Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Nerd: The American Asian Archetype

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J wanted to know how many games I planned to attend this football season?  2, 6 or all 8?

“All 8 is an awful lot,” I reply, although glad he wants me to sit though J2’s high school football game instead of trying to get me to the state rivalry games of the Bengals and the Browns.  J2 plays some lead position on junior varsity and is 2nd string on varsity.  As you can tell I know all the football lingo.  So really, eight games are 16 because JV plays on Saturday mornings, whereas Varsity plays on Friday night.  I sometimes work Saturdays so Friday nights might be me sitting in the stands watching him bench riding.

I counter with 4 games.

“You aren’t allowed to bring a book,” J said. 

What the— I can’t bring a book?  I might be able to make only three games. 

My husband and step son are jocks.  I am a football widow from August to February (considering on how the Browns play) and big blocks of time are blacked out for Ohio State games.  When we married two years ago it was with the understanding that if our wedding anniversary should ever fall on the same day as the big Michigan/Ohio State game that I would either 1) celebrate earlier in the day but leave him alone later because I am a football jinx or 2) move the celebration either forward or back.

My stepson dreams of playing in the NFL one day and is happiest when involved in sports; he is saddest when he has to read –anything.  Once he used shower gel as lotion because the bottle “looked” like a lotion bottle. 

I often reflect on how J1 and J2 are the antithesis of what most Americans think of when they think of Asian males; moreso my husband, really who is all Korean whereas my stepson could always point to his black heritage. 

I think its safe to say that the two men in my life are not the “nerdy” type.  

Why can’t one be both?  Why does it have to be either/or?   And why do we feel uncomfortable when people step outside of our preconceive notions of who we think they should be? 

At the Beijing Olympics we won the most medals but it was noted that China won more Gold.  As if their rise in the global market wasn’t bad enough but now they are contenders with us in sports?  I’m not sure that is something we are ready to concede.

The image of the Asian American (specifically Asian American male) as a brainiac is one that we can get behind because it helps to dehumanize the group.  They are smart, but that is all they are.  They aren’t passionate, they can’t parse information and recreate such as we can.  Aside from school work, Asian Americans aren’t expected to be competitive in a physical way.

For many Asian immigrants the idea of spending time on sports instead of books isn’t feasible to them.  “Using physical strength to make a living is not respected; it’s a Confucian ideal,” Peter Kwong, a professor of Asian-American studies and urban affairs and planning at Hunter College, told the New York Times.

“You’re wasting your mind. Using your hands is just not a career,” he said.

Many are trying to dispel the “model minority” student myth.  In a recent study put out by the College Board and the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders called “Facts, Fiction: Setting the Record Straight” it explains why the stereotype of perfect Asian American students is more harmful to the group than helpful.

“To successfully meet the needs of all our young people, schools and colleges must recognize that students differ. Institutions must involve everyone in efforts to meet individual needs — students, parents, advocates, teachers and administrators,” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. “We also can help these students by recognizing the many wonderful contributions of Asian Americans and how they can assist the United States in becoming a better participant in the global society.”

A current article in The Weekly Standardunderscores this finding.  In talking about how many Asian American students with perfect SAT scores and high GPAs are being denied acceptance into Ivy League schools discusses how not knowing what Asian ethnicities are accepted or denied admission gives a false picture that Asian Americans are doing well as a group.

“…even groups supportive of the preference system are dismayed by the unavailability of information. Khin Mai Aung, an attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, says, “Institutions are understandably afraid of litigation, so they haven’t made their policies very public.” She explains that some colleges won’t disclose to her organization which racial groups are included in their diversity plans, and “whether underrepresented Asian ethnicities [e.g., Cambodians, Laotians] are given affirmative action consideration.” Vincent Pan, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, likewise acknowledges that the current system is “opaque” and frustrating. Both call for more transparency and disclosure by admissions programs.”

The article also presents the argument that many put forth, that admission to college be merit-based, although if that should happen black and Hispanic enrollment would drop and the number of Asians on campus could possibly rise in numbers that would be disproportionate to their numbers in the population.

The argument would be to encourage other minorities to study on the level of many Asian Americans so then they can easily challenge the myth of African American and Latino Americans being not as academically gifted as their Asian counterparts.  But the stereotypes that works in favor of Asian Americans being naturally good students helps to go against other minorities.  In a July 16, 2008article in the Los Angeles Times high school students at Lincoln High School already fall inline with their societal roles.  So much so that Hispanic students that get good grades are told they are more Asian than Hispanic and Asian students who don’t do well in school say they are “Mexican at Heart”.

Teenager Thin Lam is the exception to the school’s Asian stereotype, saying that he just wanted the pass but counselors pushed him into a slew of AP classes.  He was even pushed into AP calculus. 

“In the end, I dropped it,” Lam said.

The students also note that Latino students are given a hard time by teachers/hall monitors than Asian students saying if a Latino student is caught in the hall without a pass he is instantly brought back whereas an Asian student can wander the grounds all day and not be spoken to.

I wonder where J2 falls in with this.  Do people see him as more black because he excels in sports and has no interest in studies?  Does he see himself that way?

For now our goal is to boost J2’s GPA and get him excited about learning anyway we can.  Well, almost anyway.   A while ago I saw a book I thought would be just the ticket and gave it to J to read.  He knitted his eyebrows then gave me a look as if I handed him stereo instructions in Russian.

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

“It’s a new book that is supposed to help American parents raise top notch scholars like Asian parents.”

He looked at the book skeptically and then handed it back. 

“I am an Asian parent,” he said.  “However I do it will be the Asian way.”


Written by rentec

30 August, 2008 at 5:42 am

Posted in asians, education

Tagged with , ,

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