Activists without ‘critical mass’

In the Daily Bruin, UCLA officials complain that the decline in black and Hispanic enrollment — caused by the ban on race-based preferences — is changing campus culture. There isn’t a “critical mass” of activists, they complain.

The end of affirmative action saw many more Asian American students admitted to UCLA, while the number of students from underrepresented minority groups — blacks, American Indians, Chicanos and Latinos — has steadily declined.

“Without generalizing, I would say that Asian Americans have not had a traditional role of activism in the United States,” (Berky) Nelson said. “They believe the way to success is through education, so they might study hard at the expense of things others may deem relevant.”

Good thing Nelson, director of student programming, isn’t prone to generalizing.

Discriminations points out the stereotyping.

A Discriminations commenter, who attended 1995-99, says Asian-American students were very active in campus groups — especially evangelical groups.

In general though it seems the powers that be are confusing left-wing activism with activism. Difficult as it may to believe, someone can be concerned with society and things other than success through education without buying into your party line. Baby boomer elites may not appreciate that when UCLA’s Asian students form groups they often, but not always, do so to worship Jesus Christ rather than Frantz Fanon, but one cannot accuse them of a lack of civic engagement and ascribe it to the stereotype of the diligent but passive oriental.

My daughter attended UCLA from 1999-2001. She thought campus social and political life was balkanized, with students encouraged to categorize themselves by race and ethnicity. It’s one of the reasons she transferred.

About Joanne


  1. Alex Bensky says:

    “They believe the way to success is through education, so they might study hard at the expense of things others may deem relevant.”

    I give the guy points for honesty, at least. It’s a pretty frank declaration that from an administrator’s point of view students should be engaging in identity politics and agitation rather than studying.

    That’s the problem with those Asian kids. They go to college to learn. What can you do with them?

  2. As a white man married to an Asian woman, I am constantly astounded by (1) how widespread and deep is prejudice against Asians, particularly in the white community, and (2) the refusal of my wife and her friends, relatives and colleagues to focus on doing something about it.

    Prejudice against Asians emanates from white women, who see Asian women as unfair competitors. Asian women, in general, believe in being helpmates to men. They don’t buy the feminist line. And the cult of femininity is still powerful. (If you don’t believe me, go to the Macy’s flower show in NYC for a view of the long line of Asian women who like to think of themselves as incarnations of flowers. It’s surprising how many of them are named after flowers.) My wife regards the hostility of white women as an immoveable and unchangeable force, and thus not worth bothering with.

    “Better to be like water,” is her motto. “Water eventually wins over everything. Even stone.”

    You might want to ponder that in relation to this subject.

  3. Ken Summers says:

    So the campus officials believe that the whole point of college is “activism” (of the lefty kind, as pointed out). Fascinating.

    So let’s look at these two groups:

    Group A goes to college, becomes “politically active”, boycotts classes, rallies at sit-ins, carries posters, marches for whatever cause.

    Group B goes to college, studies hard to achieve success, leaves college for good jobs, and just perhaps becomes politically active after college.

    Anybody want odds on which group will be more successful politically?

  4. Stephan–speaking of generalizing. You’re so weird. I work with zillions of young Asian women and they’re not exactly conforming to your World of Suzie Wong view.

    But if there’s a downside to all this scholarship, I’d say that the “Good Student” syndrome hurts Asian kids in the Real World (and not just the MTV show). I observe young people who work really hard but aren’t very skilled in creative problem solving, the art of schmooz, or what used to be called moxie.

  5. Ken Summers says:

    Kate, I think Stephen refers more to Asian-born women, for whom his generalization may well hold.

    While I can’t speak to his generalization about white women (that certainly hasn’t been my observation), I will note that it meshes with the contempt that many self-proclaimed “feminists” seem to have for stay-at-home moms.

  6. Kate,

    You just proved what I said.

    My wife is a professional, college educated woman, who is responsible for training in half a dozen offices throughout the U.S.

    What in the world made you think that I think of her as a “Suzy Wong?” See the source of the hostility. You are a prime example.

    And, I’ll repeat it… the hostility and condescension of white women toward Asian women is endless, and they don’t even apologize for it. I’ve been through it a million times.

    Underneath, Kate’s statement is its contradiction. She has the right to her prejudice against Asian women if they are “Suzy Wongs.”

    The Asian women don’t tell you what they think, Kate, because you are the enemy.

  7. Fascinating, isn’t it, the way white women assume that an Asian woman must buy her values… i.e., feminism and a refusal to be a helpmate to men… or she’s backward and servile.

    Kate, most women are not feminist women. And they have jobs and work.

    You are indoctrinated beyond description in a racist ideology… feminism.

  8. Shelly says:


    I would like to disagree with you in regard to your comments about white women seeing asian women as the enemy. I believe that you are referring to the tendancy of militant feminists to regard any woman who does not choose to buy into their party line as unenlightened. I would also like to disagree with your statement calling Kate a racist because she used the term “Suzy Wong”. I took that statment to be an offshoot of the commonly used “Suzy Homemaker”, directed toward the common sterotype of any woman who chooses a traditional female role as opposed to a more “modern” role. I don’t have an issue with your dislike of feminism. I just have an issue with your tying it to racism. ANY woman who choses a more traditional role come under fire from feminists, not just asian women.

  9. Shelly,

    I agree with you to a certain extent, Shelly, and I appreciate your comments.

    And, you are right. We have many friends who are white women who do not share the crazy view of Asian women so predominant among feminists. They are… non-feminist women.

    I think that there is an arena where this anger against non-feminist women is more pronounced for Asian women. The reason is the contrary of what is normally cited. Asian women are succeeding so spectacularly that they engender tremendous jealousy in response.

    Let’s stand everything on its head. Asians, in general, have been the most successful immigrant group of the last few decades. Average family income among Asians is the highest, I believe, of any ethnic group. Asians know how to continue to imbue respect for traditional values, respect for the elders and respect for family and marriage in their children. Asian women are succeeding in love, marriage and family in very large numbers.

    You are probably right that a traditional white woman who chooses to take care of her children also faces enormous hostility. I think that this hostility is simply assumed when the woman is Asian. But, then again, I have Mormon friends who are white women. And, I know that they are the targets of derision and scorn for trying to raise their children to be respectful, religious and traditional.

    What alienated me about Kate’s remarks was her assumption that a woman who wants to live a traditional life is a backward “Suzy Wong.” Who is she to make that determination? And why does she assume that that woman does not work? And why does she assume that that woman is subservient to a man? In short, she’s posited two value systems, and denied that any other can exist. You are either a feminist woman, or you are a doormat.

  10. Claire says:


    You might benefit a bit from following your wife’s philosophy of ‘being like flowing water’, it’ll be better for your health in the long run. Yet I understand your defensive anger against those who attack, or appear to attack, someone you love and admire like you obviously do your wife.

    Not all feminists are militant feminists. Feminism has been hijacked by the left-wing militants, who have taken it to places it was never meant to go. The original concept of ‘feminism’ is that a woman should be as free as a man to make her own choices about her life. The ideal is that, if a woman chooses to be the supporter and helpmate of a man, showing deference to him as head of the family and following traditional customs and behaviors of families and cultures, then that is feminism, too – so long as it is the woman’s choice, and is not imposed from without. Choices aren’t made in a vacuum, of course. As an amateur author friend once wrote, “Traditions are the frozen form of men’s choices, but they do not abolish the need to choose”. The failure of militant feminism is that they refuse to acknowledge that anyone would freely choose to follow tradition, and that blindness limits and marginalizes their movement. Which I doubt they realize.

    As an aside to Shelly, the ‘Suzy Wong’ comment refers to an old movie (and book, too, I think) that was called “The World of Suzy Wong”, about a Chinese girl in love with an occidental man. It’s been a while and I don’t recall all the details, but there was a lot of cultural clash issues that were many people’s first look into the world of American Chinese cultures. An eye-opener in it’s time.

  11. Bob Diethrich says:

    The purpose of college is not to get an education but to be an activist? Puh – Leez!

    There was a very funny scene on the Sopranos last night as Columbia student (and limousine liberal) Meadow talked to her live in boyfriend about his future.

    At one point he said that in this economy (stab stab Mr. Bush) even the McJobs aren’t there. And then he follows it up by saying, “Besides I could never take a job that could be filled by a minority!”

    I wonder if the writer was making a satirical point about this kind of condecension or actually thought it was a serious comment, unaware of the laughter it provoked in large sections of this country.

  12. I still think Stephen’s generalizations about ball-busting American women vs. the gentle traditional flowing-water Asian wife are wierd. Explain Margaret Cho–that water’s raging. I’ve read too many of his posts here that high-jack the thread into how swell his wife is, compared to American women.
    I think the original post by Joanne was interesting and had little to do with Stephen marital bliss.

  13. Bob,

    The line “Besides I could never take a job that could be filled by a minority!” implies that there are “white-only jobs.” What a ridiculous idea. I’ve never seen The Sopranos, so I can only guess that the line is meant to be parody. It would scare me if it were meant to be serious.

  14. You ought to try “marial bliss,” Kate.

    Given your ideological predisposition, I’m not sure what your chances are.

    You are welcome to your ideology of sexual and marital misery. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    And it is also odd that a post that deals with discrimination against Asians (after all that is what the racial quota system does) draws this derisive comment. I was at the Pacific Islander festival in NYC yesterday, where I listened to a number of Asian performers complain that they are not taken seriously by the media precisely because they are Asian.

    And, yes, I do enjoy rubbing my “marital bliss” in the faces of women like Kate. They deserve it. May it irritate and annoy them unto eternity.

  15. Kate,
    Way to go girl.

    Not to generalize or anything (tongue-in-cheek comment based on previous post) but have you notice how “Stephens” tend to have their hot button issues that drive then totally over the edge? With Steve LaBonne you don’t dare mention the “E” word (I didn’t say it Steve, don’t hit me). With Steven you have to be very careful about saying anything about anything Asian.

    Of course, we all have our hot button issues but it is more fun to pick on Steve/Stephen than it is to be nice all the time.



  16. Kate, I’ll leave the floor to you, now, and stop “hi-jacking.” I gather that this means that I’ve been effective, which is precisely what I intended.

    Gotta admit, I do love taunting the feminist white women. Given the beating my wife and I take from them, I can barely beat them enough. And the most fun is disseminating the notion among white men that there is a way out of putting up with feminist white women. There are alternatives, whether that means a white Mormon woman or a traditional Asian woman.

    The best thing to do men, is to leave the feminist woman behind. She tells you outright that she has nothing to offer, and men, you’d do well to believe her. Don’t be a hero and try to prove her wrong.

    Hi-jacking over, Kate. It’s all yours.

  17. Ross,

    I promised to leave this discussion, but I do want to answer you.

    You don’t have to put up with feminist white women either. However, you will find that you have to put up with their guff if you don’t. You’re white friends will accuse you of “not being able to accommodate a strong woman.”

    In other words, your words are meant to convey bravado, but I think they connote cowardice.

    And, now, my hi-jacking is over.

  18. And, a new topic.

    Have you noticed that nothing infuriates people more than the statement that you’ve found happiness in marriage/love/sex? This is a very curious phenomenon, isn’t it?

    I noticed it some months ago on this board. I responded to a series of posts by a young man who elaborated in some detail upon his introduction to homosexuality, the pain, the misery, the angst of it all… etc. He was met with a string of sympathetic replies and endless condolescenses.

    I remarked upon my marital happiness, and the result was an outpouring of outrage. How dare that man talk about such disgusting stuff!!

    I continued to be fascinated by this response, and await your sage responses. Why does failure in love, sex and marriage seem such a wonderful and sympathetic thing? Is this the “misery loves company” manifestation? And why does success in love, sex and marriage evoke condemnation, as if one had uttered an obscenity?

    Of course, this oddly does get back to Asians, doesn’t it? Asians are far more successful here, and (my theory) they are rendered invisible precisely by their success. After all, if you succeed in love, sex and marriage, according to the popular culture, what awaits you is the boredom of a dead sex life between two spoiled brats who want to fight over who does the dishes.

  19. Darn…

    I’m still waiting for the ultimate “Stephen” post where he manages to bring up his Asian wife AND his gay friend dying of AIDS in the same post…

    Joanne, could you please find us an article about an Asian woman who got HIV/AIDS from some guy, preferable a non-white, non-asian guy (you know, those “disadvantaged” minorities who come from bad “inferior cultures”)… and now because of it, has turned into a man-hating feminist lesbian??
    I can’t wait to see Stephen’s head explode… figuratively, of course.

  20. jab,

    Right on time!

    This has been a fascinating discussion… a discussion of the discriminatory attitudes of white liberals against Asians that results in… a string of replies ridiculing the notion that such discrimination exists and suggesting that if it does, it is probably justified. Or, that if you take it seriously, you are probably demented with some sort of twisted obsession. You are one of a kind, jab.

    I will not point to any particular person, but review this thread and you will see that discrimination against Asians is viewed in a different light than against blacks. It’s somehow… not that important. Animosity toward white/Asian relationships is not a problem. It’s probably deserved, because Asian women are “submissive.”

    And, jab, here’s what really frustrates you. I can speak from a wide variety of individual experiences to the issues discussed here. Obviously, you cannot. I can understand your jealousy and need to mock. I gather you are white. Ridiculing the elders for speaking from the authority of experience is a dead give-away. The wise-ass kid attitude is now the trademark of the young white liberal kid who knows absolutely nothing and is proud of it.

    I am awaiting your ultimate post… the one in which you show a cent’s worth of adult judgment and experience.

    So, I thank the respondents to this post, particularly jab, for illustrating just how deep is liberal white racism against Asians. It is not only deep and unremitting, it’s kind funny! Those who concern themselves with it are the real problem. As I recall, this post was initially about the distaste of college administrators for having too many Asian kids in their schools.

    It’s all here in this string of responses. You want to understand the racism of those college administrators? Read above.

  21. John from OK says:

    I attended UCLA from 1979-1981 so the article here interests me a lot more than Stephen vs. Jab. Some thoughts:

    1. California taxes are HIGH. CA probably spends about $12,000 subsidizing each CA resident student at UCLA. It is appalling that UCLA administrators feel the sole purpose of this massive expenditure is for student activism.

    2. All of that subsidized activism did turn me from a middle of the road patriot to a stupid angry socialist.

    3. It didn’t work. I never did anything to make the world a more livable place until I got my psychological and spiritual lives together and simply became a better person.

    4. Now when I see the letters “UCLA” my main concern is the downward slide of the football and basketball programs. Stephen, Jab, Kate — any positive ideas here will be appreciated.

    5. Once I transferred to UC Santa Cruz in 1981, I remember being slightly frustrated at how many Blacks and Latinos wanted to pursue law and engineering degrees rather than get stoned with us or attend demonstrations and sit-ins.

    6. Joanne, I left UCLA because the instruction and atmosphere simply weren’t up to par with what I thought a major institution like that should have. UCSC was much better. What were your daughter’s reasons?

  22. I wonder how many of the disadvantaged minorities no longer attending UCLA are instead part of the Cal State system?

  23. P.S. Not to be petty or insulting, but I wonder if “Berky” is short for “Berkenstock.”

  24. I do prefer that people stay on topic and stay polite.

    On UCLA: My daughter’s basic problem was that she felt too many students were focused on qualifying for med school or engineering or law school. She didn’t meet students who wanted to stay up all night discussing the meaning of life. She took a class on American politics during the 2000 campaign. Even in that class, many students were apathetic.

  25. John from OK says:

    I guess times really have changed.

  26. Amritas has posted his response on his own blog to the white women vs. Asian women thread.

    I thought of a Japanese (from Japan) guy I worked with 25 years ago at a little magazine in San Francisco. He’d read a story about a Stanford grad student who’d worked as a geisha in Japan to research her PhD thesis, and he kept urging me to become a geisha. He had a fantasy that our publisher would buy the Noble Frankfurter restaurant underneath our office and turn it into a geisha house. Staffed by me. I always wondered about, since Hideo was gay. Apparently, women serving men has appeal to men of all sorts.

  27. Ingemar Pedron says:

    “Baby boomer elites may not appreciate that when UCLA’s Asian students form groups they often, but not always, do so to worship Jesus Christ rather than Frantz Fanon, but one cannot accuse them of a lack of civic engagement and ascribe it to the stereotype of the diligent but passive oriental.”

    Brilliant. Fucking brilliant. This guy deserves a trophy.

    to all discriminators and race-hawkers: I’m Asian. Specifically, my family hail from the Philippine Islands. Wow, I bet the Swedish first name and Italian last name threw you all off, huh?

  28. Rita C. says:

    I’m not sure I’m understanding the semantics of the argument. Isn’t activism working for change? And if Asians largely join conservative groups, conservativism being resistance to change, then aren’t they not activists by definition? I’m not saying whether that’s good or bad or even true (I’ve known *plenty* of Asians who are politically active for change as a result of my working with SE Asian populations), but I don’t consider church membership a form of activism.

    I do think it is a worry that AA and Latino populations are losing ground. Campus atmosphere aside, having a large percentage of the regular population uneducated will change the atmosphere of whereever they happen to live. Affirmative Action hasn’t seemed to pan out well, but that doesn’t mean the solution doesn’t need to be found.

  29. Rita, there are different definitions of conservatism. Sure, one definition is resistance to change. But another is a belief in minimal government v. the left/liberal idea that the state can and should insert itself everywhere and try to solve all problems. There are others also.

    Even the resistance-to-change conservatives can be activists if they feel that change has gone too far and some valuable things have been lost in the process.

  30. Michelle Dulak says:

    Laura has it right. If “conservatism” merely meant “resistance to change,” then support of affirmative action, abortion rights, easy divorce, [&c. — insert favorite conservative bete noire here] would be “conservative” positions. Conservatives are constantly accused — often perfectly correctly — of wanting to “roll back” this or that existing legal or social state of things.

    And if you don’t think Christian evangelicalism is a de facto “counterculture” at UC’s flagship campuses, you haven’t spent as much time around them as I have.

    I think the Discriminations commenter gets at something else that the Nelson quote sort of glancingly implies: that Asians are too wrapped up in their studies to have time do much of anything else. As a matter of fact it isn’t true. The Christian associations are only one example. Take a look at musical ensembles at UCLA or UCB, for example, and see how overwhelming the Asian presence is. These kids aren’t music majors, for the most part, but they find time for rehearsals and for the necessary private practice as well.

  31. Michelle Dulak says:

    ” . . . time to do much of anything else.” Sorry. (Repeat ten times: “Preview is my friend.”)

  32. Rita C. says:

    Michelle: I would say it’s a safe bet I haven’t spent as much time on a UC campus as you have considering that I’ve never stepped foot in the state of California :).

    I think of the belief of minimal government as libertarian and fairly radical, not conservative (minimal government intervention would favor things like abortion rights, which traditionally conservatives do not).

    But I’m willing to take your word for it. I don’t travel in those circles.

  33. Michelle Dulak says:

    Well, Rita, at a time in which a pro-Iraq-war libertarian (yep, there are a bunch) and a protectionist, isolationist Christian social conservative are both called “conservatives” despite each agreeing more with Ralph Nader than they do with one another, I don’t think the word is very useful myself.

    But that’s just my point. Were the (mostly) women who marched on Washington last week “activists,” for example? Were the counter-protesters “activists”? I know that the big march had a lot of purposes besides supporting Roe, but obviously that was the central point, and Roe is now over thirty years old. It’s the counter-protesters who want to subvert the status quo, if you will.

    (As for libertarianism, if you phrase it as “minimal government,” it sounds “fairly radical,” but if you phrase it as “gigantic tax cuts,” it might look different, yes?)

  34. Rita C. says:

    No. *Shrug*.

  35. Classical (Burkean) conservatism is based on the idea that society cannot be redesigned like an engineering project: that there is a wisdom in traditions and experience which cannot be fully substituted for by rational analysis. I don’t think this contracts activism on behalf of limited objectives: it *would* contradict activism on behalf of any top-down attempt to create a utopia.

  36. Michelle Dulak says:

    Rita C.: Oh, whatever. If you can bring yourself to believe simultaneously that (a) conservatism is “resistance to change”; and also (b) “conservatives” “traditionally do not favor” abortion rights; and also (c) Roe has been the law for longer than most college students have been alive, then I hardly know what to say. Obviously “conservatives” don’t favor change, except when they do.

    Sorry. It’s infernally hot in my office and I’m cranky.

  37. Walter Wallis says:

    Notice that JJ no longer refers to her “21 year old daughter” since the possibility of her daughter refering to her as “my 50 year old mother” was pointed out?
    At any rate, first generation Ukranian-American women make the best wives, and single income households are the best households. And, of course, dust-bowl escapee engineers are by far the best husbands.
    Stephen [what’s wrong with a “V”?] good luck in your next life.

  38. Walter, she’s no longer 21. I’m no longer 50.

  39. And we liberals love government programs, except when we don’t. All the titles (liberal, conservative, radical, progressive, et cetera) are relative to individual issues. Otherwise, I’m a conservative except when I’m a liberal except in the many libertarian instances.

    On to the real subject (if I can remember it after all the marital bliss and geisha talk): if Asian-Americans want to emulate the values of hard work and clean living, why is that a problem? Did Nelson like demonstrations because it gave her(?) many paid days off while the admin building was occupied by smelly activists and their “1-2-3-4 We want to lie on the floor!” mantras?

  40. Richard Heddleson says:

    Is balkanized the PC term for segregated?

  41. Anyone whose interest in the complications of romantic relationships between whites and Asians has survived these comments should hasten to read this piece in the current Stanford Magazine. It’s thoughtful, well-written, and quite depressing.

  42. “My daughter attended UCLA from 1999-2001. She thought campus social and political life was balkanized, with students encouraged to categorize themselves by race and ethnicity. It’s one of the reasons she transferred.”

    Just out of interest, Joanne, does she find Stanford any better in that regard? It’s possible someone asked you and you answered in this thread already, but by this point I’m so dizzy from all the “Shriveled-up Feminist!” “Antiquated Conservative!” stuff that I don’t think I’d recognize it if I saw it.

  43. “My daughter attended UCLA from 1999-2001. She thought campus social and political life was balkanized, with students encouraged to categorize themselves by race and ethnicity.”


    I was at UC Berkeley from 1989-1992. I had gone there assuming that it would be “progressive” in the sense of being beyond racial boxes which I thought were a “conservative,” Rightist thing at the time. Was I wrong. The balkanization was the first thing I picked up on when I arrived.

    I found segregation irritating enough in Hawaii, where my high school was largely divided on racial lines. (Eurasians had to, uh, “pick a side.”) But at Berkeley, there were actual groups with names, not just informal student cliques. The color-coding was institutionalized! Arrrrgh.

    I’m sorry to hear of a similar situation on another UC campus ten years later, though I can’t say I’m surprised, not after spending half my life in academia.

  44. Sorry, Sean. I didn’t know we were going to quote the same passage at the same time! I was also thinking of asking Joanne about whether Stanford was better, but I’m glad I hadn’t. One coincidence is creepy enough.

    BTW, Berkeley pushed me over the political edge precisely because of the balkanization. I went there thinking it would be perfect for a liberal like me. Then I discovered what the Left was really like and freaked out. I’m still not a Republican, much less a hard-core Bush supporter, though …

  45. Steve LaBonne says:

    I have a very simple mind. It’s so simple that it can only hold one, politically incorrect, old-fashioned-liberal thought about race: race-consciousness of any kind is unequivocally a bad thing.

  46. “Is balkanized the PC term for segregated?”

    No, it’s the overeducated term. : )

    There is no PC term for segregated.

  47. Clarification: Not that it’s not PC to segregate, for example, hold special minority orientations for incoming college students.

  48. Amritas,

    I was a graduate student at Berkeley (1995-2003)…
    Did you ever try to join one of these groups or organizations? You would find that they were not exclusive… I am of italian-sicilian heritage, but joined
    the Black Graduate Engineering and Science Students Association, and the Graduate Students of African Descent…
    Part of the reason I joined was social… I already had a number of close friends in both organizations, another aspect was community service… BGESS organized and hosted annual science fairs for Oakland high schools… I was a volunteer and mentor. I found that I was quite welcomed in these organizations…

    The reality is, the vast majority of students self-segregate… whites just as much as any others… but my experience has been that most groups welcome others of different backgrounds who share common interests.
    Would campuses be better with less balkanization… absolutely no question. How to accomplish that? I don’t have the complete answer… but part of the solution is making that choice as an individual…

    By the way, I know you already know all of this… I have checked out your site from time to time, and respect your stuff… I was more saying all this for the benefit of everyone else. Peace.

  49. Michelle Dulak says:


    The reality is, the vast majority of students self-segregate… whites just as much as any others…

    Oh, horsepucky. I went to UCB as an undergraduate in Mech. E. and then as a graduate student in music, and I don’t remember white students “self-segregating” from Asian students in my science courses or my engineering courses or the University Symphony or chamber music.