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Asian "Underutilization"

The Mail


To the Editors of The Crimson:

A responsible reply to David A. Karnes s recent letter addressed to the Editors of The Crimson is both necessary and in order.

The Crimson argued in its editorial of October 19 that Asian Americans be recognized as a minority group because of acknowledged "economic and social disadvantage." Mr. Karnes alludes to U.S. Census figures which he believes indicate that Asian Americans have "in general... attained an above average standard of living." Karnes concludes hence that "barriers to equality which did indeed exist in the past for this group have largely vanished."

Mr. Karnes's contention is clearly not the case in reality. That the government does recognize Asian Americans as affected by Affirmative Action programs underscores the reality of continued discrimination against and underutilization of Asian Americans, who allegedly have penetrated "all income levels." In fact, the Chinatowns and Little Tokyos across this country, which are the focal points of large Asian American populations, are proof that the conerns and problems of its residents are largely unknown to the public. There is a myth that there are no problems in these areas, that Asian Americans "take care of their own." Contrary to this belief, not only are the problems in these communities very similar to those of any urban ghetto, but it is also clear that the communities possess these problems to an alarmingly high degree. I need only refer Mr. Karnes to the statistical information available from the Phillips Brooks House Chinatown Committee.

Moreover, the present controversy over the administration and enforcement of Affirmative Action should not be confused with the objectives of Asian Americans now working with the Admissions Office. The revelations inherent in the clarifications and guidelines of Affirmative Action programs are but one argument in the case against long-standing admissions and recruitment practices. Asian Americans at Harvard believe that their representation within the College and within the applicant pool for the College does not parallel in socioeconomic status the backgrounds of the majority of Asian Americans in the country, and, more importantly, that this condition results as much from distorted conceptions of Harvard-Radcliffe held by prospective candidates as from the disadvantaged academic training that many from this majority must overcome. Clearly, a significant number of qualified prospective Asian American applicants do not realize that Harvard-Radcliffe is interested in them and appropriate for their educational goals. They do not perceive that Harvard-Radcliffe is academically and financially viable for them, and that it can potentially provide a positive environment for their education. The Admissions Office agrees wholeheartedly with this view of the present situation and has shown reticence only in the implementation of strategies purposefully designed to redress its inadequacies. Even Nathan Glazer and his equally controversial book, which Mr. Karnes artfully injected into the context of his polemic, concedes the acceptability of improved programs aimed at "advertising opportunities actively, seeking out those who might not know of them, and preparing those who might not yet be qualified.

Finally, Mr. Karnes suggests that Asian Americans could not possibly experience the kind of psychological burdens of cultural shock which would warrant their recognition as a minority. He proposes that such obstacles "should be overcome by the concerted efforts of groups such as the organization for Asian Americans now working in conjunction with the University." It might serve him to point out, then, that the tentative steps taken by the Admissions Office and the Dean of Students Office reflecting but not acknowledging recognition of Asian Americans as a minority are the direct result of such joint efforts, with such goals in mind. The full minority status which Asian Americans still seek would be proof only of genuine philosophical commitment to the ideals of all these programs.

Mr. Karnes adheres to the same misconception about Asian Americans which has plagued them since intelligent people began to recognize and repudiate the savagery of official discrimination. Because he now perceives some ostensible penetration by Asian Americans into various social and economic levels, Mr. Karnes concludes that most Asian Americans no longer suffer the oppression of their status as a minority in this country. It is obvious that he draws most or all of his substantive information from Professor Glazer's book, and not from any actual contact with persons or facts related directly to the issues at hand. Charles D. Toy '77

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