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The Milton Measure

Not a Black and White Issue

by on Friday, May 19th, 2017

When we hear the word “racism,” we usually think of society’s systematic oppression of black and Latinx people. However, at Milton and around the country, we often forget about what the Asian voice, both American and international, brings to the table. Asian people do not face the same racial prejudices that black and Latinx people experience. Yet, Asian people do not inherit the privileges of white people. The racial bias Asian people experience is complex, nuanced with each person, subtle, and sometimes internalised. As a disclaimer, for the sake of length, I interviewed students of East Asian descent.

Asian Americans often come up against the model minority complex, a misconception that Asian Americans successfully overcame institutional oppression, defeating racism. Because society does not explicitly oppress Asian Americans, many politicians have used Asian Americans – the “model minority” – to blame black, Latinx, and Native American people for not prevailing over racism like Asian Americans did. The model minority complex not only pits minority groups against each other, but also promotes inaccurate depictions of Asian Americans.

This myth ignores the Asian Americans in poverty with broken English and no support from the system. As Kelly Lo (II) states, “It diminishes the troubles that people actually face such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, [the first huge immigration ban in the United States due to paranoia that chinese people were stealing “American” jobs]…and the fact that Japanese people were put in internment camps.” The endorsement of the model minority complex often overshadows this history and the distinct experiences of Asian Americans and instead sells stereotypes and caricatures. The model minority advertises the idea that all Asian people are hard working, quiet, and submissive. Because these stereotypes are microaggressions that stay “micro,” these misconceptions continue, even at Milton Academy.

Microaggressions against Asian people in America and at Milton often go unknown. A lot of people do not even realize they are committing microaggressions, blurring the lines between wrong and overreaction. And, for Asian students in America and Milton Academy, microaggression scenarios are always obscure. Cecilia Guan (II) says, “It’s subtle [at Milton] when people assume that I’ll be the one to finish a group presentation, that I’m the one to always keep people in check because I want the good grade.”

Outside the relatively progressive bubble of Milton, Cecilia recounts when her mother and uncle were in a 7-Eleven. Her mother and uncle came from a funeral, and the family with the passing gave a red envelope of coins to the families attending the funeral. This money was meant to buy candy in order to “sweeten” the loss. Her mother and uncle were at the cash register, and while they were counting the coins to pay for the money, a women behind them in line said, “Oh my god. Look at them.” Cecilia explains that the woman, in saying those words in that derogatory manner, assumed that the mother and uncle would not respond. Cecilia shares how she “[feels] an internalized need to prove that [she’s] American enough to deserve to be here just as much as anyone else. To show that [she is] here. [She] assimilated.”

Kelly Lo (II) spoke about her experience as a resident in a post-colonial society and struggling with the double standard of accents. She states that because her father was bullied as a child because of his race, she has internalized that an European or American accent was more desirable than an Asian accent. When she came to Milton, she recounts that Milton students “would sometimes make fun of my accent, even at Milton….you start to question if the people making fun of you know what they’re doing. Or are they just trained to think an accent means you’re foreign and inferior? In light of Asian immigration, [an accent] should be seen as unique instead of undesirable.” Teachers have said to her, “Are you sure this is right? You’re not from here.” Students have condescendingly called her “cute,” diminishing her opinion. She says that, “It just pains [her] to see people think of [her] as having an inferior opinion. Isn’t that what this school is about: different opinion in class, race and gender?” Should we not take more advantage of all of our different experiences, especially the ones that have not been heard?

Unfortunately, many people do not take the time to understand the complex cultures of Asian students at Milton Academy. This article does not and cannot encompass every obstacle Asians face nor every Asian person’s intricate story. However, I urge you to discover that, as Cecilia says, “[we] don’t all have the same story.”

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Posted by on May 19 2017. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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