I recently attended a honors ceremony at my daughter's high school. I was appalled, then angry and finally saddened by what I observed. The educators were obviously overjoyed because they finally had a white male student who had garnered most of the honors. No longer was there an Asian-American in this role. Indeed, one Asian-American got a plaque, and the only comment made about him was that he studied all the time. The audience laughed when Asian names were announced.
The not-so-subtle message was loud and clear: We Asian-Americans have become too successful as a minority group and must be put in our place. This is precisely why I support the efforts of the students at UCLA and UC Irvine who want ethnic studies departments.
Departmental status is the only way ethnic minorities can obtain political clout. The UC departments are run like any political organization, and only with equal status will minority voices be heard.
I, like so many Asian-Americans, have worked hard to assimilate into mainstream America. Our children want something more; they want respect. They are certainly not getting it at the high school or college level, where if successful, they are portrayed as studious nerds. What is appalling is that "enlightened" educators are helping to foster these stereotypes.
As I read Richard Rodriquez, Lydia Minatoya and Maya Angelou for the first time, I wonder why it took me so long to discover these authors. We need ethnic studies departments to teach courses in which ethnic authors can be seen in the context of the history and philosophy of their native cultures. This is not to foster separatism, but understanding and mutual respect.