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The power of majority of the minority

jzhou's picture

When I was a freshman, I met a upperclassman living in my building. Every time when I happened to see her and wanted to smile to her in the hallway, she pretended not to see me and didn't smile to me with a serious face. I thought that perhaps she treated everybody like this because her own personality. However, one day, I saw she waved to another freshman in our dorm with a big smile. Then, I comforted myself that maybe she and that girl were close friends.

My assumption was proved to be wrong again when I gradually found out that she was really nice to almost everyone in the dorm except Chinese students.

One night, when I was chatting with my Chinese friends in the hallway, we all saw her passing by with her straight face. She didn’t say hi or smile to any of us. After she had walked by, I told my friends my concern about her relationship with me. I asked them if I did something wrong to make her uncomfortable. Both of my friends mentioned that they all noticed her unusual facial expression towards us. One of my friends said that she was totally a different person when she was chatting with other freshmen. My friend secretly told us that, according to what her roommate, who is a close friend to the upperclassman, she doesn’t like Chinese students. The reason why she was a little mean to Chinese students is that from her point of view, our college has admitted too many Chinese students and didn’t maintain its diversity. Besides, she thought Chinese students didn’t deserve such a high rate of admission because a lot of students who are from her country are more competent that Chinese students. This is the first time I felt disappointed by our college community.

As the majority power of the minorities, (actually I don’t feel that way), I realized that the conflict in multicultural education is not between the majority and minority but also within the two sub-groups. I’m still thinking about what she mentioned sometimes because I was wondering what gave her the impression of Chinese students’ incompetence. Did she speak that we need more diversity instead of admitting too many Chinese students for the whole community or for her own nationality? How do we tell the difference between those people who advocate for the privilege of the minorities and people who actually do everything only for empowering a certain group which they belong to? Is this kind of behavior encouraged or not?



jccohen's picture


So the upperclasswoman you're talking about is from a "minority group" from a country other than China?  Hearing more about her identity might clarify some aspects of this story, but in any case I think you're tapping into a couple of very important issues here.  The question of relationships between members of different minority groups can become particularly fraught when people have a sense that there's a given amount of something that then has to be divided up between these groups - as in  the number of spots at a college for international students.  Her "impression of Chinese incompetence" seems to me likely not about competence at all but about competing for resources that may seem scarce.  So we might ask not only, as you suggest in your closing questions, whose interests are being served by people's "advocacy for the privileges of minorities" but also how we might reconceptualize the situation so that people are motivated to seek mutual knowledge and benefit...