An “UNITED” country? 真的是大熔爐嗎?

(附中文) I was very surprised on how frequently Americans talk about discrimination, like diversity courses in required curriculum and relevant questions in job applications. At first, I really appreciated it, but as time goes by, I started to doubt the effectiveness. Actually, diversity education might backfire.

A trivial and unimportant example – but can demonstrate my point well: several days ago, I arranged the first meeting with my mentee from a Harvard program to let business school students be mentors for college students. During the conversation, I asked her questions like her major, career aspiration and expectations, and all her answers were very short and quick. She explicitly showed not interested in engaging in the conversation, and she even didn’t prepare any question to ask me – that’s the really basic thing you need to do for a coffee chat! After 15-20 minutes, she left the coffee shop without any follow-up emails.

If it’s in Taiwan, I might think: “Such a rude college student!”. However, after all the classes on race discrimination, I started to think: “Is it because I’m Asian? Or is it because I cannot speak English like native speakers? Or she’s just an arrogant person to everyone?” I needed to keep reminding myself of not being too sensitive. Since this kind of unpleasant culture shock happens more frequently than I expected (I have been treated badly by random old woman, homeless people or restaurant waiters several times), I just couldn’t easily rule out the possibility of discrimination. The diversity discussion really has changed my way of thinking about culture shock. 

Actually I don’t know which one is correct: (1) because of the discrimination, we need the diversity education or (2) diversity education reinforces the discrimination and the fear of discrimination. At least one thing I’m sure is that with the diversity discussion going on and on everywhere, people like me might become too sensitive, not sure in positive or negative ways. Sometimes, I even question myself that outside of the HBS bubble, where everyone is required to be nice and respectful to everyone, could I still feel happy and survive in this (supposed-to-be) UNITED country?

剛來美國時,對於課堂中討論多元文化與歧視議題、企業徵才活動中對多元背景的重視,都覺得很驚訝!一開始我很欣賞這樣的討論,但漸漸開始懷疑它的有效性,甚至我發現這樣的多元文化教育可能會產生副作用。

舉個微不足道的小例子:因為我自願參加哈佛的導師計劃、當大學部學生的導師,上週終於和分配給我的大學生見面了。在交談中,我問她關於課業、職涯和對計劃的期許,她都非常簡短地回答帶過。很明顯她完全沒有興趣和我有任何對談,連最基本準備問題問我的這點她都沒做到。大約15-20分鐘後,她就離開咖啡店了,也沒有再寄任何訊息給我。

如果是在台灣,我可能會想「真是個沒禮貌的大學生!」但在這麼多種族歧視的討論後,我開始想「是因為我是亞洲人嗎?是因為我英文講得不好嗎?還是她就是一個對誰都沒禮貌的人?」我必須一直提醒自己不要太敏感,但因為這樣不愉快的文化衝擊發生太多次(被隨機的老太婆、遊民、餐廳服務生罵或是差別對待的經驗),我實在很難輕易地把歧視的可能性排除。這樣你就知道這一系列的多元文化討論怎麼改變我對文化衝擊的想法了。

因為有歧視、所以需要多元文化教育?還是多元文化教育強化歧視與被歧視的恐懼?我其實不知道哪個才是正確的,但至少有件事情可以確定:有些人和我一樣變得太敏感,而這不一定是好事。有時候我甚至會質疑自己,離開HBS這個大家被要求善待別人的地方後,我還能夠在這個所謂的「大熔爐」中開心生活嗎?

 

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