TIME was when Pinoys and other Asians living in foreign shores, particularly the U.S., were stereotyped in films as either domestic helpers or uneducated and clueless migrants.
Fast forward to today and the stereotyping has calibrated higher; Asians are now pictured as brilliant computer geeks, lab analysts crucial to solving high-profile crimes, or crime fighters sans the swashbuckling props and anti-gravity leaps into the air.
Film after film, we’d hear family members comment, “Look, an Asian again!” We know, of course, that despite their Asian features, they are really Asian-Americans.
Now comes Harvard University’s announcement about its present freshman class.
Class 2017 is composed of 2.3 percent Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, 9.4 percent African-Americans, 10 percent Latinos, 11.1 percent International students, and 20.9 percent Asian-Americans.
My heart is robust with this news, especially because the school’s dean of admissions says Class 2017 passed through “the most selective admissions process in Harvard’s history from a record applicant pool in excess of 35,000.”
Also, these Asians’ scores on the SAT Reasoning Test marked 150 points higher than the average.
Harvard’s announcement has stirred various reactions. One, that the data about Asians can be deceptive; meaning that lumping all Asians in one group conceals the deep differences in performance among sub-populations.
They contend, for instance, that Chinese-, Japanese-, Korean- and Indian-American students significantly outperform groups such as Cambodian-American and Hmong-American students.
The latest U.S. Census reinforces the need for greater clarity about sub-populations.
It revealed that the top ten Asian-American sub-groups with bachelor’s degrees or higher were Taiwanese with 74 percent, followed by Indians (71 percent), Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Koreans, Chinese, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Filipinos and Japanese.
On the other hand, the lowest five Asian-Americans with such degrees were Thais with 43.8 percent, followed by Vietnamese (25 percent), and then Hmongs, Cambodians and Laotians.
Two, that the Asian lumping is a form of bias. Asian students are compared against each other, instead of the general population. Otherwise, more Asian students would’ve been admitted.
Three, that Asian students are subjected to higher expectations, particularly in math and science. Those who score lower are penalized in the admissions process, unlike other students of other races and ethnicities.
The University of California at Berkeley proudly says that 45 percent of its undergraduate population is composed of Asian-American students. Impressive, considering that the state’s population has only 14 percent Asian-American population.
Still, UCLA has not avoided the charge of bias. When it dropped the SAT subject tests, Asian-American families saw it as a move to advantage white students, thus hurting the Asian-Americans’ admissions chances.
The perceived bias has led parents advising their children not to declare they’re Asian-American, particularly when they have one non-Asian parent, or a non-Asian sounding name.
Even those with Asian names don’t declare so, out of sheer protest.