Develop an Asian American Consciousness and Be Damn Good at Something

During my time in grad school, I presented at a couple of academic conferences on Asian American Studies: one in Hawaii and the other in D.C. My presentation was Racism and Advertising in 19th America in 1996. I had a slide show of all the negative imagery of Chinese Americans at the time. Very esoteric and very pedantic stuff. The Model Minority website snagged my 1996 article and posted it several years later.

Analyzing and cataloging all of those negative stereotypes just burned me out at the time. I didn't feel like I was developing any skills to better the Asian community. My thesis adviser told me something very profound but pragmatic at the same time. She told me, "You want to help the Asian American community? Then get a regular job. Develop some skills and expertise that address the needs of the Asian American community."

Years later I met a great guy who used to be an Asian American Studies instructor. He got his master's from the UCLA Asian American Studies Program, and afterward he taught Asian American Studies at various local colleges in the L.A. area. He quit, because:

1) Unless he got his PhD, he would remain an instructor working part-time, as opposed to a full-time professor.
2) Scurrying around different colleges to teach Asian American Studies course was taking a toll on him, and he wasn't earning a decent living.

Now he's a police detective, helping the general public.

When it comes down to it, if you want to help Asian Americans, then develop that Asian American consciousness but also be a valuable asset to the community. A desire to help the Asian American community is great, but you have to offer something substantial that the community can benefit from. Know what your talents are and exercise them to better the lives of Asian Americans and people in general.


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