Author’s Note: I am speaking as a light skinned East Asian cis-woman with economic privilege. I recognize the privileges of these identities and the blind spots I have because of them. I know that my experience as an Asian is not universal.
Sadness, hurt, anger. Letter after letter beginning, “We regret to inform you…” I felt sad because it felt like my hard work was all for nothing. All the hours of homework, the clubs and teams, the AP classes I piled into my schedule suddenly felt like a waste of my time and energy. A pointless drain on my mental health. I felt hurt because it felt like the colleges of my dreams were rejecting me as a person rather than me as a student. Applying to college is a deeply personal process. Colleges say they want to “get to know you,” through your essays, extracurriculars, and recommendations. And then when you get rejected, it feels like they are saying that you weren’t the kind of person they wanted on their campus.
And then the anger. The insidious anger telling me that I was denied admission because my Black classmate was admitted. The ugly thought wound its way into my being. Justifying my feelings of entitlement. Pulsing through my veins any time I felt sad or hurt because of my rejection letters.
This feeling was just the manifestation of a lifetime’s worth of anti-Black messaging that I got from family and friends.
Black students can’t keep up with the work load here.
Black parents don’t encourage their kids to achieve academically.
And this anti-Blackness shows up not only in our hearts and minds but also in our actions. A group of Asian American students led by anti-affirmative action crusader Edward Blum are trying to institute “color blind” admissions. The thing is, the way that college admissions imagines Asian Americans as a monolith of hardworking, personality-less, robo-students is racist. We should have our feelings about the ways in which we are erased and stereotyped. But, our anger and our hurt is being channeled against the wrong thing. Some of us want to address the discrimination that we face without recognizing that the racism we face is merely a cog in the larger white supremacist machine. If you want to address the racism we face in college admissions then you need to also be addressing the multitude of ways anti-Blackness shows up in our education system. For example, the school to prison pipeline, school segregation, and a racist westerncentric curriculum among many other injustices. Anything else furthers our complicity in anti-Black racism. Our conception of racism must be bigger than ourselves.
When I was a high school senior I was angry because I thought my educational opportunities were being taken away from me by Black people. I’m still mad now but, now I’m mad that I swallowed the violent lies of white supremacy. The blame I placed on my Black classmates did not take into account the mountain of racism they had to climb to get into college. It also ignored their hard work and all of the wonderful things they were bringing to their universities. I was jealous because years of being seen as the “Model Minority” let me feel entitled to a place in the Ivory Tower. If you are in support of the various attempts some of our community have enacted to ensure our dominance in the educational sphere, ask yourself some questions. Am I more deserving of these privileges than Black people? Why do I feel entitled to hoard educational opportunities? The truth is, everyone deserves access to a good education! Black activists have long been fighting to ensure that Black students are able to attend desegregated, fully funded, and fully resourced schools. We need to be doing what we can to support their work, not impede it. I hope we can lay to rest our clamour to play second fiddle to whiteness. Because a system of white supremacy will never see non-white people in their full humanity. Now is the time to commit ourselves fully to the fight for Black liberation. And part of this work includes abandoning our expectations and entitlement to elite educational institutions and reimagining what equitable education can look like.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.