Op-Ed: I’m an Asian American Harvard grad. Affirmative action helped me get here.
If you find yourself at Harvard and Asian American, it might be difficult to explain exactly why you were admitted there. It was one of the more competitive classes my freshman year. In fact, it was so competitive that there are only four black students, and two are in the class of 2015 (the class of 2019, when I graduated, will be the first Asian-American President of the Harvard Crimson).
But here’s what I will say is relevant to your journey to Harvard: It helps if you are an accomplished Asian American. That’s why I’ve come to be an advocate for affirmative action. You don’t have to be Asian, but you have to be from a minority group, and you have to be successful.
My parents — I was born in Brooklyn, but raised in Queens, New York, and now New Jersey — were not from a minority group. My father is the first Asian American in his family. His parents are Chinese Indian immigrants, and have raised eight generations of children and grandchildren on the same island. They have been in the United States since the late 1860s, settling in Brooklyn. My family — including my parents, six of my seven siblings, and me — was always a family made up of immigrants, including them.
I remember my father was a hard worker, a good husband, a loving father and grandfather, and a person who did not get offended easily. He was a public servant first and an engineer second. He was a member of the city council, which he was for 17 years. He was a civil rights activist, a champion for education and for the Chinese-American community.
When I was a kid, I never wanted to be like my father. I was into sports, like basketball and soccer. I was the youngest of my 10 siblings, so I never had older brothers or sisters. I just had my brother Jack, and sister Rachel, and I was a teenager at the time. I don’t think it has anything to do with my father’s race, but rather about the way he did things.
My parents told me, “This is our destiny,” as I was growing up in Queens, at my old public school. They told