Not Just Someone Else’s Problem


Living in Ghana for three plus years, I must say that I could have only gotten through all the hardships and challenges because a Ghanaian friend and her husband adopted me as their own “son”.  They took me into their home and assumed that my problems were their problems.  Now, if someone adopts you, you must also return the love by acknowledging that they matter to you, too.

They both lived in the US for decades and now have grown children who live in America today.  Some of these grown children have children of their own.

I bring all this up because the events of the last two weeks — these two non-indictments of police officers — are things that now, by extension, directly affect me.  Perhaps before I went to Ghana, I could have dismissed all the “drama” coming out of Ferguson and Staten Island as someone else’s problem.  Heck, living in predominantly white, middle-class San Diego, it would be rather easy to ignore the whole thing.

But now, when I learned of these events, I asked myself how would these non-indictments affect my family’s (grown) sons. Honestly, I am fearful.

I bought into how America had become a “post-racial” society with the election of President Obama.  I used to think that many of the challenges facing blacks had diminished because a black person had been elected to the highest office in the land.  Unfortunately, when I watch the videos of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, I’m pretty sure that there’s still a long way to go.  For me, that’s a bit depressing.  As a person of color, I am rather discouraged. These incidents have compelled me to re-examine many of the stereotypes promoted in society — it’s a huge list — and ask why do they even still exist?

For instance, up until not too long ago, it was conventional wisdom that blacks in the NFL could not be quarterbacks nor coaches because “they weren’t smart enough“.  That kind of thinking only happens when one group doesn’t see the other group as similar to them.  Well, since then several blacks have held both positions and proven that they are just as human as their non-black counterparts: some are good and some are bad.

Steve McNair

The late Steve McNair, quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, was pretty good

Randall Cunningham, former quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles

Randall Cunningham, former quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles

The “not smart enough” stereotype mentioned above is not so different from the one in the tech industry that says Asians cannot manage because they lack “people skills.”  While there is an over-representation of Asians in prominent tech firms like LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo!, one study found that Asians get paid less — on average $8,100 — than their white counterparts and seem to hit a “glass ceiling” in leadership and management roles.  As described in this San Jose Mercury News article:

“While the proportion of Asian-American high-tech workers in Silicon Valley has grown from 38 percent in 2000 to more than 50 percent in 2010, their representation on senior executive teams is only 11 percent. In board rooms, their presence has declined from 8.8 percent to 8.3 percent. And though Chinese-Americans constitute the largest Asian group, their board representation has dropped from 5 percent to 3 percent.

Asian-American women appear to face a double-pane glass ceiling. Women are 17 percent of boards and 16 percent of senior executives in Silicon Valley, but Asian-American women are less than 1 percent in both.”

While I admit that some Asian engineers lack social skills, I’m pretty sure that white engineers also lack these same skills. (Isn’t there a rumor that Mark Zuckerberg has a bit of Asperger’s Syndrome?)  That’s part of being an engineer!  In order to combat this stereotype, I started a new Pinterest board of prominent Asians who aren’t necessarily engineers.

Getting back to the protests, the one thing that does encourage me is how the protests across the country are composed of people of many races.  At first, I was a bit concerned that few white people expressed their outrage on Facebook; however, witnessing hundreds? of white people risk arrest gives me hope that enough people recognize that this a problem affecting all of America.

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