Good News! Indians are not a “Minority”

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Recently Carnegie Mellon University published in their in-house publication Focus (Vol. 21, No 8, Spring 2010) some statistics around the demographics of their student body and staff.  Race and gender being dominant parts of social discourses in the US, the stats were broke down along race and gender:

Male/Female Ratio                  %  Blacks,  Hispanics

Native Americans

Tenure-track Faculty:           77/23                                      4%

Other Staff:                                46/54                                      6%

Undergraduates:                    59/41                                     11%

Graduate students:               70/30                                     4%

Notes: Blacks and Hispanics in the US form 23% of the population. At CMU 15% of undergraduates and 48% of graduate students are international.

Interestingly, CMU has grouped Asians (including Indians) along with majority Whites in the racial mix of the university body:

Tenure-track faculty:  91% White and Asian American

Other staff: 87% White and Asian American

When contacted, Ms. Janel Sutkus, Head of Institutional Research at CMU, told The Patrika that in the context of the demographic makeup of the nation’s population, people of Asian and Indian heritage are not under-represented in the CMU community; but women, Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are. That is why the university has not been classifying Asians — Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and Indians –  as not minorities.

Well, simply walking along the campus, we can even speculate that these Asians are over-represented in the university’s demographics. This grouping of Asian- and Indian-Americans along with Whites is a trend what we will see more and more in other walks of life in the future.

In the American context, Indian-Americans may be a minority in numbers, but bulk of us come from what can be only called a “privileged” minority: Because of skewed immigration, a large proportion of us have better education and/or entrepreneurial skills, hence higher earnings and net worth than the national average. We give our children stable homes –  so critical for their growth socially and psychologically in their formative and later years — even though most of our marriages may not be the happiest ones. We endure in our marriages for the sake of our children.

As Indian-Americans, coming out of the minority classification ought to be liberating at one level. It’s an affirmation of how far we have come since the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924. Going forward, the concept of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Employment are going to be irrelevant for most of our children.

But this puts the children of gas station attendants, taxi drivers, restaurant cooks and others of Indian origin at a great disadvantage. To address this inequity, educational institutions need to look at the 1040 forms of the parents of Asian students before deciding on financial awards. This is one way to give a break to college applicants coming from socioeconomically disadvantaged homes – whether white, black, brown, and yellow.

Going forward, we are going to be judged, to quote Dr. King, “not by the color of our skin [or other features], but by the contents of our character,” to which we may also add, our intellect, skills, and how we respond to our social obligations here in the US going beyond paying taxes.

This is enough motivation for us to give back to society what we have received from Providence and from this land of opportunity.

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