Dylan is a Chinese-American college sophomore, whom we met and interviewed at an Asian supermarket in New Jersey. He discussed with us his growing up “whitewashed” on the Jersey Shore, disconnect with government, and the unanswerable dilemma of college admissions.
Samantha: So, first, could you tell us about your cultural identity and what that means to you today?
Dylan: Um, I’m Chinese-American. I never grew up around here, I grew up the Jersey Shore area? Which was primarily white people. So, I never-I’m more whitewashed than the average person I guess. So I do take pride in it, but I don’t overexaggerate it. Does that make sense?
Obviously, keeping tradition is what I want to do, but past that…
Serena: It’s hard, right?
Samantha: Do you think that you found it easier, because you grew up around a predominantly white population, do you think you found it easier to fit in and almost assimilate? Or do you think it was more different that way?
Dylan: Um, it definitely was hard to fit in. I was probably one Asian kid out of, like, ten? In a school of four hundred.
Samantha: God, I couldn’t imagine that.
Dylan: But you just, do your best, I guess.
Serena: So with regard to the recent violence against Asian-Americans, how has that made you feel?
Dylan: Obviously, it’s wrong. But from a realistic standpoint, there has to be something done on a bigger scale. Kind of like government policy? Protests, they make a difference. But something has to change where the government needs realize there’s something wrong and then take actual action.
Dylan: I think it’s similar to Black Lives Matter, where of course it still is relevant, and everyone’s still protesting and raising their voices—Derek Chauvin just got convicted, for instance. But I also don’t know how much has changed.
Samantha: Yeah, I think there’s such a disconnect between the societal level and the government.
Dylan: Yeah, and maybe it’s cynical, but you can only do so much? I don’t know. I think the violence is wrong and terrible, but protests only go so far by themselves. We need like hard laws and change, from the government. To realize there’s something wrong.
Serena: Okay, so our last question is what does equality mean to you?
Dylan: Um… I guess you could say, like, being on the same standing ground as each other. As in, let’s take the workplace, right? Maybe we have equal pay laws, but I don’t think there’s equality there. Or even if there is, then there’s still that difference in treatment, in who we consider powerful or not, that kind of hierarchy. Maybe jobs, maybe pay rate, maybe all that could be equal?
And college admissions, for example. Of course it can’t only be based on academic performance. There would be a very, very different demographic if there were. But a notion of “filling a quota” would also be very, very wrong. And it’s like, for instance, for people like us, everyone has to cure cancer to get that level of higher education. But meanwhile, people in economically underprivileged areas, I don’t think they have a fair chance either, and they’re cut off from a ton of education. And that correlates with how, I don’t know, I don’t know how to create an equal system.
And it’s hard, especially as someone who kind of gets screwed over by this? And you can’t really take an objective stance. So I don’t know.
Serena: Are you a rising senior?
Dylan: I’m a sophomore. College. So I’ve been through the process, it’s very stressful, and when you, like, look at the grand scheme of things, you just don’t even know what to do. You’re around all these people trying to solve cancer, for instance? And it’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to the economically underprivileged neighborhoods who, you know, don’t even have access to a good biology teacher. Like, you know.
Samantha: And, yeah, that’s what bothers me. Like even if you’re solving cancer, there’s so much artificiality around it? That maybe you save everyone who does have cancer, but then there’s this big ethical issue that you did it with, you know, selfish intentions. But just because the stakes and standards are so high for people who look like you, that’s the dilemma that arises.
Dylan: But, yeah, to circle back and answer your question. Equality… I don’t know. I can’t answer that.