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Sunday, May 19
The Indiana Daily Student

Dear american students

No matter your fluency with Mandarin, it doesn’t take long for you to learn the word for “foreigner” when you’re in China.

Covertly whispered, yelled from a distance or hissed with disgust, the syllables quickly become familiar.

You’re often treated like an object. People will ask to take pictures with you. People will take pictures of you without asking.

I imagine Chinese students at IU — and East Asian students more generally — receive similar treatment.

Fifty-seven percent of IU’s international student population comes from East Asia, surpassing the next most-populous region, South Asia, by nearly 40 percentage points.

It’s not unusual to hear Chinese or Korean around campus or in classrooms, particularly in the Kelley School of Business, where about one-third of East Asian students find their major course of study.

It’s also not unusual to hear denigrating comments about them from their fellow ?students.

American students usually mean East Asians but can’t be bothered with specifics when belittling a large swath of people.

You’ll sometimes hear the inverse as well, with Americans referring to all East Asians on campus — which, according to the University, includes students from countries such as South Korea, Japan and Mongolia in addition to China — collectively as “Chinese.”

Southeast Asians are sometimes lumped into this group, too.

“They can’t speak English.” “They’ll mess up our group project.”

“They are terrible drivers.”

They can hear you. And they know what you’re saying.

No matter how regretful your tone, no matter how low your whisper, saying these kind of things is incredibly rude and more than a little bit racist.

It’s also all laughably ?shortsighted.

Although China and Japan are the two largest economies behind the United States, and President Barack Obama has been trying to “pivot” American foreign policy eastward for most of his presidency, American students prefer to study in the U.K., Italy or Spain, according to a 2013 State Department report.

Only about 8 percent of American students studying abroad make their way to East Asia, though the plurality of East Asian students come to the U.S.

Meanwhile, China is one of the U.S.’ most important trading partners and owns about $1.2 trillion of U.S. debt.

The U.S. also has security treaties with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and a prominent military presence throughout East Asia.

If the moral argument for looking past stereotypes is unconvincing, consider this: the U.S.’ economic and political entanglements with East Asia indicate that, in all likelihood, American graduates will be working with East Asians at some point in their careers.

Spending time as an undergraduate reciting racial stereotypes isn’t going to help when that time comes.

Actually making the effort to get to know East Asian students as people just might.

Because in the real world, making racist generalizations is often a fireable offense.

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