March 01, 2013

When one opens the discourse to this taboo we learn many terms that had previously been ignored. “€œEarned strength”€ is very different from “€œunearned power.”€ Asians are “€œoverprivileged”€ and enjoy this “€œunacknowledged power”€ in a totally “€œincognizant”€ way. Privilege can look like power when it is in fact permission to escape or dominate. You don”€™t need epicanthic folds to see that simply by the virtue of their success Asians are seriously and systematically oppressing people of color. To be overrepresented in a field is to dominate those who are not proportionately represented. Whether they know it or not, simply existing can be tantamount to a hate crime.

So what do we do? How do we change the latent inequality that Asians exploit? Do we penalize them? Ideally we would, but no, we don”€™t. The first thing we have to do is join the conversation. Using your voice is the first step to raising awareness, not just parochially but in a transnational sense. We need to redesign social systems where Asians are not 75% to 80% of university mathematics departments. By staying cloaked in the myth of meritocracy we are denying the latent power of the underprivileged.

Look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki today and look at Detroit. While Asians are constantly flooded with opportunities to rebuild, cities of color are left to rot. Asians shamelessly discuss “€œAsian Power“€ and encourage their children to stay within their race. When Asians such as New York Times reporter Michael Luo watch Jeremy Lin score 25 points, they are filled with joy and pride. This, mind you, is from a country that killed 50 million people. 

One of the few Americans to actually get off her ass and push for change is California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, who pronounces her last name exactly like Bruce Lee. You might remember her from the NOH8 campaign where she wrote on her face. She is leading an initiative to “€œcreate a federal Department of Peacebuilding that would cultivate peace and take on the causes of violence and conflict.”€ This is about literally changing the plasticity of the brain and permanently erasing the hatred that fosters inequality.

The first step for this department will probably be addressing the dangers of Asian privilege and working to unravel the tangled web it has weaved. We pay our government to lead us to prosperity and protect us from evil. If one group is receiving privileges over another, that is a form of assault and it’s up to elected officials such as Barbara Lee to protect us. She assures us she will.

Let’s work together to break the silence. A drop in the bucket seems small until you see all the ripples it makes. To tackle Asian privilege and bring them down to where the rest of us are, we need systemic change on a global level. The government needs to get involved. Tax dollars have to be used and you can be sure jobs will be created. Asian American success has been awarded to them arbitrarily and it’s up to us to take back the power and eradicate this unearned system of advantage. We need to transform society to the point where privilege is not slanted in anyone’s favor.



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