Monday, May 31, 2004

Minority Report: Response 2

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y past two entries have further elicited responses from some of you... and nothing from others. It is a touchy subject, I realize, and I hope that I am not turning anyone off by writing about it. The guy at the bar just pushed the wrong button in me and I can't seem to find the off-switch.

Writing about this subject allows me to think about how I relate to others. It is--as some have stated--a knee-jerk reaction to label whites who root for whites as budding, closet, or hard-core racists. And this is unfair, as most knee-jerk reactions are. So I need to examine my own reaction to this guy in the bar, because it will force me to think about my own place in society.

A number of issues were raised and I would like to address one. Can a group that is a majority in one aspect of society be considered a minority in another? I.e. should we consider whites a minority in the NBA? I wonder if the Japanese feel this way? The Japanese professional baseball league--unless they've changed the rule recently--limits the number of foreign players on each team to three and only two on the field at any one time. This prevents the Japanese players from becoming the "minority" to superior non-Japanese players. Don't you think it should be based on the individual's talent and not ethnicity or nationality? Of course, their arguement is that if a team was dominated by non-Japanese the fans would not stand for it, attendance would dwindle and they would go out of business. Almost sounds like the MLB before Jackie Robinson. But I'm glad the NBA is more enlightened. They play the best players. They are not concerned with who becomes a minority. They put out a winning team and everything else will fall into place.

This issue is actually a very important question for me because it involves affirmative action. Asians comprise a signficant percentage of students in post-secondary school. If a white is a minority in the NBA because there are more blacks, then conversely is an Asian considered a non-minority and no longer eligible for the considerations sometimes given to minorities for admissions and scholarships? Because the number of Asians in college is significant, is that justification to recategorize them irrespective of their history in mainstream society? My father--born in America--had to relocate during WWII. I was beat up as a kid for being a ching chong Chinaman. We have US citizenship; we speak English. So why were we treated this way? We were racially different. We were a minority. But now, I am told that purely because I--or any Asian--am a member of a group that that is demographically (read: percentage of society) over-represented in one aspect of society, academia, in which hard work has translated into success, many would say I no longer deserve minority status.

So this begs the question: What is the definition of a "minority"? Is it based strictly on numbers? Recent voices against affirmative action would seem to suggest so, as would the idea that whites are a minority in the NBA. Personally, I am disturbed by this definition, because that would mean that I would be a minority in American society for the rest of my life; that I would never be a member of the mainstream.There is no way that Asians will ever equal or out-number all the races in the US. So I ask, am I to be a minority for the rest of my life? Will there ever be a way that I could become a member of the majority? Ideally, yes. If I am accepted as an individual among a large group of indviduals called "Americans," then yeah, I can be a part of the majority. It would be great to be accepted as a contributing member of society based on my talents and abilities. And, ideally, this would creep into all aspects of society including politics, business, academia and sports.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. My place in society is often determined by my race, whether it be non-minority status in college or deserving of slower service at a restaurant or retail store--I should point out that this happens to me more often in DC/Virginia than any other place I've ever lived. As a result, being a minority is more than just being fewer in number--we are not looking for a quorum. Being a minority also includes the issues and experiences, past and present, that are a direct result of being fewer in number. Did a Larry Bird or John Stockton (I think there were even fewer whites in their heyday) suffer indiginities such as smaller contracts because they were a minority? Yes, I am of the opinion that a minority group in society should be defined by more than pure numbers. but that's only my opinion.

And by the way, I did not root for Shinjo or any other Japanese players after Nomo. Fro me, it is truly not about the race. It is about the talent (I loved Sandy Koufax), the character (Kobe is out!) and any affinity that I may feel--like being an underdog--toward a player as a human being.

I guess I'm corny, but am I being unrealistic?

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