Guest column by Max Chang, junior public relations and advertising major
To no fault of their own, people who haven’t been to an international school have a hard time grasping the social and educational dichotomy of attending an American school in China. On one hand, it was a high school filled to the brim with people who looked like me, struggling to fit the mold of the perfect, Asian, Ivy League intellectual. On the other hand, all the ideals we were taught by peers and faculty, subliminal or not, were to be as white possible.
You see this clearly in social groups, where Asian kids who wore Kanye West’s Yeezy sneakers and American Apparel were at the top of the social hierarchy, and the kid who had a harder time assimilating to American culture was left at the bottom. The more you could looked or acted like the handful of white kids at my school, the better off you were socially.
As a member of this institution, I couldn’t escape the reality. What was socially ingrained in my mentality, without even knowing so, was the fact that if I wanted to be “cool,” I had to distinguish myself as less Asian and more white.
Eventually, I graduated, ecstatic to move to California and pursue advertising and distance myself from anything Asian-related (as disgusting as it is to think about now). I made many white, straight friends, which, for some reason, was an indicator of success and my inherent ability to fit in. Freshman Max couldn’t care less about the issues affecting minorities, especially Asian American ones.
“These (racist, homophobic) jokes don’t bother me because I’m not sensitive.”
In an effort to prove that I’m not like my Asian peers, I saw these jokes my peers made as an individual reflection as opposed to a societal one. I never demanded the respect because doing so recognized the fact that I was problematic, and that some of my peers are problematic as well.
For some reason, I took a queer studies course. In class, I noticed a freshman, straight, white guy. I could tell he was uncomfortable, outside of his comfort zone, but so was I. Why was he there?
He didn’t have to challenge himself. Why create the discomfort of deliberately putting yourself in a place where you’re the minority? Why create an environment in which what you say may be questioned or labeled as racist, where your entire sense of achievement is explained on a flawed idea of this meritocracy?
But with everything that has been happening, and will continue to happen in the social and political climate, it’s more important than ever, especially for straight, white, cisgender, male folks to take these classes. (Although I want to focus on white folks, my Asian community is not exempted from scrutiny.) Put yourself out of your comfort zone and see what it’s like to be the minority for once, even if it’s just temporarily in a classroom setting.
Sharing a Facebook post is no longer enough for you to justify your stance as an ally. Some people may never know what it’s like to be a transgender woman in our society or to be a black man, but the least we can do is learn about all the intricacies that undeniably exist in our community.