Why Diversity and Inclusion are Important to Me

Last week, I was honored to be elected as Section D’s international and diversity student advisory group representative. What this means is that I will be meeting with the International Student Advisory Group (ISAG) and the Diversity Student Advisory Group (DSAG) to facilitate conversations about diversity and inclusion at Darden, advocate on behalf of international students, and promote understanding and awareness to build a stronger Darden community. To be elected, I submitted a statement to explain why diversity and inclusion are important to me. I want to share this piece to provide my perspective.

I am passionate about connecting people of different ethnicity, religion, sexual orientations, or any other label people use to put people into buckets. No matter what your background, each one of us is the same. We’re all human beings with hopes and dreams, successes and failures, triumphant wins and heart-crushing defeats. I’d like to tell you a personal story of one of my heart-crushing defeats that I hope will show why I’m so passionate about connecting people of different backgrounds.

On July 4th, 2011, I was celebrated Independence Day by driving 190 miles to Austin to meet up with some high school friends from Dallas. Over the next several hours we reminisced about the past, caught up on each other’s lives, and had a blast watching fireworks. After I’d had enough, I took my leave and started walking back to my hotel.

Suddenly, a car screeched by. A man leaning out the window yelled at me, “GO BACK TO CHINA!”

Go back to China? I’ve lived here all my life. Am I Chinese? I thought this was home. I thought I belonged here. Am I American? Who am I?

Am I Chinese? Over the last four years, I have spent a substantial amount of time working abroad in China. Even though I speak Mandarin fluently, my Taiwanese/American accent was obvious and Chinese people could always tell that I was not Chinese. They could tell even before I even opened my mouth by the way I dressed. I am not Chinese.

Am I Taiwanese? Although, I have relatives in Taiwan, I cannot even communicate with my grandparents because I cannot speak the local dialect, Taiwanese. While I’ve visited Taiwan many times during my childhood, it’s never felt right to me. The very environment seems to reject me. Too hot. Too humid. Too many mosquitoes. It’s as if the entire climate of Taiwan is trying to make me recognize that I don’t belong there. I am not Taiwanese.

Am I American? I worked at a chemical plant with mostly blue-collar workers. Here I am even more different. Not only am I a different ethnicity, I am the ethnicity that is stealing jobs from them. They associate me with the Chinese sweatshops that are taking food off of their tables. I tell them I’m in the same boat. I’m fighting to keep a job in America as many engineering jobs are getting outsourced to China. They can’t see past my skin color. I am not American.

After the incident, I posted a status update about it onto Facebook. I was instantly flooded with sympathetic Facebook messages and texts. In times of crises, none of these labels matter. I am not Chinese or American, Christian or Buddhist, Republican or Democrat. I am a human being with friends and family that love and support me through thick and thin. I am passionate about diversity and inclusion because they are essential to the development of strong bonds that will last beyond the time we are here at Darden and endure across cultural, religious, and political borders.

The 100 Year Anniversary of the Republic of China and Sino-US Relationship Trends

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of the Republic of China, known to most of the western world as Taiwan. October 10th, 1911 marked the end of traditional imperial rule in China, and the first attempt at democracy. Below is a promotional video from the event (Chinese), primarily discussing the history of the ROC and associating past figures and events with the freedom and prosperity seen in Taiwan today.

Prior to the 1970’s, the US recognized the Republic of China as the legitimate government of China, and actively worked to prevent the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from claiming a seat in the United Nations. At the height of the Cold War, the PRC were active combatants in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Nonetheless, in 1972, just 2 years after the end of the Vietnam War, President Nixon made a famous trip to China to normalize relations with the PRC.

PRC-US relationship normalization culminated in the Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations in 1979, beginning US recognition of the PRC as the legitimate government of China in lieu of the ROC. At the same time, the US passed the Taiwan Relations Act, allowing for de facto diplomatic relations to continue with Taiwan.

While the Taiwanese economy far outpaced the PRC’s from the 60’s to the 90’s, the shift of PRC policy to the socialist market economy in 1978 has allowed the PRC to excel in recent years. With World Trade Organization acceptance of China in 2001, offshoring of American jobs to China have propelled the Chinese economy.

With the recent US economic struggles, many Americans have become increasing frustrated with perceived trade imbalances between the US and China. While have speculated about the resurgence of a red scare in response to economic pressures, others have been more vocal about denouncing China. However, the use of patriotism as thinly veiled racism is nothing new. Nonetheless, American policymakers have begun to combat aggressive Chinese economic policies with constructs like the recent China currency bill. At the same time, many US companies like Merck continue to move jobs overseas to China.

While relationships between the US, China, and Taiwan continue to be rocky, American corporations have tied the US to the hip with China. As the largest US bondholder, China has expressed concerns in US economic performance. Ultimately, US foreign and economic policy are supporting the continued shifting of jobs from the US to China. Measures like the China currency bill are too little, too late in the struggle to maintain US economic dominance. The wheels were set in motion when Nixon first visited China nearly 40 years ago.

While obviously, it is not beneficial for the US to normalize relations with Taiwan at this point in time, this is a stunning reminder of how US political rhetoric is often markedly different from US policy.