In second grade, I had a realization. I had been mistaken for four other Asian girls who looked nothing like me for the whole year. Two of them had glasses. I didn’t. Another had short hair. I didn’t. At that point I realized what it meant to be Asian in America. I was basically invisible, a small figure within the mass of identical Asians.
Since that point, being confused with other Asians hasn’t affected me. It’s just another part of my life that I’ve come to accept. For a split second, I always think, “Well, I bet they don’t get the white kids mixed up,” but then I move on.
Then there are the times when other Asians, or just people in general, look at me weirdly just because I say that I don’t like math or science. That I don’t play the piano. That I don’t do a number of things everyone assumes are part of the protocol of being an Asian.
But I, and every other Asian, ignore these things. Because when you think of people of color, Asians are not among them; it’s Latinos and African-Americans. Our struggles with racism are not comparable to theirs. But nor are we among the white people. We exist in a small gray area in which people are unable to perceive our differences and consider us to be neither disadvantaged or advantaged because of our race. Harvard University’s recent lawsuit implies this much.
Affirmative action holds Asians to different standards than other races. For example, when scored on personality traits, Asians were consistently marked lower in terms of “humor,” “grit,” having a “positive personality” and other traits. Despite being more qualified in every other area, personality traits are the major factor in the rejection of Asian applicants. Essentially, the entire future of Asian-American applicants is determined by how funny they are, when the odds are already stacked against them. Harvard’s admission tactics indicate their belief that all Asians are the same and, at this point, boring.
In 2013, Harvard conducted an investigation into their admission policies and found significant bias towards Asian-Americans, as indicated by Boston’s court documents. However, Harvard never made an attempt to resolve this bias.
When looking at college populations, particularly those of the Ivy League, there is an overwhelming similarity in terms of diversity. Despite numerous changes in qualifications of applicants, the ratio of Asian-Americans, Latinos, African-Americans and white students in colleges has remained the same. There is an obvious prejudice against Asian-American applicants despite their clear qualifications.
White populations have always had significant leverage that other races will never match. People of color have always experienced disadvantages in society, and the college admissions process acknowledges this, making it their advantage. However, Asians fit nowhere in this equation, and our race becomes our disadvantage. I have never believed that I am oppressed because of my race. I know that I live in a bubble because of where I live in our country. But the idea of Asian-Americans being deprived of the education and opportunity they have worked so hard for makes me feel as though my race is oppressed and discriminated against.
Race is a part of college applications I have no power to control, but I can control my test scores, extracurriculars, grades and all other factors. Still, my race is what shines through. My whole life, I’ve ignored ignorant comments about my culture, ignored being addressed as another Asian girl who is nothing like me, ignored people assuming that because I’m Asian, I must be Chinese. But learning about this lawsuit and the obvious discrimination against my race made me feel an indescribable disappointment in our nation.
As a country, we have to acknowledge the reality that racial and cultural stereotypes dehumanize people. Assuming that I will have the same accomplishments and personal qualities as every other Asian girl applying to college and determining my future based on that assumption is a gross misuse of power. I don’t want to live in a country where being extraordinary and Asian is considered ordinary and boring.