Kenneth Marcus: alt-civil rights in the age of the alt-right

Originally published by the National Women’s Law Center 

Our Secretary of Education doesn’t believe in public schools. Our president doesn’t believe in facts. Is it any surprise that our nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights doesn’t believe in civil rights?

Just yesterday, Kenneth Marcus told the Senate that he can’t name a single civil rights violation committed by the Trump administration. This is the man who wants to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This is the man who would enforce federal anti-discrimination statutes to ensure that all students have equal access to education.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren put it, “We don’t need someone in this position to do as little as possible to protect as few students as possible.”

Here are six of Marcus’s worst anti-civil rights positions:

1. Marcus supports Betsy DeVos’s attack on sexual assault survivors.

Marcus told the Senate that he agrees with Secretary DeVos’s decision to rescind Title IX guidance on sexual assault. Apparently, he thinks it was a good idea to replace 72 pages of detailed guidance with a scant 10 pages of confusing guidance that gives special rights to accused rapists.

Marcus also claimed that the Office for Civil Rights shouldn’t have required schools to use the preponderance of the evidence standard in Title IX investigations—even though OCR required schools to use the preponderance standard the last time he was in charge. Marcus might be willing to throw sexual assault survivors under the bus in order to get this new job, but we always keep receipts.

2. Marcus doesn’t think Title VI protects undocumented students.

Back in 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that schools can’t deny undocumented children access to public education. The Office for Civil Rights followed up with guidance in 2014, reminding schools that Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of a student’s citizenship status.

But at his Senate hearing, Marcus said he didn’t think he would be responsible for protecting undocumented students, claiming (wrongly) that he “lacked jurisdiction.” As the Trump administration continues its attacks on undocumented children, Mexicans, and Muslims, Marcus’s apathy toward undocumented students is incompatible with the purpose of the Office for Civil Rights.

3. Marcus doesn’t think Title IX protects LGBTQ students.

Between the Departments of Education and Justice’s rescission of their transgender guidance, and the White House’s transgender military ban, LGBTQ rights are squarely under attack. But Marcus doesn’t seem to think this is a problem.

In 2004, as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Marcus was outraged by a professor who rebuked a white male student for expressing “conservative Christian views” about homosexuality. He promised to “aggressively prosecute” schools that engaged in what he considered “religious harassment” of conservative Christian students but somehow (very mysteriously) forgot to denounce anti-LGBTQ harassment. Years later, during a USCCR discussion on bullying, including anti-LGBTQ bullying, he again (very mysteriously) forgot to denounce anti-LGBTQ harassment as a form of harassment prohibited by Title IX.

It’s bad enough that Marcus is unlikely to protect LGBTQ students. It’s even worse that he might “aggressively prosecute” schools that discipline anti-LGBTQ harassers, on the basis that these harassers are victims of so-called “religious harassment.” At a minimum, he’s displayed no interest in enforcing the civil rights of students who are harassed or assaulted based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

4. Marcus thinks affirmative action is reverse discrimination.

Affirmative action is a race-conscious (or gender-conscious, etc.) policy that seeks to correct the effects of historical and present-day discrimination. While Marcus supports a “color-blind society,” he doesn’t seem to recognize that colorblindness is in itself a form of racism.

You might be wondering—if you can’t see race, then how do you identify and fight racism? Well, the answer is that you don’t. As Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Marcus published a 2004 report encouraging schools to use “race-neutral policies” instead of race-based affirmative action. Later, as Staff Director for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he followed up with a 2007 report recommending that law schools no longer be required to “demonstrate a commitment to diversity.”

Why does Marcus oppose affirmative action? It might be because he thinks that “cultural dysfunction” and “family structure”—rather than historical and present-day discrimination—are the primary causes of racial disparity between black and white individuals. It might be because he believes in the myth of reverse-racism (as does his predecessor Candice Jackson), and that race-conscious policies designed to promote workplace equality actually “reflect racial prejudice” against white people.

In any case, Marcus’s views on affirmative action make him unqualified to lead the Office for Civil Rights. Anyone who doesn’t understand how racism works and who holds such regressive racial stereotypes is unfit to lead an agency charged with enforcing protections against racial discrimination.

5. Marcus thinks sexist stereotypes are a legitimate basis for offering single-sex education.

There is overwhelming empirical evidence that single-sex education does not improve educational outcomes and that it reinforces harmful gender stereotypes.  But Marcus does not appear to believe in science or in protecting the Title IX rights of girls and women (don’t worry, he’ll fit right in with the Trump administration).

In 2004, as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Marcus was responsible for single-sex education regulations that invited schools to create separate-and-unequal programs based on pseudoscientific preferences and beliefs—programs that could violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. Since the regulations were issued, single-sex education has increased sharply in public schools across the country, causing a resurgence of appallingly regressive gender stereotypes in the classroom. It became so alarming that the Department of Education issued guidance in 2014, clarifying that schools cannot rely on “overbroad generalizations” about the ability or preferences of either sex in offering single-sex programs.

“Our kids were basically being taught ideas about gender that come from the Dark Ages,” a parent from Mobile, Alabama reported. In one Pittsburgh kindergarten, boys learned vocabulary by playing basketball and running relay races, while girls learned vocabulary through fairytale stories, wands, and tiaras. In a Wisconsin school district, boys were asked “what would you do,” while girls were asked “how would you feel?”

As the popularity of single-sex education continues to grow, it’s clear that Marcus must not be given a second opportunity as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights to roll back gender equity further.

6. Marcus doesn’t believe in disparate-impact (unintentional) discrimination.

Before we dive in, let’s do a quick Discrimination 101: People can experience discrimination in one of two forms—disparate treatment or disparate impact—for being a member of a protected class like race, sex, etc. You’re probably familiar with disparate treatment discrimination, which occurs if a policy is explicitly discriminatory (e.g., “whites only” drinking fountains), or if a facially neutral policy is administered in a discriminatory way (e.g., racial disparities in the criminal justice system and in school discipline). In contrast, disparate impact discrimination occurs if a policy is written and administered in a neutral way but still has a disproportionate and unjustified effect on members of a protected class (e.g., the Los Angeles Police Department’s unjustified height requirement). Disparate impact liability is critical to civil rights enforcement because it focuses on proving structural injustice and implementing remedies rather than proving intent or assigning blame.

But Marcus doesn’t agree that disparate impact discrimination is enough on its face to constitute a civil rights violation. Moreover, he believes that disparate impact discrimination is just another way of revealing “hidden discriminatory intent,” rather than a standalone form of structural oppression. Marcus’s reasoning suggests that he fundamentally misunderstands how even neutral policies can “freeze” an oppressive status quo, even if no hidden discriminatory intent exists.

What makes Marcus’s views on disparate impact especially dangerous? Because it’s common knowledge by now that students of color suffer from both disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination under their schools’ zero-tolerance discipline policies, which lead to more students of color being excluded from school and which exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline. And yet the Department of Education will probably rescind its 2014 guidance against racially discriminatory discipline practices. This leaves students of color more vulnerable than ever to citations, suspensions, and expulsions that deny their right to equal access to education.

It’s bad enough that Marcus is unlikely to protect students—especially students of color—from disparate impact discrimination. It’s even worse that he might punish schools for taking proactive measures to avoid such discrimination.

***

To recap, Marcus’s positions condone or support discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. There’s no way he should be given a second chance to wreak havoc as Assistant Secretary for against Civil Rights.

 

Sex is like boxing

See Facebook post and rape apologist comments here. Republished at DailyO.

​There's a rape joke that goes like this: "Every woman has that one moment when you think -- ope, here’s my rape! This is it!"[1]

Well, this is mine. [CW: SEXUAL ASSAULT]

My hope is that it will help you understand how insidious and ubiquitous sexual assault actually is, and how crucial Title IX is. This morning, Betsy DeVos just rolled back Title IX, announcing that schools can use a higher standard of proof for sexual misconduct violations than for other violations like physical assault and plagiarism. In other words -- accused rapists get special rights.[2]

About two months ago while studying for the bar exam, I swiped right on the "perfect" match -- Harvard Law graduate, recent Democratic Party candidate, professor at a top law school, self-professed social justice advocate. We met up at a bar in Center City. As it turned out, we shared the same leftist political values and 30 mutual friends on fb.

The bar was emptying, so he suggested we go to the rooftop of his apartment complex. I'd been there many times to visit Wharton friends, so I said why not -- we were in the middle of a great conversation. But the rooftop turned out to be closed, so he suggested we go back to his apartment unit instead. I flagged this as a potential bait-and-switch, but I agreed because I wanted to keep talking. (But why does that even matter? Why am I already defending myself?)

After maybe an hour of talking in the living room, I decided I wasn't staying. So I announced: "I'm going home now." He looked at me and, without saying anything, kissed me. I kissed him back. Then I stood up and repeated more firmly, "OK, but I'm actually leaving now." He looked at me and, again without saying anything, picked me up, carried me into his bedroom, and pinned me to the bed.

It happened too fast for me to react. Women are conditioned to minimize their own discomfort, maintain social harmony, and avoid conflict. So I laughed. And then I said for the 3rd time, "I told you, I'm leaving right now. I'm not joking." I tried to push him off of me.

He didn't move. He continued lying on top of me without moving, kissing me as I tried to push him off. I extricated myself by peeling myself out from underneath him. He never moved. I stood up. "OK I'm leaving," I said for the 4th time. I walked back into the living room toward the door. When I reached the door, he grabbed my arm and dragged me back to the bed. He was laughing.

That's when I realized -- he didn't even realize that he was assaulting me. He thought he was being "sexy" and "manly." I wrenched my arm out of his grasp and went back into the living room to put on my shoes. I was still pretty calm on the exterior because it's really difficult to process that someone doesn't give a fuck about your consent when you were just talking about social justice advocacy a few minutes ago.

I told him, "I'm not playing hard to get with you. Maybe you think I am. I'm not." He finally stopped smiling. I left.

As I walked home, I called a close friend (thank you I love you) to process what had just happened. I have been a trained advocate for sexual assault survivors for 7 years -- I know what rape myths are. I know what victim blaming is. But still I felt the need to apologize repeatedly to my friend on the phone for being so upset -- I was "fine" and "nothing" happened and "it could have been worse."

But here's the thing -- my date could have raped me without even knowing it. Remember, he was laughing. And then, if I had reported him, he probably would have accused me of lying because I "regretted" it.

It took me 3 hours on the phone with my friend to finally fall asleep -- 1 hour of angry rehashing and 2 hours of listening mindlessly to him tell me about the detailed history of the British Empire (thank you that was amazing, please start a podcast).

The next morning, my almost-rapist texted me to ask why I had unmatched him on the dating app. He wanted to "talk." I said fine, call me. He was worried. "I get the feeling that you were upset at me last night. What happened?"

"I know what happened. What do you think happened?" I asked him.

He punted. "I think I have an idea, but I would rather hear it from you." Translation: He didn't want to admit to any more wrongdoing than what I was upset at him for. He didn't want to verbalize and confront the possibility that he wasn't a Good Person.

So I started talking/yelling at him about consent and what he did wrong each time I said I was leaving. He had so many excuses. "But it was late .... and you came to my place ... I thought you were just playing hard-to-get ... But most girls ..." It was your textbook Justin Bieber what-do-you-mean bullshit.

I was livid. Why would you ever want to have sex with someone who said no to you five times on the off-chance that they maybe meant yes?

And, how many other women have you done this to? Were any of them too drunk or afraid to push you away? (I don't drink because my alcohol allergy gives me heart palpitations, but my level of sobriety is absolutely irrelevant to his conduct.)

45 minutes later, I became tired of his non-apologies. I told him I had to hang up and start my day.

And then, the most magical thing happened. He asked me for a second date because he was "really disappointed" about how things turned out. Fuck out of here. You almost raped me and now you're "really disappointed" we won't go out again?

Rape culture is real. It teaches men that a woman who says no repeatedly and who is actively trying to push you off of her is just "flirting." It teaches men to believe that when she resists, she just wants you to overpower her -- i.e., rape her. Rape culture teaches us that men can't be raped (because men always want sex) and that sex workers can't be raped (because sex workers are always available to anyone and everyone). Rape culture teaches us that survivors lie.

But rape and assault happen all the time.

Maybe what happened to me has happened to you.

Maybe what my date did to me is something you have done to other people. Maybe this possibility makes you uncomfortable.

​Jon Oliver ​recently used this analogy: "Sex is like boxing. If both people didn't agree to participate, one of them is committing a crime."[3] If you want to box with someone, and they say "no," and you punch them anyways, that's not boxing -- that's physical assault. If you want to have sex with someone, and they say "no," and you touch/have sex with them anyways, that's not sex -- that's sexual assault.

If you disagree with me, or you think it was even partially my fault, I strongly urge you to reconsider. Not for me, but for the people you love. The "1 in 5" statistic is real.[4] Statistically, someone you love (statistically, a woman) has experienced some form of attempted or completed sexual assault at least once in their life.

When you engage in victim-blaming, you are telling that person whom you love, "You can't talk to me about your assault. I won't believe you. It was your fault. Your rapist is still my friend."

​Ending sexual violence is on all of us. It's on you -- especially men. Check yourself and go get your friends.

--------------------

​​[1] Ever Mainard, a Chicago-based female comedian.​ The rest of her skit is racist as hell, so I'm not linking to it #whitefeminism. But speaking of rape jokes, if you want to tell one, make sure the punchline is the rapist, not the survivor. In other words, punch up, not down.

​​[2] All civil proceedings use the preponderance of the evidence standard. The Supreme Court has only ​ever ​applied a greater-than-preponderance standard in civil suits where deprivations akin to incarceration, like deportation and involuntary psychiatric confinement, were at stake.​ ​Title IX consequences do not come anywhere close to incarceration, involuntary confinement, or deportation. You can find the new guidance here: https://www2.ed.gov/…/fron…/faq/rr/policyguidance/index.html.

[3] I’m not sure if ​Oliver came up with it or merely popularized it. Sex Education: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver​, HBO​ (Aug. 9, 2015), available at ​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0jQz6jqQS0​.​​​

[4] In 2007, a Department of Justice research agency found that 1 in 5 women experience attempted or completed sexual assault during college, where sexual assault is defined as sexual battery or rape, not merely verbal harassment. The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study, National Institute for Justice xiii, 3-14 (Oct. 2007), available at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/221153.pdf.

Fuck centrism

If you say you love this country, then you must understand that America has always been like this — it was founded on white supremacy [1], and it will continue slouching toward its violent white supremacist ends unless we use all of our power to destroy it.

If you say you love this country, then use your love to imagine a wholly different world — one where we work together to dismantle not only white supremacy, but also the white supremacist imperialist capitalist ableist cisheteropatriarchy. [2]

Not sure what these words mean? Not sure if they are actual, real problems? Google them. Read this. Before you draw false equivalences, propagate strawman arguments, and swallow the myths of American exceptionalism, do your homework. All of the research has already been conducted, all the literature has already been written, and all the conversations have already been had. [3] Go read them, and inform yourself. Before we learn to imagine the new, we must unlearn the old. [4]

Not comfortable with these words because they are too “extreme”? Oppose Trump, yet prefer a more “centrist, moderate” approach? Then be honest with yourself about what you are willing to stand against, and what you are willing to tolerate.

Look. Centrism protects the status quo. Centrism is an accomplice to oppression. Centrism sticks its head in the sand and pretends that oppressors and oppressed wield the same power. Centrism equates destruction of property with destruction of human life. Centrism sends one police unit to protect KKK/Nazi “protesters” and another to open fire on black/brown/indigenous protesters. Centrism mourns the death of a single white woman more than the deaths of hundreds of thousands of black and brown people.[5] Centrism says, “Be patient. You haven’t suffered enough yet.”

Fuck centrism. [6]

If you say you love this country, then understand that “justice is what love looks like in public.” [7] If you want to learn more about what justice looks like, start here (literally click anywhere).

We are now at a precipice. One day, when you are old and grey, will you look back upon your life knowing that you did not speak up when it mattered — because it was easier to stay silent, because centrism was more comfortable, more convenient?

Or will you be at peace knowing that you helped write new laws, save lives, and build a new social order — that you helped alter the course of your country forever? [8]

————-
[1] See, e.g., indigenous genocide, indigenous land theft, slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, prison exception to 13th amendment, Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment, U.S. covert/overt interference in other democratic regimes. This is obviously a non-exhaustive list. Also, by “America,” I mean “the United States of America” because America is the name of 2 continents.

[2] See bell hooks, Understanding Patriarchy. Note: there are many other -isms I have omitted.

[3] Scott Woods, “A Conversation On Race Is A Horrible Goal” (Nov 11, 2015), (“A conversation is a horrible goal. I’m not interested in having your version of a race conversation. . . . I want your race activism. . . . I don’t want to have any more conversations as goals. All of the necessary conversations have been happening. We published the conversations. We recorded the conversations on video. We turned the conversations into poems and memes and songs and TV shows. We gave the conversations away for free. We put the conversations in all of your libraries​. .​ . . We codified the conversations and made them classes and presentations and conferences. . . . All you got to do is sit down and listen.”).​

​[4] Nancy Scheibner, “The Art of Making Possible” (“And the purpose of history is to provide a receptacle / For all those myths and oddments / Which oddly we have acquired / And from which we would become unburdened / To create a newer world / To transform the future into the present.”).

[5] See, e.g., Hari Ziyad, “Heather Heyer and the white ‘allies’ who have ‘done more’ than us for our own liberation” (Aug 15, 2017).

[6] See Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (Apr 16, 1963) (“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.'”).

[7] Cornel West, “Justice Is What Love Looks Like in Public.”

[8] Audre Lorde, “Your Silence Will Not Protect You” (“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. . . . Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.”).

Stop white supremacy

A lot of black and brown and Muslim people were murdered recently.

Stop white supremacists. Stop anti-blackness. Stop Islamophobia. Stop xenophobia. Stop the police. Don’t stop reading yet —

1. If you’re not an alt-right white supremacist, why are you mad? I wasn’t talking about you.

2. Wait no, I was talking about you. I was talking about all of us. This isn’t just about white people (even though it often is). Anti-blackness is everywhere. The police officer and self-appointed vigilante who killed Philando Castile and Trayvon Martin, respectively, are Hispanic. The police officer who killed Akai Gurley is Asian American. Three of the six police officers who killed Freddie Gray are black. (None of them are in prison.)

3. We are all complicit.

When we talk about “bad/sketchy/ghetto” neighborhoods, but we just mean “not white.” When we “don’t see color” but all of our friends are white or light-skinned. When “some of our best friends” are black/brown/Muslim/gay/bi/trans, but we wouldn’t want to fuck them. When we would want to fuck them, but we wouldn’t want to marry them.

When we smoke pot on the weekends and take molly at Coachella but also think unarmed black men are dangerous for selling pot or cigars. When everything in our IG and Snap is #lit, goals, bae, and YASSSS, but black people who speak African American Vernacular English are “uneducated.”

When we change our Facebook photo to stand with Paris but not with Beirut or Baghdad. When we pull our #DicksOutForHarambe and want #JusticeforCecil but don’t know about #FinsburyPark or #NabraHassanen or #CharleenaLyles. When animal deaths make us sad but not human deaths.

When we love that new expensive white-owned “fusion” restaurant, but don’t want to pay more than $7 at an immigrant-owned Chinese/Mexican/Arab/etc. restaurant.

When we think Arab mass murderers are “terrorists,” but white mass murderers are “gunmen” and “van drivers” with “mental illnesses” in no way radicalized by fundamentalist Christianity / Reddit / Breitbart.

When we think it’s okay to bomb Syria to protect its children from chemical weapons but that’s definitely not the same thing as Syria hypothetically bombing us to protect our children from being chemically poisoned by elected officials in Flint, MI, or to protect indigenous people from being gassed by police officers at Standing Rock.

When we say Islam oppresses women with the hijab and the driving ban, but we love celebrities who rape, beat, and sexually harass women like Kobe Bryant, Casey Affleck, and Bill Clinton (don’t fight me on this, just google it please).

When we talk about how Democrats have alienated the “working class,” when we really mean the “white working class,” as if black and brown people and immigrants aren’t part of the working class.

When we say we don’t like “identity politics” or “silly bathroom bills” and would rather focus on the “real issues,” like “the economy,” as if the white working class isn’t an “identity.” As if police brutality and vigilante violence aren’t “real issues.” As if safety for transgender people in bathrooms without fear of being murdered by transphobic people isn’t a “real issue.” As if loss of income and wealth from employment discrimination and housing discrimination aren’t “economic issues.”

When we heap praise on white / non-black / non-Muslim, etc. people for allyship but don’t give the same credit to black and brown mostly women and LGBTQ folks who have been saying the same thing for decades and centuries.

When we say MLKJ would have wanted protesters to be “more peaceful,” even though Dr. King was considered a radical in his day. Even though he said the greatest threat to racial equality was not the KKK but “the white moderate” who agrees with your goals but not with your methods/tone. (The same Dr. King who called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”)

4. If you agree with my post but think I’m being “too aggressive,” I will refer you back to what MLKJ said about moderates. Don’t create a false equivalence between criticism of violence and actual violence.

I wish I could also say that I don’t care if you think I’m being an aggressive anti-white/anti-male bitch/etc. I care a lot, but fuck it because as the brilliant Nayyirah Waheed wrote:

‘no’
might make them angry,
but
it will make you free.
– if no one has ever told you, your freedom is more important than their anger.

5. If you want to learn more, I can recommend some great insta accounts to follow. DM me 🙂

If you would like to put your money where your hashtags are, consider donating to the families of Nabra Hassanen, Charleena Lyles, and Philando Castille.

If you would like the system to change, please VOTE in every election, not just the presidential one. Your state and local officials are often the ones legislating (and adjudicating) on policing, education, housing, etc.

6. Nothing I said here is original — thank you to the brilliant and tireless advocates (almost all of whom are black women, NB women of color, and LGBTQ women of color) who educate and inspire me every day on fb and insta.

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, Hispanic 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)