Ep. 59: Don't Apologize for Studying | Wai Wah Chin & George Lee
In 1895 in response to blatant anti-Chinese discrimination the first Chinese American Citizens Alliance was set up in San Francisco. Today, the former President of the Greater New York Chapter, Wai Wah Chin, says we are witnessing a modern-day Asian Exclusion Act that comes in the guise of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, especially in our education system.
Despite the diversity in the Asian American community, the impact of DEI on this demographic has been anything but equitable or inclusionary. Not all Asians study, but for those who do, should they apologize? In fact, what we uncover in this conversation is that the stereotypical Asian experience really isn’t “Asian” at all.
I mean sure, there are some cultural influences wrapped into the Asian American experience that has exalted merit as an important value, but as we discover, this is really part of the overall immigrant experience. After all, most people who come to the United States have certain expectations in mind.
And why can’t we talk about values? Why should anyone apologize for studying? Culture is malleable and although some demographics may adhere to some values over and above others, studying is a choice, not a culture.
George takes this idea a bit further and asks, “why should we apologize for civilization?” The balkanization of our identities has led to what the Chinese call “xiao ren” (小人) – or “small people”.
Civilization, from the Italian Renaissance to the Chinese “Golden Age” of the Tang Dynasty are ours to share. When we get caught up in ideas of “appropriation” we lose these universal anchors that lead to new Enlightenments and shared Universal Values. And we do, indeed, become smaller as a result.
In the Hold my Drink — navigating culture with a chaser of civility, and Counterweight podcast, Episode 59, we speak with Wai Wah Chin and George Lee, both who are active in the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York (CACAGNY). As a result of new policies to downgrade merit in our school systems, both have been at the forefront of discrimination battles in education, including the discrimination against studying. And they don’t apologize. All discussed with a chaser of civility, of course, a tea, pinot noir and a fireball whiskey.
Hold my Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we explore the truths of a chaotic and beautiful world, together.
What Wai Wah is reading
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer
What George is reading
Records of the Grand Historian, Sima Qian (and Sima Tan)
What Jen is reading
New York’s Parent Revolt, City Journal, Wai Wah Chin
Wai Wah Chin is the Founding President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York chapter (CACAGNY), an all-volunteer organization that fights for equal rights, especially in education. Wai Wah's professional background is private equity finance.
George Lee is a founding member of Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York (CACAGNY.com), a grassroots civil rights organization, and is also a long-time parent advocate for rigorous education. A quantitative researcher, he has a bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, and a doctorate in Mathematics.