President's Race Initiative Feedback

I. Support what you like/lack

Everyone loves a good children’s book. It contains all the things writers strive to capture in writing for adults—catchy rhythm, sharp imagery, an entertaining yarn, and quite often, a deeper, more encoded message (should you wish more than the glossy version)—all in the space of a single sitting read. Yet, given its high entertainment value (and loveable target audience), how many children’s books have each of us purchased in the past year? Six months?

A few years ago, I had the honor of being invited by Peter Kiang to visit his predominantly Asian Pacific American class at UMASS, Boston. I was immediately taken by the assignment he had given that term: to write a children’s book. My initial reaction, as a writer, was one of intense interest and surprise at the playfulness of this assignment. As the class progressed, though, I began to understand the rationale behind the assignment.

Doubtless, the assignment sent some students running to their favorite books of old. Probably, a good number investigated books on topics they wished to address. Hopefully, a few attempted to find books by Asian Pacific Americans.

The lesson: Underrepresentation doesn’t end on the political front. It is essential that we support the businesses and arts that we enjoy, but even beyond supporting our resources, we must create new ones or accept the blame for the dearth/death of them.

II. Maintain a global perspective

While it is essential for us to support Asian Pacific American causes, in action as well as word, we must remember to consider them with respect to those of other groups. Without understanding and respect for the difficulties other groups face, we cannot expect support for our own initiatives. True harmony can only come from interaction and cooperation.

III. Solutions

In terms of bridging gaps, the Internet is an absolute gift. We know from studies in psychology that familiarity breeds fondness. Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, or any other specially designated time is beneficial only insofar as it is seen along a continuum of accomplishments. Reducing an entire race or other group to a single anonymous month does little to promote commonality. Studies of television viewing habits show that amongst younger viewers, there is far more crossover between races (read "black and white," as there isn’t much programming outside of that paradigm). If we are to advance along this continuum of racial tolerance and even celebration, it is vital that we promote any and all common ground. We wield the capacity with the Internet. With it, we should encourage classroom "visits" by individuals of impact (in sports, music, literature, society in general), thus putting faces on movements and increasing the visibility and accessibility of these role models.

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