In Response to: Yearning for recognition

I commend Shirley Leung ’94 for “Yearning for recognition” (feature, Jan. 13), which addresses many complex issues surrounding Asian-American identity. Her article starts with an insightful plea from Andy Wong *10: “Asian-Americans are not a monolithic community.”

Despite the prominence given to Mr. Wong’s specific concern for Southeast Asian ethnicity, the rest of the article appears not to quote any Princetonian of that background. All the sources seem to stem from “northeast” Asia (Japan, China, Korea), with alumni of South Asian descent ignored entirely.

I submit that the “monolithic” issue is a two-edged sword: The large community of Chinese-Americans wants to expand its political base to include other Asian-Americans; however, the sources quoted and the activities undertaken are dominated by Chinese ethnicity.

Indeed, the absentee voting materials that I get from California are printed in English, Spanish, and Chinese — not English, Spanish, and Asian. Nationwide, Census 2000 figures for “Languages Most Frequently Spoken at Home” indicate 28.1 million speakers of Spanish, with Chinese a distant third at 2.0 million. Tagalog is in sixth with 1.2 million, and Vietnamese is seventh with 1 million.

Perhaps the high proportion of Asian-Americans on campus means it is time to reconceptualize boundaries by stepping back from the outmoded “inclusiveness” that was once an essential political tactic. Courses that focus explicitly on Chinese-American identity are already in the curriculum, and should be.

It is encouraging that the teacher of one such course, Anne Cheng ’85, acknowledges the change in political winds and promotes a new balance. I agree with her that the most logical (and ultimately fairest) approach is to integrate ethnic studies into American studies, focusing on the second half of the hyphenated labels: American.

Martin Schell ’74