Harvard rejected me a decade ago, and Harvard accepted me this year. I accepted my racialization as the price of admission to America then, but I reject yellow sacrifice on the black and white altar now. I reject Edward Blum and Harvard’s equally insidious hijacking of my race to legitimize white plutocracy. I accept the call for racial and economic justice against the activist plaintiff and the corporate defendant.
After boarding school and an Ivy, I’ve had multiple ladders to climb the European pyramid built on Native American land with African hands. Asians also nourished young America in sugar plantations, gold mines, and railroads, then in restaurants, laundromats, and taxis. While many Asian Americans have neared the apex as professionals thanks to the immigration reform of 1965, droves of dogged survivors of Asian civil wars and American invasions have been denied ladders here.
Although Asian Americans enjoy the highest average income of all races, Asians suffer from the highest intra-racial inequality in America. Indian Americans top America’s average ethnic income with six-figures, but many Southeast Asians whose ancestral homes were ravaged by G.I.s have some of the lowest average incomes of all ethnicities. Over two million Vietnamese have fled their homes after the last G.I. helicopter fled Saigon, and over half a million Vietnamese have migrated to America as refugees.
Affirmative action aims to redress historic injustice. Although many immigrants bury traumas, truth must precede reconciliation. More destructive for Asians than the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the 1941 Internment of Japanese Americans ordered by Harvard graduate Franklin Delano Roosevelt were the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Iraq War. The architects of these wars were Harvard men Dean Acheson, John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Henry Kissinger, and George W. Bush. Harvard alum Theodore Roosevelt colonized the Philippines, and his gentlemen’s agreement with Japan to condone the colonization of Korea ended in the sexual slavery of over 100,000 Korean women during the Pacific War.
Millions perished in Korea and Vietnam as the result of American military interventions, each more than all the U.S. military casualties combined since the Revolutionary War. I lost my grandfather in the Korean War, and a faded black and white photo of him standing with a gun is the sole heirloom. Despite Acheson’s blunder of leaving Korea outside the U.S. defense perimeter that invited Kim Il-sung’s invasion, Americans became heroes after recapturing Seoul. Acheson then escalated a minor civil war into a three-year fratricidal hell by advancing to Pyongyang and inviting Chinese intervention.
My parents do not resent Harvard and America. My family is among the countless beneficiaries of the South Korean economic boom under the U.S.-R.O.K. military alliance and the R.O.K.’s integration into the U.S.-led global value chain. After walking a mile to school, raising pigs at home, and growing up on G.I. food aid in a nameless Korean village, my father created medicine for rhinitis and amassed a modest fortune to buy two $5-million donation tickets to Harvard for his two sons. Instead, he built a botanical garden and set up a scholarship for underprivileged students.
With its $39 billion endowment, Harvard’s acceptance rate for aristocratic athletes and legacies need not be 80% and 33% respectively. Although the Roosevelts and others patricians have brought Harvard prestige and strengthened America and Europe, many have destabilized Asia, Africa, and Latin America. As Harvard’s mission evolves from leading America to serving the world, Harvard’s global footprint merits further investigation.
Even for Asian Harvard graduates, many will internalize white values as did Harvard-educated Rhee Syngman who imbibed reactionary red scare. South Korea’s megalomaniac first president massacred tens of thousands of innocent citizens he labeled communists, including my grand uncle. Meanwhile, Rhee’s contemporary Jawaharlal Nehru, Cambridge-educated first Prime Minister of India, remarked that: “I’m the last Englishman to rule India.”
During the Harvard admissions trial, Asian Americans penned a flurry of columns to defend Harvard against the Students for Fair Admissions. Many Asians apologized for their model minority straightjackets that emasculate and fetishize them. Harvard Law Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen and essayist Wesley Yang were among the only yellow folks with the chutzpah to call Harvard out on its naked racism. If Harvard truly believes Asians lack personalities, it can reflect on its slander of the character of Jewish applicants in the 20th century to clamp their numbers below 15%.
In the 1960s, we followed the footsteps of our brothers and sisters of color to unite under the banner of Asian America for the first time. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with us against the Vietnam War, while activist Yuri Kochiyama cradled the dying Malcolm X’s head. Along with Blacks and Chicanos, we made a radical commitment to combat not only racism, but also imperialism and excesses of capitalism. Racist Edward Blum has stripped racist, imperialist, and capitalist Harvard of its veil of fairness. If Harvard wants less lawsuits and more justice, accept more talent and less privilege of every color.