(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?