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  • Awaiting the winds of change - Breaking through "Bamboo Ceiling" for Asian Americans
  • Posted By:
  • Jan R
  • Posted On:
  • 04-Jun-2009
  • Many of us have been victims of racism at some point in our lives. We cannot help it if you were born Asians and then our parents and families migrated elsewhere.

    While people adapt easily to different cultures, the people who belong to those cultures already have a tough accepting us. One can say it is a kind of oppression we face when someone is judged on the basis of where they come from. For example take the case of Ms. Alice who is a virologist. Twenty years ago she had applied for the post of the University President.

    Her chances were really good as she was one of the three candidates. But her interview did not go well. She got a hint that things would sour and they did. This is because once the committee asked her if she would be willing to give up something if they gave her the job. They were persistent about this question. But Alice was upfront and bluntly told them that she didn’t think that they would give her this job because of the way she looked. As she said these words, the whole room went silent.

    Because it was 20 years ago, Alice might have thought the committee felt she couldn’t do the job because she was a woman but things have changed and it could be because of her race. Alice is a Chinese.

    As the committee remained silent, it only strengthened Alice’s belief. Today she serves as the President-elect of the AAAS which is the American Association for the Advancement of Science. However, Alice considers herself lucky that she made it that far in the interview.

    Things have of course changed in the two decades. Today Asian Americans make up 14 percent of the science and engineering work force. Therefore, this is a head start and one can assume that leadership positions will be offered to them soon.

    In academic and federal institutions, the Asian Americans face something like what women scientists faced 30 years ago. This is known as Bamboo ceiling all of them-Japanese, Chinese, Philippines, Indians, and all south East Asians are clubbed together as minority groups in America. People label them with all the stereotypes or have major misconceptions about them. Hence, they will know what will work for them and what will not.

    For instance if an Asian family is seen as quite, intelligent, following tradition and family values and their children are good at math and science. They will be perceived as intellectuals but also queer. Just because they are quiet, they will be labeled as being very passive and non confrontational.

    These kinds of stereotyping are robbing them of their jobs. Because they are continuously being boxed into compartments of stereotypes, nobody considers them. For instance, this they might not be considered to play basket ball in school just because they are not really tall. But then not all players are really tall but we overlook the strategies and the skills of an Asian player.

    Also they might face problems when they are expected to get a raise. Sometimes for no reasons at all, they are not given the raise. It is similar to the situation women faced in the corporate world. However hard they worked, the men were considered for a raise first. A woman was seen as a half human being. But things have changed but minority groups like these continue to face issues and these are extended to men and women both.

    One can’t do much about these. But as winds change, things will take a different turn. But it is foolish to see a utopian world out there in future. We can only hope for the best.



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