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Affirmative Action, Ugly Betty, and Bryan

         In Chapter 12 of Gender, Race, and Class in Media by Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez, the authors discuss a particular episode from the sit-com Ugly Betty “When Betty Met YETI,” which spotlights affirmative action decisions based on race (2011). Affirmative action is defined as when factors such a race, color, religion, sex, or national origin are taken into consideration to benefit an underrepresented group, according to National Archives (1965). In this episode, Betty, a Latina, and her co-worker Marc, a gay white male, both apply to an internship called YETI where magazine assistants are trained to become editors. Betty and Marc are competing against each other for one position, and while Marc has worked on his presentation for three months with two celebrity sponsors for his application and interview, Betty only finds out about the opportunity forty-eight hours before the interview. Betty ended up getting the internship, leaving Marc upset and frustrated. When confronted, Marc tells Betty that the real reason she got the position over him was because she helped YETI “meet their quota…because [she is] Latina.” He then calls her a “token ethnic girl (2011),” leaving Betty not only upset but also self-conscious as she starts questioning if her abilities really qualify for the position.

AMERICA FERRERA, MICHAEL URIE

Betty and Marc from the series Ugly Betty

Source: http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/ugly-betty-series-finale-marc-main.jpg

       According to the book, affirmative action “became policy in the 1960s under President Johnson” where it was “launched to help improve the employment and educational access of ‘minorities (2011).’”Additionally, affirmative action also caused a lot of debate on a candidate’s qualifications over another’s in education, employment, and business. In education, for example, colleges now consider an applicant’s school grades, SAT scores, extra curricular activities, and on top of that, race and ethnicity. During my senior year in high school, my advisor for college applications told me that I should look for schools a little higher than where my SAT scores stand. I applied to Syracuse University, where the average SAT score is 1,738 (Find The Best, 2012), and other universities alike. With an SAT score of 1,600 at the time, I believed Syracuse was a stretch for me. I was beyond excited when I received my acceptance letter, but the excitement soon became a wonder, as I could not bring myself to believe my admission was because of my luck.

        In the episode, Marc tells Betty that she got the YETI offer because she is a minority; during my senior year, I was told that I got the admission letter because I am a minority. Like Betty, I started questioning my abilities as a prospective student at Syracuse University. I thought I was admitted to meet the university’s diversity quota, which, as explained in Gender, Race, and Class in Media, is “a word indelibly linked in popular discourse with race-based affirmative action policies (2011).” Affirmative action was created to provide additional help to those minorities in need, but it now has been “charged with creating ‘reverse discrimination’” as it “enables people of color access to education and employment” which were “preciously reserved as the ‘property’ of whites, according to Harris in his publication Whiteness as property (1993).” However, the book does not discuss Betty’s perspective extensively. I, like Betty, wanted to believe that my qualifications were deserving enough for my enrollment, but trying to believe that is very difficult. Each college’s admission decision is a product of very complicated formulas, and very few of them are objective. When multiple students’ applications are products of intersectionality, simple affirmative action does not suffice college admission decisions. Based on the definition given by the Center for New Racial Studies in University of California, intersectionality is defined as the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination for different disenfranchised groups, especially of minorities (2011). Betty is a female of minority, which means her intersectionality is based on two systems of oppression and discrimination. Realizing this, Betty would be lying to herself if she believed that her YETI internship admission was solely based on her hard work and passion. This is especially true after YETI doesn’t “exactly deny it” when Betty calls and asks if Marc’s accusations are true (2011).

        I do not have an answer to the questions raised and the problems caused by affirmative action. While many may see that affirmative action takes away white privilege, not all the minorities who are supposed to benefit from it do. It may cause a qualified candidate such as Betty to question her abilities, and it may also raise some unanswered concerns where an individual will never be able to reconcile. When and where does affirmative action come into the formula leaves minorities wondering how they can present themselves so that their disadvantages become their advantages. While this provides greater opportunities for minorities, it also takes away the pure qualifications of a candidate for education, employment, or business.

I choose to actively accept that my race background influenced my admission to Syracuse University, and I also choose to reinsure myself that my grades, my hard work, and my passion are also strong factors in the admission decision as well. I cannot change my race; neither can I change the fact that I will be judged whether positively or negatively on my race. Therefore, I choose to simply work harder than everyone else so that I can always be sure my accomplishments are because of what I earned and not what I was given.

References
National Archives. 1965. Executive Order 11246 – Equal employment opportunity. http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/11246.html

Harris, C. I. 1993. Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review 106: 1707-91
Dines, G., Humez J. M. 2011. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. What does Race Have to Do With Ugly Betty p.97

Center for New Racial Studies. University of California. 2011. “Race/Gender/Class ‘Intersectionality’” http://www.uccnrs.ucsb.edu/intersectionality

Find The Best. 2012. Department of Education http://colleges.findthebest.com/q/2983/2549/What-is-the-average-SAT-score-for-Syracuse- University-SU

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“If you ever forget the fact that you are Asian, someone else will remind you.”

This post is inspired by a paper for a my Race, Gender, and Media class where I wrote on a self reflection where how I view myself changed because of a certain exposure to the media. The stuff I ended up with was very interesting to me because I never really realized how I felt or thought about myself until I started to look back into myself. I would suggest you all do the same and maybe even write about it. I promise you will not look at you life the same ever again. Anyways, without further adieu (I just Googled how to spell this), here’s the post:

To be honest, I have always tried to shy away from talking about race or ethnicity. I believe there is more to me than the fact that I was born and raised in Taiwan. Please don’t get me wrong, I do understand and accept my roots and upbringings, but there are times where it feels like that is all I am. This kind of self-reflection and examination didn’t start until I came to the United States to pursue an education 7 years ago.

“If you ever forget the fact that you are Asian, someone else will remind you.” I forgot where I read this quote, but it really speaks to me. Going from being the majority of the population to the minority was a slow yet dramatic change in my lifestyle, and I will attempt to explain what I mean with the following paragraphs. In Young Adolescents in Television Culture by Fisherkeller, published in 1997, he explains that young people learn their social goals and what they want in their future lives through personal and physical interactions while they learn how to act on those dreams and hopes through television (Fisherkeller, J. (1997). Everyday learning about identities among young adolescents in television culture. 28, 485). By his definition, my social goals and my strategies to reach these goals all changed when I started my high school education in a small boarding school in the suburbs of Chicago. I knew I wanted to be famous, and I really believed I could, too. In elementary school, I was in the choir, in the orchestra, and on the dance team. I was determined to be famous and to make a lot of money. My goals became really short term oriented, however, when I realized there were more immediate problems. The first one was the language barrier.

I struggled a lot when I got here, and it was the kind of experience you would not really understand until you’ve gone through it yourself. I realized that language was something I needed to improve dramatically and very fast in order to be a part of the crowd, but why did I ever want to be a part of the crowd? Was it because I was not confident enough? Was it because I was not content with myself or with my social status as a F.O.B.? Looking back at myself, I now know that it was because I wanted to be White. Being White means more than just your skin color – it comes with social status, privileges, and most importantly, in my opinion, less negative first impression from others.

America has a wonderful entertainment industry ranging from world-famous Hollywood stars to singers that dominate music charts even on the other side of the planet. Watching shows like Friends, Gossip Girl, and Desperate Housewives where the cast is mainly, if not all, White while trying to learn English, I became obsessed with this “White” image. It seemed as though hanging out at a coffee shop, being catty with your peers, and getting dramatic with your life became a “White thing” whereas if you’re Asian, for example, you’re a supporting character in the back with a line or two every now and then. Remember when I said all I ever wanted was to become famous? This is when I started becoming obsessing over being White because, in my mind, that meant I would finally be able to get the spotlight.

I have grown out of the obsession, fortunately, but my experiences still raise an important question concerning our media exposure. We all know that entertainers of color are very under represented. When there is one famous Latino, Black, or Asian entertainer, he suddenly becomes the token for that race. For example, Ken Jeong and PSY were the most recent and most interesting entertainers I have been compared to. Just in case you’re wondering who Ken Jeong is, he is Mr. Chow in The Hangover trilogy. Honestly, asking me to reenact Ken Jeong’s “so long, gay boys” in the movie The Hangover is very racist and unpleasant. Talking to me about PSY’s Gangnam Style is all cool and fun until questions about the lyrics and asking to dance the famous horse dance. It is very insensitive considering I’m from Taiwan, not South Korea.

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At the same time, however, I do not want to become too politically correct and too ready to jump out and call people racist evey chance I get. I understand that, for someone who is not exposed to other cultures too frequently, talking to me about Gangnam Style is probably the closest to “knowing” my background, and it could be a conversation starter. Usually, I just go with the flow because I was there myself. When I first came to the United States, I had such a difficult time distinguishing White people – especially the blonde girls – apart from each other. Separating Asians apart was, on the other hand, a simple task, and I have almost always been correct on guessing their ethnicity as well. I understand how difficult it must be for those who grew up without having been exposed to Asian ethnicities to “not be racist” and be able to distinguish our cultures, ethnicities, and sometimes even names. I will defeat the purpose of trying to raise awareness of race and ethnicity issues if I make others too uncomfortable to talk about it.

I believe that with the world getting smaller metaphorically, people with different races and ethnicities are becoming physically closer to each other. We often criticize others and ourselves too harshly on the topics that interest and are important to us that we forget to recognize our accomplishments and achievements. I can honestly say that, despite some of the issues addressed previously, America is still doing better in terms of racial and gender movements than most other places. The difference is the dialogue – in America, issues like race and gender are publicly discussed through various media channels unlike some other places where even provoking such a thought could result in severe punishment. Education is key, and we can all contribute to a greater cause of race and gender equality by simply having an open conversation.

xoxo,
Bryan “I don’t understand why there’s so much homework in my senior year” Eric

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#PrincessConfessions I

I started this blog because I wanted to keep track of my adventures this past summer, but since now I’m back at school for the year, I will not be having any cool travels for a while. I thought about deleting this blog, but writing it has grown on me – it pushes me to think further and to articulate myself better. So, in order to keep this blog alive, I am starting this new series of “#PrincessConfessions.” I will be talking about some deep, dark flaws about myself, and the reason why I’m doing this is because I need to face and accept these flaws in order to surpass them and become a flawless unicorn princess.

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My first confession came into my mind when I was just taking a shower. My roommates and I were watching Maid in Manhattan: classic chic flick, and at the end, she gets the perfect man and all of her friends cheer for her. Now that’s where my conflict comes in. I’d like to think that I’d be happy for my friends too if they’re ever in JLo’s situation, but I really can’t say that with full honesty. I’d be happy for them ONLY if there is no conflict of interest.

That, to me, is so sad, realizing that I am not as saint-like as I’d like to be. For some reason, I have this obsession with perfection: I would really like my shirts to have no wrinkles, ever; for me to have amazing 6-pack all the time, not just in my dreams; for me to graduate first in my class; for me to be the most charming person you’ll ever meet, and the list goes on. I hate disappointing others, in anything. I’d like to finish all my homework for class so I can impress the professors. I’d like to live up to and beyond my parents’ expectations so that they can be proud of me, brag about me to their friends.

I am hoping that this blog can help myself come into accepting my flaws as a person. I have many, many flaws, and I hope by disarming myself, I can come to terms with these flaws, accept them, and move on.

xoxo

Bryan “I’m actually in class right now and shouldn’t be updating my blog” Eric