How ironic: With the conclusion of Diversity Week, I was hurt and angered when I saw the WHALASA end-of-year superlative for the “MBA Award: Masters in Banging Asians.” Diversity doesn’t simply mean a collection of people who are different from one another. It’s not just demographic stats that describe our community on paper. All the numbers don’t mean anything without social inclusion, integration, and equality across all members of the community. To me, diversity is about how individuals feel included, secure, and valued in our Wharton community. This “MBA award” goes against everything this week should have represented and what this community should stand for.
After seeing a screenshot of the superlative (now respectfully removed by WHALASA), a million questions raced through my head, each raising my blood pressure bit by bit:
How does a co-organizer of Wharton’s inaugural Diversity Week approve this racist, misogynistic language in a club-wide survey? Why does it seem like “yellow fever” gets more intense every year? And why does it seem to get more acceptable to make Asian jokes with every year? “Masters” implies the study of, if not the sport of, conquering and dominating women. “Banging” is extremely aggressive and offensive, demeaning both gender and individual. Allowing this language (passiveness is a form of tolerance) creates a normative standard for racial and gender dynamics that should not be acceptable.
It’s not just semantics. This type of language and its underlying mentality are hurtful to individuals; they’re hurtful to me. To those seeking the “Masters in Banging Asians” nomination, I am just part of a sea of nameless Asian women who are mere sexualized objects to be taken advantage of. Sound extreme? Just take me through the steps by which “banging Asians” becomes a badge of honor. I imagine a group of (non-Asian) men talking about their “numbers” over Sunday brunch, comparing notes on Asian women.
In these moments, women lose their individual identities and are forced to adopt uniform labels that are created through stereotypes, fetishes, and objectification. I am not your “geisha”. I am not your “lotus flower”. My vagina is not “sideways”. I am not here to “empower” you. Sadly, this has all been said to me or a friend in our lives, and it’s definitely not the worst of it. This language is hurtful and dehumanizing. I do not feel safe in this kind of community, where racial stereotypes are allowed (directly or indirectly).
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. If there’s one type of race-based humor that’s commonly accepted on campus, it’s jokes targeting Asians and exploiting Asian stereotypes. From Follies’ and Dance Studio’s incessant yellow fever jokes to a 2Y Drinks email to half the school, it seems acceptable to racially caricaturize and stereotype 20% of the student body.
Each of these instances in isolation may seem trivial and harmless to many – we’re all friends here, right? They’re just harmless jokes, right? But stereotypes make people feel like they don’t belong, like they’re an outsider always looking in. We are not Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We are not Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles. We are not Han Lee from 2 Broke Girls.It’s hurtful and dehumanizing to those who are Asian, regardless of the real intention.
Each time a person or organization exploits racial stereotypes for humor or otherwise, it sets a new norm that these attitudes are okay. While each cut might seem minor, the sum of these micro-aggressions creates a Wharton that is less inclusive and diverse only in name.
As future business leaders, we will be face to face with diversity in all forms. We will shape the culture of our future companies and communities. But what kind of future will we create? The answer begins with the norms we allow here at Wharton. We need to discuss the micro-aggressions just as we discuss the more blatant aggressions like the pain this country has seen in Ferguson, New York, and now North Charleston. We ask that WHALASA co-host an open town hall with us to begin a dialogue with the broader Wharton community on why and how we should address these micro-aggressions.
Diversity Week was a good start, but it was just a start. We can do better. We must do better.
Pledged in solidarity with the author of this article:
Trevor Chang, WAAAM Co-President ‘14-’15
David Yu, Greater China Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Rachel Hou, Greater China Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Masaaki Mitch Ichikawa, Asia Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Thepphan Asvatanakul, Asia Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Adrian Wong, Asia Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Randy Kyung Rok Han, Japan Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Seijin Jung, Korea Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Younghwan Chung, Korea Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Sook Fen Lew, Southeast Asia Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Sheila Sumantri, Southeast Asia Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Isha Gupta, India Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Rohit Gupta, India Club Co-President ‘14-’15
Nam Huynh, WAAAM Co-President ‘15-’16
Allan Yang, WAAAM Co-President ‘15-’16
Casey Ge, Greater China Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Ye Chen, Greater China Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Janet Liu, Greater China Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Shirley Wynn, Asia Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Joe Hung, Asia Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Nina Shingai, Japan Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Sayako Seto, Japan Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Sunnie Yun, Korea Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Praew Luangprasert, Southeast Asia Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Weirong Chang, Southeast Asia Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Pamela Singh, India Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Pritika Goyal, India Club Co-President ‘15-’16
Vidur Mahajan, India Club Co-President ‘15-’16
*Note that recently, WHALASA’s ‘MBA’ Award has been respectfully removed in response to our inquiry.
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