I was setting up my camera to film a rally on the steps of the Tweed courthouse in lower Manhattan when a disheveled middle-aged man clutching a strange assortment of papers to his chest stopped and stared at the rally. parents and community leaders. They were there to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ongoing attack on the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT), the only gateway to one of New York’s nine special high schools. Their hand-drawn signs read, “Stop picking on Asian kids!” “Fix failing schools! “And” Keep the test! The disheveled man started shouting aggressively and I turned around, to read his lips, “You Asians, take all the seats in these schools! Only eight blacks entered Stuyvesant High, only eight! Ask, guy!” I turned my camera to capture him but he saw me and ran away.
Later, as I reflected on this incident, I thought of that frosty November morning in 2013 when I waited outside a Brooklyn polling station for Blasio’s family to come and vote which helped. to elect the father mayor of New York. I was filming my documentary on multiracial Americans, “How Jack Became Black”. There was excitement in the air as people around me praised de Blasio’s multiracial family. They believed that such a man was the harbinger of better race relations and they loved his campaign stance against racial profiling. They couldn’t have predicted that de Blasio would step down eight years later as one of America’s most blatant racial profilers.
Why did de Blasio and his education administration racially profiled Asian children? Was it because these young people were taking the American dream seriously and burning the midnight oil? Was it because their parents, many of whom were immigrants and the poor, spent every penny to make sure their children were ready to take the test? Or was it just that they were different, Asian and a non-preferred minority?
If 54% of the 4,262 eighth graders who passed the SHSAT had been black instead of Asian, there is no doubt that de Blasio would not have characterized the test as “structurally racist”. In fact, he probably would have praised the test.
Wai Wah, the founding president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York, and her friend, George Lee, showed me the tweet sent by Blasio’s Chancellor of Education, Meisha Porter, after the students received their test results. Porter found it “unacceptable” that so few blacks were admitted to special schools and said it was “past time for our students to be fairly represented”. The implication was that the test was racist.
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Wai Wah and George pointed out that Porter did not praise the students who had studied for years and passed the exam. They also noted that Porter neglected to pay tribute to the 19,266 other students who also sacrificed but failed the test. The only thing that mattered to Porter was “our students,” a label that only included blacks and Hispanics.
Porter was only following the path traced by de Blasio, who spoke of the need to “redistribute wealth”. Like previous educators, she ignored the reality of prioritizing equity over merit, a reality that has cost many black and Hispanic neighborhoods their gifted and talented programs over the past decades. When blacks and Hispanics gained access to these programs, they underwent the same test that de Blasio disparaged as a racist and dominated Brooklyn Tech from the 1970s to the 1990s.
None of those bureaucrats from Blasio and Potter to the previous Chancellor of Education, Richard Carranza, asked the obvious question: why have “too many” Asians passed the test?
To ask such a question would have forced de Blasio to consider what influences and behaviors made some students succeed. He would soon have discovered that there was nothing “Asian” about their successes – after all, many more Asians failed the test than those who did. He was also said to have discovered that it was their unwavering faith in the American Dream that had prompted them to try their luck on their talents, a path followed by countless successful Americans.
Moreover, looking at the humanity of these Asians would have forced de Blasio to delve into the root causes of the terrible inequalities that plague the country’s largest public school system. Instead, it was easier for him to racially profile and scapegoat Asians for these inequalities.
De Blasio’s racial prejudices and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DCI) establishment have rarely garnered much attention in the press. These people promoted fairness to a higher societal moral virtue where representation by race won out over merit. Having stooped down to the inhuman level of race, they see race in everything and this is where their bias lies, a bias that extended beyond Asians to blacks and Hispanics.
Rather than giving these demographics the tools for equality by strengthening schools, de Blasio believed he could bring blacks and Hispanics to parity at the expense of Asians. It was the little faith he had in these demographics to act on their own destiny. At the same time, de Blasio drew enormous political capital for appearing to stand up for the oppressed while conveniently ignoring the long history of gruesome oppression suffered by many Asian communities in America. It is this bias that has allowed de Blasio to racially profile an entire class of people for their appearance.
I thought about how this ugliness played out in 2021 as I drove to the end of the Brooklyn neighborhood to visit the Ni family. Sam, an immigrant store owner, welcomed me to a home that espoused the American Dream with cultural memories of China that Sam and his wife left behind. I asked their kids, Zoe, a seventh grader for SHSAT, and Leo, a ninth grader at Hunter College High School, what they thought of all this anti-Asian discrimination – an educator from Brooklyn had recently called people like them “the yellow people.”
After several timid responses, Zoe responded with the truth ignored by many educators: “People are not numbers. There are real people in these statistics. There are real people who lose opportunities. reason is only race. ”
Sam, a thoughtful and thoughtful man, later revealed that he heard about Martin Luther King’s dream in China and that is part of why he came to America. Through a translator, he said, “During the Cultural Revolution in China, students were categorized as’ five red ‘or’ belonging to the category five black. ” Why ? It has nothing to do with the individual student, but with their family background, with other external factors. In New York, even in the whole of the United States, education on racial issues is actually like the cultural revolution in China, without looking at the student himself, about who studies well and who does not. not, but throwing a mess of racial and family identity, to judge what kind of person you are. I think it’s a step back in history. “
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Sam also had words for leaders like de Blasio: “What they want is to use their points of view to remake and control the world as they wish, and not let us free the people, to compete freely. , within the framework of an equal opportunity system, to create a colorful multi -world brilliant. So what they’re doing, taking their ideas to control the world, is, in a certain sense, actually very similar to communism, to totalitarian communism. “
Sam revealed to me that he had recently been thinking about immigrating to another country. He left the crippling class divisions of China to find his children on the wrong side of the racial divisions in America. But then he seemed to let that thought die out – at least in America he has an absolute right to fight injustices affecting his children and he fought.
When I got back to Manhattan, I thought about what George Lee had told me about the question of representation. He blamed the ongoing racial divisions on critical race theory which he saw as a “political ideology of racial war, of racial hatred.” He wondered aloud how an Asian could represent another Asian, or a black another black, for that matter. He explained that no one looks like him or thinks like him so how can he represent another Asian? He then continued, “If an Asian enters Harvard, does that Asian take courses on behalf of an Asian who has not entered? He looked at me with the sparkling gaze that one often has when revealing racial nonsense: “There is no representation by race. All this representational language basically says that Asians or Whites or Blacks are mutually substitutable.
This is precisely what de Blasio fought against when he campaigned for mayor of New York. He knew that the evil of racial profiling was that people weren’t seen as individuals but as members of a race. He had heard black people complain that they were not suspected because they were black and lived in high crime neighborhoods. They protested that it was unfair and that they were more than their race. Yet de Blasio betrayed this lesson in humanity when he racially profiled Asians throughout his tenure, leaving many black and Hispanic students worse off than when he took office.
In many ways, the disheveled man who yelled at Asians at the rally was a sad symbol of de Blasio’s educational legacy. This man had been poisoned in the mind to believe that Asians had somehow monopolized all power and that is why he demanded that they give black people a chance. But there is nothing that Asians can give him. There is nothing a race can give. Only the individual can give or take. This man will unfortunately never rise above his present position as long as he thinks this way. And that is why de Blasio has failed so miserably on his campaign promise to raise schools.
Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele