Some Asians’ college strategy: Don’t check ‘Asian’

For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it’s harder for them to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges.

Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges’ admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination.

The way it works, the critics believe, is that Asian-Americans are evaluated not as individuals, but against the thousands of other ultra-achieving Asians who are stereotyped as boring academic robots.

Now, an unknown number of students are responding to this concern by declining to identify themselves as Asian on their applications.

For those with only one Asian parent, whose names don’t give away their heritage, that decision can be relatively easy. Harder are the questions that it raises: What’s behind the admissions difficulties? What, exactly, is an Asian-American — and is being one a choice?

Read the rest of the article and interviews by Yale students here:

For Asian Americans, educational attainment varies widely

Asian Americans overall obtain high levels of formal education, but an analysis of recent census data reveals large disparities between Asian American ethnic groups.

The percentage of high school graduates is as high as 96 percent among Taiwanese Americans and as low as 61 percent among Hmong Americans, according to a report [PDF] released last week by the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. The rate of bachelor’s degrees ranges from 12 percent among Laotians to 73 percent among Taiwanese.

Read the original article here:

Addressing Taste

This op-ed appeared in the YDN today, criticizing the Yale Intercultural Affairs Council for putting up table tents discouraging “’demeaning costumes and parties’” during Halloween.  The writer, Zelinsky, argues that by using “the language of multiculturalism,” groups “quietly encourages members to conform to standards of decency” and asserts that “[a] Yale College in which students enforce their own conception of civility, rather than have it imposed from a higher authority, will be far more effective in creating the welcoming environment we know this place to be.”

What bothers me most is that Zelinsky assumes the most people know what is offensive and what isn’t, what is racist and what isn’t, and that people like the members of the IAC are drawing too much attention to a tasteless minority that doesn’t know what’s inappropriate—that people, especially Yale students, have the good taste to know that, as Zelinsky puts it “it’s generally bad to belittle others.”

Putting aside the Halloween costume issue, I can think of a couple of examples when the Asian American and Yale community at large didn’t seem to recognize when things were getting “distasteful.”

  1. Amy Chua: The woman made sweeping generalizations about what it meant to be a “Chinese” parent and the children of Asian and Asian Americans in generals, and for the most part, we in the Yale community didn’t even stop to question whether or not she was reinforcing stereotypes about an extremely diverse group in the United States population and supported preconceptions that Asians and Asian Americans are an exotic other whose parenting methods and general way of being are completely foreign to the “Western.”  Instead, all we did was debate whether or not “Chinese” parenting created successful children or mindless drones with no social skills.
  2. The Asian Playboy: His thesis was that Asian men are nerds with low self-esteem; therefore, it’s okay to pursue and objectify women, particularly white women because they’re the best, so that they can feel better about themselves.  You’d think bringing someone like that would have caused a bit more of an uproar on a campus like Yale that has a reputation for being extremely liberal—except it didn’t.  I know there were a lot of Asian guys who agreed that they had a hard time with girls but there seemed to be no questioning why this was so besides that Asian cultures make Asian American males nerds.

In these two situations, I think the Asian American community would have benefitted with someone voicing the opinion that perhaps not all our mothers are the stereotypical Tiger Moms and that not all our males are inherently undesirable.  Because as much as we like to pretend we live in a post-racial society, how many can tell me that on some level they don’t take the idea Tiger Moms and the notion that Asian American boys are innately unattractive at face value?

I think that all people are capable of making decisions that aren’t hurtful or offensive to others, but we need help and that’s the task of organizations like the Intercultural Affairs Council and Yale’s cultural groups.  A person’s sense of “taste,” after all, isn’t necessarily innate but needs to be cultivated.

Master’s Tea with Lisa Lee

Yesterday, Lisa Lee came to talk to Yale students about her work with both the magazine Hyphen and the newly launched website “Thick Dumpling Skin.”

As an Asian American woman, Lee’s work really speaks to me. Hearing her speak in person made me feel proud to identify myself with such an empowered women. Although Lee clearly has impressive credentials and influence, she never for one moment talked down to her audience. Her natural, down-to-earth manner made me feel especially receptive to the issues she raised and the points she brought up during the tea.

Lee emphasized that both Hyphen and “Thick Dumpling Skin” are resources which first and foremost serve the communities they cater to. The goals of both are to break stereotypes and to give Asian Americans a place where they can feel like they belong.

Cleverly using a quote from everyone’s favorite Spiderman series, the thing Lee said which struck me the most was “With great power comes great responsibility.” To break Asian American stereotypes, Asian Americans themselves must first stop perpetuating them. In the YouTube world, leaders like KevJumba and Wongfu have enormous support and with that they also have enormous influence. Lee hopes that all Asian American leaders can be aware of their actions and this has inspired me to be more conscious of what I do on a daily basis.

There is a long way to go before all Asian American women can shake the need to fit the mold of intelligent, thin, and submissive, but with leaders like Lisa Lee, they can start finding their own identities.

Post by guest contributor Mendy Yang, CC ’15

Bulldog Buzz week of 9/7 — Asian eyes, hot sauce, & writing for the blog

Trend Alert: While Asian women are scrambling to get double-eyelid surgery for a more Westernized aesthetic, in the world of high fashion, Dolce & Gabbana models tape their eyes back for a stereotypical Asian look in this Vogue Japan editorial. Is this cool/avant-garde or just offensive?

Confessions of a Sriracha Fanatic: A foodie recounts her introduction and addiction to the beloved Thai-American hot sauce in this NPR article. Recipes at the end for those with more culinary sophistication; the rest of us will just continue to indiscriminately put Sriracha on all the things.

Did you see us at the Activities Fair or the AASA General Assembly this past week? Are you interested in writing for, promoting, or otherwise getting involved with the APA Blog? Drop us a line at and we’ll keep you posted.

Alternatively, are you a member of an Asian-American interest organization on campus? AASA member group or otherwise, we welcome all contributors to use the blog as a place to spread the word about your cause, advertise events, or reach out to the general public.

Digital Racism?

Excerpt from article “Beware Social Media’s Dark Side, Scholars Warn Companies“:

Lisa Nakamura, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies virtual communities, argued that new forms of racism are emerging amid the bits and bytes of video games.

For instance, in China large numbers of users began earning actual money playing the fantasy role-playing game Lineage II. They did so by playing for many hours and selling their online loot to people in the United States who did not play as long. Many of the Chinese chose the online role of a female dwarf, a character class in the game that can more easily win treasure on solo missions. Rival players began killing off female dwarfs in the game on sight, often adding anti-Chinese slurs in the chat section of the game as they did, said Ms. Nakamura.

“What happened was that female dwarfs become an unplayable race” in the game, she said. “They basically became a racial minority.”

She also noted a study that found what she called “plain old racism” cropping up in online marketplaces like Craigslist. The study found that when people posted listings on the free classifieds site that showed a black hand holding a product, the final selling price was lower than in an ad for the same product held by a white hand.

Why do Asians all look the same?

All right, obviously, we don’t. I’ve never been too bothered by people who think that though, for one because their own inattention and lack of exposure isn’t my problem, and also because I actually frequently think, “Wow, that person I just saw on the street looks exactly like [acquaintance of the same ethnicity!]!”

But sometimes it does gets a bit old, like when your seminar professor, one of those “hardcore,” demanding types who makes a big show of getting to know each student personally (and also frequently white, male, and over 50 years old in my past experience but I won’t comment on that) constantly calls on you by the name of one of the two other Asian girls (both of whom are from completely different Asian countries) in your class. And vice versa. End personal rant.

Think you would never do such a thing? Try taking the age-old quiz at and see if you really know what Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people look like. And if your score makes you feel like you’ve dishonored your family, perhaps this handy guide can be of use…

By the way, I’m pretty sure I got below average the first time I took that quiz. I guess all these years of watching different Asian dramas have all been for nothing.

APA Blog Contest Series: “The Asian American Identity” by Rose Wang

I’m Asian. I’m American. I’m a Yalie. So many titles define my life. So what am I? I am undeniably ethnically Chinese. Both my parents grew up in China. However, I do not feel like the stereotypical Chinese American at Yale. I do not listen to Jay Chow regularly, I do not watch Chinese dramas, and I do not speak Chinese with my friends. There is nothing wrong with these activities; I don’t do them simply because I have not grown up in an environment where these activities were common. Cultural inertia. So what does it mean to be Asian American? I don’t think this label carries any specific meaning, other than the obvious—the person is descended from one or more people from the continent of Asia. We can generalize about groups as much as we want, but it’s like we learned in psychology—variation among individuals in a group is much greater than variation between groups. So what is the Asian American Identity? It Doesn’t Exist. So who am I? I am me. Judge me as an individual, and both of our lives will be easier.

The Price of Exotification

Submitted by Jason Chu ’08

This image (an advertisement for VH1′s newest celeb-fronted “educational” vehicle) is problematic.

Or is it?



Three “ethnic” women – arrayed in traditional/ceremonial garb worn rarely, if at all, in modern-day Africa, South Asia, and East Asia – stand, heavily-made-up, behind Jessica Simpson, whose muted clothes and “natural” makeup suggest that she is the default – absent symbols of “color” or “ethnic” culture, we see her as the de facto norm, the standard by which “regular” beauty is judged.

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