Sociology and Education Studies | Branford College

Odette Wang
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Senior Essay Title: ""Two Truths:" Asian American Ideological Orientations in the New York City School Diversity Debate"

Adviser: Grace Kao

Abstract: New York City's recent attempts to diversify and integrate schools have been met with strong opposition from some in the Asian American community, specifically Chinese immigrants, who see the policies as divisive, unfair, and discriminatory. Using New York City as a site, my research asked the following questions: How do Asian American community leaders arrive at and communicate their stances on New York City’s school diversity initiatives? What supporting ideologies and rationales do Asian American community leaders use to justify these stances? From interviews with 17 Asian American community members in New York City, I found that while there was a spectrum of individual beliefs and opinions, my subjects strategically employed variations of two sets of scripts, indicating the existence of two insular and diverging understandings of the role of Asian Americans in the city’s school diversity efforts. In addition, these scripts draw upon longstanding racial ideologies and racial scripts such as merit, colorblindness, and scapegoating, folding the school diversity debate into longer narratives about Asian American victimhood, innocence, marginality, and exclusion. This practice has consequences for policies that require clarification on Asian American positionality, such as school diversity and affirmative action.