A couple of years ago, a self-proclaimed “polite, nice, American girl” uploaded a rant onto YouTube in which she complained about the “hordes of Asians” on UCLA’s campus. Needless to say, the video was blatantly racist, and after being met with rightful outrage, the girl quickly deleted it (and ended up leaving UCLA). Even though this video was met with nearly unanimous criticism, this isn’t an isolated incident—her attitude is symptomatic of the kind of (sometimes) veiled racism that still permeates campus culture at American universities. Sadly, though, the video isn’t that shocking for anyone who knows what forms casual and insidious discrimination can take these days.
Ethnic, racial, and religious minorities have unique histories with American universities, and are adversely affected by persistent homogenizing stereotypes. I know I’m not the only non-white, female student who has been kindly informed that I only got into Columbia because I’m a minority woman, or told that it’s weird that I like to read because I’m black. Microaggressions may be “micro,” but they reflect broader, unnuanced assumptions about ethnicity and race that get taken for granted.
This week, our lead story is written by Zan Gilani, who explores the complex and changing experiences of Southeast and East Asians at American universities, from application to graduation. Stereotypes, homogenized perceptions, and microaggressions are just some of the places where Zan focuses his lens, seeking to challenge popular perceptions of Asian-American (a term which admittedly encompasses so much) culture on college campuses. Issues of race really do implicate us all, so no matter your background, there are some important questions to think about in this week’s lead story.