The “model minority” speaks out

This open letter on Anti-Asian discrimination was sent to the Wharton community in October 2016. See accompanying workshop slides.

Dear Wharton,

We were disappointed to hear that Peter Linneman, Emeritus Professor of Real Estate at Wharton, recently made discriminatory remarks about Chinese men at a public real estate conference in New York (see WSJ article). At Wharton, we understand that discrimination against any member of our community is an affront to all members of our community. Professor Linneman’s comments contravene our school’s ongoing commitment to promote diversity and inclusion—they do not reflect the views of the Wharton community.

There is a long history of discrimination and violence against Asians and Asian Americans in the United States. From 1882 to 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned all Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S.—the only ethnic immigration ban in this nation’s history. The U.S. also bears responsibility for Executive Order 9066 (and Korematsu v. United States), which authorized (and later constitutionalized) the incarceration of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Many other examples abound.

Today, anti-Asian discrimination continues to manifest itself through both microaggressions and hate crimes, including murder and mass murder. These acts are fueled by a variety of harmful cultural narratives, including the model minority myth, the perpetual foreigner myth, the hypersexualization of Asian women, and the desexualization of Asian men. Discriminatory statements that rely on these stereotypes also help to perpetuate the bamboo ceiling—the systemic exclusion of Asians and Asian Americans from top leadership positions in business, political, and social organizations.

A growing body of research confirms that business leaders must be competent on issues of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in order to be truly effective leaders.

To that end, we have been inspired to see our fellow classmates recognizing the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion through events, rallies, and open letters. For example, in the wake of recent acts of violence and discrimination against the Black, LGBTQ, and Muslim communities in America, student affinity groups brought Wharton together to learn about these different types of oppression and to express solidarity with the affected communities.

As a part of the ongoing student dialogue on diversity and inclusion, we invite you to attend a panel and open forum (see workshop slides) on Thursday, November 10 to explore the unique challenges faced by the Asian and Asian American communities in the United States. This event, which is sponsored by the Greater China Club (GCC), the Wharton Asian American Association of MBAs (WAAAM), Wharton Asia Club, and Return on Equality (ROE), is part of International Week (November 7-10), an annual initiative organized by the Wharton Graduate Association (WGA) to learn about the unique perspectives of our international classmates.

We also applaud the Wharton administration’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion among the student body. For example, we commend administration-driven initiatives like the mandatory workshop for first-year students, the Return on Equality Fund for student-led events, and the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force for student programming. At the same time, systemic changes are necessary to enhance the culture and norms of our school—not only among students, but also among faculty and staff members.

In particular, we urge the Wharton administration to implement mandatory training on diversity and inclusion for all faculty and staff members. This training is critical to ensuring that our faculty and staff members continue to be effective educators—for our increasingly diverse student body, and against the backdrop of an increasingly diverse business environment. In taking the lead on this very important issue, Wharton would affirm its place as a leader among our business school peers.

Maintaining an inclusive community requires ongoing and active participation from all of us. We value the efforts that students, faculty, and staff have invested in promoting diversity and inclusion at Wharton, and we look forward to continued collaboration toward our vision of a more fully inclusive One Wharton.

Wharton Greater China Club (GCC)
Wharton Asian American Association of MBAs (WAAAM)
Wharton Asia Club
Return on Equality (ROE)
Wharton Graduate Association (WGA)

Yellow peril supports Black lives

As an Asian American, I am aware that my community does not engage nearly enough on issues of racial justice in America. We tend to embrace our status as the model minority and seek to dissociate ourselves from other communities of color. As immigrants and perpetual foreigners, we are constantly reaching for whiteness in the hopes that securing white privilege will signify that we have finally realized the American Dream.

And sometimes, America lets us in. We are praised for being hardworking and good at math. And we have been largely spared from the systemic violence faced by Black America for the past four centuries through slavery, segregation, redlining, mass incarceration, and police brutality.

But our access to white privilege is both temporary and conditional. The power to confer and revoke that privilege has never belonged to us. They can let us in, and they can shut us out. The U.S. once banned all Chinese immigrants from entering the country for more than 60 years and incarcerated more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during WWII (but not a single German American).

Our access to white privilege is incomplete. We are stereotyped as workers and middle managers, not CEOs (we’re just not natural leaders). Our women are hypersexualized (relax, it’s a compliment), and our men are desexualized (relax, it’s just a joke). Sometimes we even get to be sidekicks on TV shows.

Most critically, our access to white privilege is bounded by a zero-sum game that pits the Asian American community against other communities of color. Today, Asian Americans are a pawn in the campaign against affirmative action, a legal remedy that seeks to reverse the effects of institutional racism against Black and Brown America. We are told that affirmative action benefits underrepresented minorities at our expense. We are not told that affirmative action policies are designed to preserve the white majority (or plurality) at our expense — redistributing a minority of seats between Asian Americans and other people of color. This zero-sum game is critical because it keeps us occupied with hostility toward other communities of color, distracting us from challenging white supremacist institutions.

And so we use our political energies to protest the wrong things. It was shameful that thousands of Asian Americans protested the conviction of NYPD officer Peter Liang for killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man. Instead of being angry at the fact that Liang was (rightfully) convicted of manslaughter, we should have been angry at the fact that almost no other police officers have been indicted — much less convicted — for killing unarmed Black people in this country.

Asian America has an important role to play in #BlackLivesMatter. But first we must decolonize our minds and reject the anti-Blackness we have internalized from our Asian and American cultures. We must learn to see ourselves as people of color (without reductively equating our experiences with those of all people of color). And we must acknowledge the many ways in which we are complicit in upholding the white supremacist structures of this country — in our selective sexual desires, our disdain for melanin, our antipathy toward affirmative action, and our fear of and contempt for low-income Black and Brown communities.

Asian Americans have so much power in our collective voice. We have the power to mobilize and advocate on issues that uniquely affect the Asian American community. And we have the power to stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown sisters and brothers to advocate on issues that matter to all people of color. We can join together to work toward our common goal of an American Dream that opens its doors for everyone.

Why Wharton stands against Donald Trump

Originally published in The Huffington Post on Aug 1, 2016. Author’s note: Many thanks to the co-authors of the Open Letter to Donald Trump: Christine Goldrick, Wilson Tong, and Amira Valliani.

The Open Letter to Donald Trump has been signed by almost 4,000 verified students, alumni, faculty, and family members of the Wharton community—including verified members of every Wharton class from 1964 to 2021. Many readers have asked us to comment on why our signatories decided to add their names to the open letter. In response, we decided to analyze the comments of Mr. Trump alongside those of our signatories. Here’s what we found.

“I went to the Wharton School of Business. I’m, like, a really smart person.” – Donald Trump (July 11, 2015)

While Donald Trump has repeatedly brandished his Wharton undergraduate degree as proof of his intelligence, the Wharton community has never celebrated intelligence for its own sake. We readily recognize that intelligence can never be an end in itself—intelligence only has meaningful social value if it is applied toward a meaningful social end. To that end, we seek to harness the power of data and evidence to improve our businesses and our communities.

In contrast, Mr. Trump has long remained fixated on intelligence as an intrinsic measure. In a fit of braggadocio, he once tweeted, “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest—and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” Mr. Trump’s theatrics obscure the fact that any ostensible indicator of intelligence—educational credentials or otherwise—is a red herring. What is the relevance of Mr. Trump’s intelligence if 76% of his fact-checked statements are patently false?

“It is the duty of anyone hoping to live in a fact-based world—regardless of political affiliation—to oppose Trump’s candidacy.” — Madhan Gounder, W’03 alumnus

“Trumpism is a celebration of ignorance,” wrote Madhan Gounder, one of the signatories of the open letter and a 2003 alumnus of the Wharton undergraduate program (“W’03”). “It is the duty of anyone hoping to live in a fact-based world—regardless of political affiliation—to oppose Trump’s candidacy.” A 1991 alumnus of the college (“C’91”) agreed that Mr. Trump was “illogical, ignorant, uninformed, temperamentally unfit for political office,” and “a danger to the country and the world.”

Perhaps in response to being publicly repudiated by almost 4,000 members of the Wharton community, Mr. Trump tried a new approach at the Republican National Convention (RNC). After months of trumpeting his undergraduate Wharton credentials, the campaign attempted to downplay the value of an MBA education. “We didn’t learn from MBAs,” his son, Donald Trump, Jr., scoffed. “We learned from people who had doctorates in common sense.”

Unfortunately, both Mr. Trumps miss the point. The Wharton community wholeheartedly agrees that having an educational degree is no substitute for experience or common sense—or a desire to create meaningful change.

“I alone can fix it.” – Donald Trump (July 21, 2016)

At Wharton, students are constantly reminded that true leaders recognize their own limitations. In fact, our MBA admissions interview includes a team-based exercise that requires competing applicants to work together to solve a given problem. Once we arrive on campus, we are exhorted to explore “stretch experiences,” seek out 360-degree feedback, and learn from the diverse leadership perspectives of our peers.

But how does Mr. Trump define leadership? According to a 1999 interview with Larry King, he had absolutely no idea. “How do you define leadership?” he mused. “I mean, leadership is a very strange word because, you know, some people have it, some people don’t and nobody knows why.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has recently stumbled upon a strange and dangerous new definition of leadership. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he announced in his RNC acceptance speech. “Our plan will put America First,” he said, echoing the sentiments of a nativist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and isolationist organization from the World War II era.

“This is not the kind of leadership that we learned at Wharton.” — WG’88 alumnus

Mr. Trump’s “I-alone” and “America-alone” brand of leadership finds little support within the Wharton community. Signatories of the open letter called him “a weak leader,” citing his “utter lack of any apparent moral and ethical center,” the “height of his hubris,” his lack of “humility and compassion,” his fondness for “strongmanship [sic] and bigotry,” and his policy of “dividing the country instead of bringing people together.” “This is not the kind of leadership that we learned at Wharton,” wrote a 1988 alumnus of the Wharton MBA program (WG’88), who pronounced Mr. Trump not only “unqualified to represent the Wharton alumni body” but also “unqualified to be President of the United States.”

“Make America Great Again” – Donald Trump

The Wharton community is proud to represent a remarkably diverse group of people. We proactively invest in student initiatives like the Return on Equality coalition that seek to create business leaders and citizens who can help make America (and the world) a more inclusive place. We welcome opportunities like the #HumansofWharton storytelling platform to empathize with the diverse lived experiences of our peers.

Mr. Trump has long claimed that he wants to Make America Great Again. But who does America represent, in the eyes of Mr. Trump?

Not Latinx immigrants, whom he seeks to expel on a scale greater than any other forced migration in global history, and whom he has vilified as rapists—despite being a defendant himself to multiple charges of rape. Not African Americans, against whom he has incited violence and discriminated so blatantly that the U.S. Department of Justice sued him—not once, but twice—for housing discrimination. Not Muslims, whom he wants to register in a national database and ban from our country (while flatly denying the existence of an extensive vetting mechanism for refugees). Not American veterans, like Humayun Khan, a fallen Muslim American soldier whose mother he cruelly attacked for being too grief-stricken to speak at the DNC, or U.S. Senator John McCain, whom he has callously ridiculed for being captured while serving our country in war. Not Jews, whom he has demeaned in a dog-whistling, anti-Semitic (and plagiarized) attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton. Not Asian Americans, whom he has lazily stereotyped as perpetual foreigners, no matter how many generations they may have lived here. Not Indigenous Americans, like the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, whom he has baselessly accused not only of organized crime but also of not “look[ing] Indian” enough to operate gaming establishments. Not Americans living with disabilities, like New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, whom he has openly mocked in retaliation for questioning the factual basis of Mr. Trump’s Islamophobic claims. Not lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer Americans, whom he believes do not deserve the fundamental and inalienable human right to marry. Not women, against whom he has unleashed a torrent of misogynistic statements for breastfeeding, menstruating, asserting their sexual autonomy, exercising their reproductive rights, or failing to meet his arbitrary standards of female beauty—in other words, for daring to exist as whole human beings beyond his personal, perverse consumption. The list goes on.

In response to this litany of hate, the Wharton community has come together to denounce Mr. Trump.

“My father fought for his country and its ideals both in war and with peacetime activism. He would be appalled.” — son of W’42 alumnus and war veteran

For many signatories, joining the letter was an act of love and solidarity. An inner-city schoolteacher and incoming WG’18 student described the “psychological damage” that Trump had inflicted on her Latinx students as “heartbreaking and unacceptable.” A rabbi, nonprofit administrator, and WG’84 alumnus explained that “inclusion is good for business, and thus the overall society,” lamenting that “Mr. Trump must have missed that essential lesson.” Several supporters signed the open letter in honor of their fathers, who were veterans and Wharton alumni. They were adamant that “Trump would never have represented his views,” with one categorically stating, “My father fought for his country and its ideals both in war and with peacetime activism. He would be appalled.”

“A true member of the Wharton community and a true leader stands up against hate, racism, prejudice, and xenophobia.” — Melody Chen, WG’17 student

For those of us who belong to communities that Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked, the personal was inseparable from the political. “I am an American citizen, a minority, a child of immigrants, a Christian, and a woman,” wrote Melody Chen, a WG’17 student. “A true member of the Wharton community and a true leader stands up against hate, racism, prejudice, and xenophobia.” Another WG’17 student, a Black international woman from Zimbabwe, agreed: “Trump’s hateful comments don’t represent me or the student body that I love.”

“I am a board member of College Republicans at Penn. I am horrified by Donald Trump’s statements and actions over this past year.” — W’19 student

It was unsurprising that the open letter resonated across the political spectrum, extending “beyond party politics” as one WG’05 alumnus observed, into the realm of “basic human decency.” Republican signatories included a WG’62 alumnus and self-described “center-right Republican,” as well as a W’19 student and College Republicans board member who declared that he was “horrified” by Mr. Trump’s campaign. “Not only does he fail to represent Wharton,” the W’19 student wrote, Mr. Trump “fails to stand for both conservative and, more importantly, American values.”

“Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to — it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it.” – Donald Trump (Feb. 28, 2016)

The Wharton community is proud of our history of protecting freedom and democracy from encroaching threats of fascism and totalitarianism. Today, the Wharton curriculum continues to teach respect for democratic governance, civic duty, and stewardship through social impact.

While some readers may bristle at election-cycle invocations of Godwin’s law, Mr. Trump’s campaign has disturbingly embraced many textbook attributes of fascism and totalitarianism, including, but not limited to, an anaphylactic aversion to the truth, open support for torture and violence, a hypermasculinist disdain for losing, fanatical fearmongering, mandatory registration of a scapegoated minority group, and white supremacist propaganda couched in nationalist rhetoric.

Borrowing from a well-known anti-Nazi poem (“First they came…”), Ohio governor John Kasich has conceded that Republican voters “might not care” if Mr. Trump threatens Muslims, Latinx immigrants, Black protesters, or journalists. “But think about this,” he warned. “If he keeps going, and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you. And you better hope there’s someone left to help you.”

“I long for a return to the glory days when our worst alumni were just your garden-variety white collar criminals and inside traders—not a maybe-fascist demagogue who pretends to sell steaks.” — W’13 alumnus

Many Wharton signatories shared Mr. Kasich’s concerns. One C’85 alumnus called Mr. Trump “an aspiring fascist despot,” while William Klun, a WG’88 alumnus, declared him to be a “fascist who has no place in public office.” Finding solace in satire, a W’13 alumnus confessed that he “long[ed] for a return to the glory days when our worst alumni were just your garden-variety white collar criminals and inside traders—not a maybe-fascist demagogue who pretends to sell steaks.” According to a C’91 alumnus, Mr. Trump is “dangerously narcissistic” and “a serial liar.” Deeply troubled, she wrote, “He represents the worst about us; he is what happens when the untrammeled id is given a megaphone. He sullies democracy with his demagoguery.”

“Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything I believe Wharton stands for.” — W’09 alumnus

Several signatories, including a prominent faculty member, denounced Mr. Trump as the “antithesis” of everything Wharton stands for. Some of us might venture one step further—

Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything America stands for.

. . .

Disclaimer: This op ed reflects the personal views of its author and quoted signatories only and is not affiliated with the Wharton School. The Wharton School takes no political position and does not comment on its students, alumni, or faculty.

Open letter to Donald Trump

You do not represent us: an open letter to Donald Trump

Originally published at Medium in July 2016.  Co-authored with Christine Goldrick, Wilson Tong, and Amira Valliani. The open letter was signed by Wharton students and alumni in every class from 1964 to 2021.

Dear Mr. Trump:

At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, students are taught to represent the highest levels of respect and integrity. We are taught to embrace humility and diversity. We can understand why, in seeking America’s highest office, you have used your degree from Wharton to promote and lend legitimacy to your candidacy.

As a candidate for President, and now as the presumptive GOP nominee, you have been afforded a transformative opportunity to be a leader on national and international stages and to make the Wharton community even prouder of our school and values.

However, we have been deeply disappointed in your candidacy.

We, proud students, alumni, and faculty of Wharton, are outraged that an affiliation with our school is being used to legitimize prejudice and intolerance. Although we do not aim to make any political endorsements with this letter, we do express our unequivocal stance against the xenophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry that you have actively and implicitly endorsed in your campaign.

The Wharton community is a diverse community. We are immigrants and children of immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Jews, women, people living with or caring for those with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community. In other words, we represent the groups that you have repeatedly denigrated, as well as their steadfast friends, family, and allies.

We recognize that we are fortunate to be educated at Wharton, and we are committed to using our opportunity to make America and the world a better place — for everyone. We are dedicated to promoting inclusion not only because diversity and tolerance have been repeatedly proven to be valuable assets to any organization’s performance, but also because we believe in mutual respect and human dignity as deeply held values. Your insistence on exclusion and scapegoating would be bad for business and bad for the American economy. An intolerant America is a less productive, less innovative, and less competitive America.

We, the undersigned Wharton students, alumni, and faculty, unequivocally reject the use of your education at Wharton as a platform for promoting prejudice and intolerance. Your discriminatory statements are incompatible with the values that we are taught and we teach at Wharton, and we express our unwavering commitment to an open and inclusive American society.

This letter reflects the personal views of its signatories only and is not affiliated with the Wharton School. The Wharton School takes no political position and does not comment on its students, alumni, or faculty.

Total: 4,028
(last updated Sunday, November 6, 2016)