Here’s an excerpt from my new book (working title, due 2023), A Test for Our Time: Crisis Leadership in the Next Normal. It echoes this week’s theme about belonging:
The model minority stereotype is a complicated one for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. On the one hand, it confirms the immigrant values of hard work, persistence, and independence that many in the community hold dear. On the other hand, it belies the discrimination and bias that Asian Americans often face, both from within and outside their vast community—25 million people originating from 50 countries. Adding to the complexity is that many of those incidences of Asian American Pacific Islander discrimination were from other minorities. So, it’s more than a “white vs. Asian” problem.
It was my immigrant grandfather who first experienced this dichotomy when he arrived in Washington, DC in 1946 to begin his job as an economist with the United Nations. He found a row house for his family near Catholic University, only to be told by the seller that he couldn’t buy the home because he was Asian. Though my grandfather reminded the seller that China had been an ally of the United States during World War II, the seller was unconvinced, fearing backlash from his neighbors if it were revealed he had sold his home to someone who looked like they could be from Japan, America’s former enemy.
What followed was a frustrating and even humiliating series of events in which my grandfather had to ask a white colleague to buy the home on his behalf, then sell it back to him later. This story is not unique, unfortunately. It’s just one example of how minorities have long been discriminated against when it comes to housing.
This type of discrimination is nothing new, but it’s still just as harmful and hurtful as it ever was. That’s why we need to have an honest and open dialog about diversity, equity, and inclusion in our society. Only then can we begin to move forward toward a more equitable future for all.
[Image credit: The Daily Illini]