worst. I’ll let my friend Leon tell the whole story:
While we were walking around Powwow on Friday, checkin out the vendors, we saw this pack of little white girls come running in from the street. Now, needless to say, we were shocked at the sight. We pretty much all just stopped in our tracks, and were speechless for a minute, as we looked on in sheer disbelief. After going through a few (angry) options in our heads about what to do, we figured we should have a little fun with it first (especially since there was this crew of little like six year old Native girls who were already making fun of them)…anyways, me and Lisa devised a plan to get this picture of them for you and your blog. So Lisa approached the girls and said “Excuse me girls…” (silence fell upon the land)…”could we get a picture of you for our newsletter?” “Of course!!!” the girls replied with excitement…
So girls, here’s your “newsletter” debut. After Leon and crew took the picture, the powwow security team talked to them and brought them over to the director of the Stanford Native Center for some education on the issue, so (hopefully) they at least walked away from the experience with a new understanding of their actions. If they didn’t, here, again, is my anti-headdress manifesto.
I was telling my mom about the incident, and she said, “Honey, you can’t be too hard on them. Clearly they just didn’t know any better.” The thing is, they should have known better.
These girls are students at Palo Alto High School. Definitely one of the best high schools in the area, if not the state. It is a high school that turns out tops students who go on to top colleges, and enrolls children of professors, stanford employees, and other well educated silicon valley execs. To top it off, the school is literally across the street from Stanford. Across the street from a school that hosts the largest student run powwow in the nation for 39 years running, that is home to nearly 300 Native students, that has one of the strongest college Native communities in California.
I would like to think that the combination of those factors would equate some level of understanding, that a high school of their caliber would incorporate some type of curriculum on Native history, or at least a basic level of cultural sensitivity. Clearly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Continue reading →
Searching for “anti-Asian bias”: evidence of its existence
Espenshade presents data showing that acceptance rates to public and private institutions are universally lower for Asian American applicants compared to White applicants. I have graphed the appropriate data from Table 3.3 of Espenshade’s study below:
These data are striking. Neither Whites nor Asians benefit from affirmative action, and Whites and Asians share similar class distributions. Yet, Asian applicants are roughly 10% less likely to be accepted to private colleges, and nearly 15% less likely to be accepted to public institutions, compared to their White counterparts. The decreased acceptance rate holds true despite the fact that Asians are far less likely than applicants of other races to apply to public institutions — yet, unlike with the Black and Latino populations where reduced applicant rates explains, at least in part, high acceptance rates, the same is not true for Asian/Asian American applicants.
By all rights, since neither White nor Asian applicants benefit from affirmative action, our acceptance rates should be about the same.
All else being equal the reduced applicant rates could be due to one or a combination of the following explanations:
Asian applicants, on the whole, have poor “breadth” qualifications that reduce the quality of their applications, e.g. music, art, a second language, etc.
Asian applicants tend to be first and second generation, whereas White and Black applicants tend to be third, fourth or higher generation Americans (see Table 3.6 on page 7), making Asian applicants less likely to benefit from high acceptance rates for legacy students (Table 3.1 on page 2).
Asian applicants are more likely to be international, and do not benefit from higher ”in-state” or “domestic” acceptance rates.
There is a currently unaddressed anti-Asian bias in the admissions process.
Most of these possibilities are not addressed (or debunked) by Espenshade’s study. Thus, at this time, it’s possible to conclude that there is anti-Asian bias in the admissions process, but it’s not the kind of anti-Asian bias that has been used to launch attacks against affirmative action. Instead, Espenshade’s data suggests that there Asian/Asian American applicants might face unequal treatment, compared to White applicants, when applying for institutions of higher education. Continue reading →
First of all, I should point out that the primary data Espenshade analyzed were collected in 1997. But, it’s likely that the trends that Espenshade report remain in effect, since there have been no major changes to the college admissions process nationwide since then, nor have we seen significant changes in student demographics.
The “Scary Graph”: what does it mean?
Espenshade shows that middle class Asian students have a reduced probability of being accepted into private universities compared to students of other races (I re-created the graph below from page 7 of this presentation of Espenshade’s data, eliminating upper- and lower- class students, but the trends are roughly the same).
What this graph is showing you is that while Asian Americans are roughly 4% of the U.S. population, we represent nearly a quarter of all applicants to the institutions studied by Espenshade. For some universities, this can reach as high as 1/3 — and many of these applicants boast high SAT scores and high school GPAs. Many of these students also come from higher-income families compared to Black and Latino applicants, and therefore have access to better educational opportunities to help improve their scores. In addition, Espenshade’s data show that, compared to other races, Asian American applicants appear to preferentially apply to private institutions, which causes an even more dramatic increase in our applicant number. Continue reading →
When I went to college at the University of Utah, there was no box for me to check. There was no “Middle Eastern” and there was definitely no “bi- or multi-racial.” I’d like to think that the U of U has since updated their ethnicity data, but I can’t be sure.
When I applied to graduate school, I practically wet my pants when I saw “Middle Eastern” on the online application. I was overjoyed to think that my regional ethnicity was included. I happily checked “Middle Eastern”, ignoring the line for “Other,” where I could have specified “bi-racial.”
Currently, if you fill out an application on the Oregon State University’s website, there is a drop-down box of ethnicities, with an almost exhaustive list. They divided “Middle Eastern” and “North African” to make sure all ethnicities within these groups were covered, and the lists were fairly inclusive. Hazaras, Maronites, Baluchis, and other under-represented Middle Easterners were under “Middle Eastern.”
However, there is still no option for multi- or bi-racial.
Last March, several Middle Eastern UCLA student groups began a lobby to expand the University of California application ethnicity check boxes to include ethnicities such as Arab, Persian, Afghan, etc. It’s mind-boggling that the UC system would still not have up-to-date ethnicity representation on its applications, especially since California has high concentrations of West Asian diasporas in California (they don’t call it “Tehrangeles” for nothing).
The University of California system updated its ethnicity check boxes in 2007, when the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) started the “Count Me In!” campaign, intended to break down the different groups pushed together under the category “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The campaign successfully put 23 new ethnicities on the application, including Samoan, Pakistani, and Hmong, and aims to improve census and research data on these specific groups’ college attendance patterns, financial aid packages, and student representation.
The first thing I thought when I read about the previous campaign was, “Lots of West Asian ethnicities are technically Asian because regionally they are on Asian continent. Why weren’t any of them included in this campaign?” Erin Pangilinan, a member of the APC campaign, stated that the campaign’s ethnicity representations were based off California Assembly Bill 295 (which included a call for “state entities that currently collect demographic data regarding the ancestry or ethnic origin of Californians to also make a separate category and tabulation for specified Asian and Chamorro, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Tongan”) and the 2000 U.S. Census, which stated that the aforementioned specific ethnicities have the largest populations in the United States. She stated that the campaign “was not intended to be exclusive, instead it is starting point to have a more inclusive and comprehensive admissions policy.”
The second issue that arose was that many of the “ethnicities” on the list were not actually ethnicities, but nationalities (Pakistani, Taiwanese, etc). Pangilinan explained that the campaign focused on ethnicities provided by the Census, which brings up more questions about ethnic representation in governmental processes. Constructing nationalities as synonymous with ethnicities creates troubling deficiencies in ethnic representation within nations, erringly homogenizing the ethnic populace.
This led me to question the inclusivity and strategy of the current campaign. I spoke with Faisal Attrache from UCLA’s United Arab Society. He said that the campaign is not aiming for a “Middle Eastern” designation: “We are attempting to gain representation of Middle Eastern minorities, but we do not want it to be under the heading of ‘Middle Eastern’ for many reasons. It is a term with an unclear meaning and sometimes excludes several groups that we would like to include in the campaign. Ideally, we would like all the categories to standalone and not be grouped under ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Near Eastern’, because after all, the region we represent stretches from Central Asia to Western Africa.”
The campaign’s aim at a designation other than “Middle Eastern” is a relief: “Middle Eastern” is a term that’s left over from the colonial period, and is fairly misleading ethnically. “West Asian” includes much of the Middle East, including Arabs, but leaves out North Africa, a region which is heavily ethnically Arab. But I do have a fair skepticism at the stand-alone designations: if every other group has overarching categories, these ethnicities will most likely have one, too.
While I’m overjoyed that we (meaning underrepresented West Asian groups) might finally be included on the applications, I still worry about all those who aren’t being represented, and won’t be unless they lobby (or someone lobbies for them). Attrache mentioned that student groups at UCLA representing these ethnicities coordinate the campaign, and so Arab, Persian, Afghan, Armenian, and Assyrian students will be included. But no conclusive list has been agreed upon at this time, and so it’s difficult to say whether ethnicities that don’t have a large student presence on campus will be represented accurately or at all, especially if they are a significant minority in their home region. Because of the numerous and varied ethnicities in these regions, it’s almost certain that someone will get left out, which feels wrong in the current “We’re here, we’re [insert ethnicity], get used to us!” climate.
There’s also the fact that the box system itself is flawed, not just because of any possible lacks in representation, but because it historically leaves out bi- and multi-racial individuals. While the bi- or multi-racial designation could appear with a line for clarification, universities that use a drop-down box format have no way of collecting data about bi- or multi-racial students because the students cannot specify their racial makeup.
A blank line would illustrate better how people define themselves through their ethnicities and would be less likely to pigeonhole respondents into a group they don’t feel they identify with. It would also be welcoming for bi- or multi-racial students (much better than check all that apply).
The difficult logistics aside, this is an important campaign, just like it was two years ago. Not only will it give university statisticians and financial aid operators a better idea of the population indicators, but it can help the community at large gauge where it is on the local university scale in terms of representation, participation, and inclusion. It may also lead to an overall overhaul of the ethnicity system, recognizing differences among ethnicities under other categories previously bunched together (“Hispanic”, anyone?) and inaccurately represented.
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World