roommates

Invisible Asians: Where are you from?

Asian Pacific Islanders (API) are the fastest growing population in the US.  We have achieved many things in this country. And from the superficial data of education, income, and overall poverty, APIs are the "most successful" ethnic group including whites in the country. 1 of 19 Americans, 1 in 7 Californians, and 1 in 6 LA County residents are API. The largest alumni population for hundreds of the top schools will be API in the next decade. It is conceivable that API college grads will exceed both African American and Latino populations by 2025. You combine the Model Minority Myth with the low profile of APIs and you get the subordination of one of the greatest assets of this country. You also bury the real needs of the poor and vulnerable APIs because we are not capable of dis-aggregating the data of the multiple ethnic groups which make up APIs in America.

Consider these facts:

  • The parents of Cambodian Americans suffer greater levels of PTSD than returning vets from Iraq, according to Rand.
  • Poverty among API populations has increased at almost twice the rate as African Americans since the recession according to Pew. Now more than 2 million APIs live below the poverty line in the US.
  • Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander groups are more likely to live beneath the poverty line than any population in the nation. 

APIs like any pan-ethnic group is diverse and complex, defying generalizations and stereotyping. Averages mask the depth and breadth of the 42 sub-ethnic and islander groups. So the stereotypes prevail. Asians-racism-sandbox-748086

APIs are okay. Let's not talk or worry about them. They don't make any noise, they don't have large political caucuses, or clout in the media, so you can ignore them with impunity. So very few polls on anything show the voices and opinions of APIs. (As if we don't exist) A national discussion of Boys and Men of Color excludes APIs ( I guess we don't have enough color? And how do at-risk Cambodian, Pilipino, Laotion, or Samoan young men react to this?) I could go on and on.

A very recent Wharton study of 6500 top university professors revealed the following:

  • Faculty were most likely to respond to e-mails from white males. But more surprising was the high level of racial bias against Asians and Indians -- professors were likeliest to ignore e-mails from these students.
  • The pernicious nature of the "model minority" stereotype of Asians, and the fact that Asians are still viewed as the most foreign "other" in our American culture -- perhaps the biggest outsiders in the politics of "not like us."

It makes no sense.This country does not value APIs and APIs have not done themselves any favors by flying under the radar and not making their voices heard. APIs are invisible and most Americans look by us and through us. 

Thanks John for the interesting dive into API data. What does this have to do with SWiVELTime?

The way I look and the way people perceive me has impacted my networking and mentoring throughout my whole life.

I am a fully assimilated API. Oh I have been criticized for "selling out" and for being less Asian than I should be. My parents wanted me to be Americans first--to fit in after their experiences in the internment camps.  That's why my parents named me John instead of Toraichi. Why my parents sacrificed to move us into a white school district to get a better education and to facilitate my Americanization. So I am guilty by assimilation. 

I have also tried to single handedly combat the Model Minority Myth by getting low grades in math and science in high school! It made my teachers crazy! :)

So I have tried to fit in and to engage others to fit in. Even though I have been the first and only Asian so many times I have lost count. I am grateful to my parents and for the opportunities I have been given. (even though I was almost always considered "under-qualified") I have been lucky because some people believed in me and I have made the most of it. 

And yet, I have encountered incredible ignorance, covert discrimination, and overt racism. 

 Just want to point out what everyone who looks like me faces.

Every day someone ignores me or says something about "Asians". And then they say "Not you John. You know what I mean."

These are statements made to to me this year:

"Don't we have too many Asians here?"

"You are the best Asian speaker I have ever heard!"

Were you born here?

Not going to even try to pronounce your name. I am really bad with Asian names.

Are you John Kobara? Oh I thought you were Hispanic? What kind of name is Kobara?

I have presented to thousands of API leaders. And I can tell you there is a widespread corporate, non-profit, government, and legislative bias to not advance  APIs. Even for APIs who have exceeded the metrics, requirements and expectations. Like the well known anti-Asian bias that the Ivy League schools have erected to limit API admissions. Jeremy Lin had a much tougher time getting into Harvard than starting in the NBA!

Anti-Asian bias exists in every organization,it is a silent and pernicious prejudicial haze that influences and limits promotions and career paths. Bottom-line is executives do not see APIs as leaders. They see us as "competent and efficient." About as attractive as a blind date with a great personality. So we don't benefit from diversity recruitment, management opportunities--that's why APIs are the most under-represented population in the corporate board rooms.

We are invisible to many. But we are here. And we have to let our presence be known.

We  are neither victims or the entitled. We are not acknowledged, we are ignored and therefore not understood. The consequences are brutal. As a nation we neglect one of the most diverse, high potential, highest need, populations in this country. Why?

Is it the fault of APIs because we are quiet, reserved, and inscrutable?

APIs are part of the great American story. We are from here. But do you see us? 

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Graduation Crisis

We tend to give in to averages. For example, if the "average" married couple divorces, then we accept it as natural. However, we rarely think of ourselves as average. In fact, a US survey showed that about 75% of think we are above average. We know that is mathematically impossible, but we tend to think that our lives are better, that we are better than most. Call it over confidence, call it lunacy--you would be right!

Many of us will attend graduations during this part of the year. We expect college degrees from our children, our peers and our co-workers. And when I say "college" I mean 4 year, 2 year and even post-secondary certificates! But college graduation is increasingly becoming a rarity. While there are more college students and college grads than ever in history, the percentage completing their degrees is shrinking. College drop out now exceeds high school drop out. Somehow we accept this as part of the "weeding" process. The law of averages. Or a function of the state of our schools and budget cuts. Part of all of these things is true, but most colleges are not held to any standard of graduation. 

The percentage of college dropouts from college will exceed divorce too. So more than half of college students quit and never come back. They acquire debt instead of a diploma. 

But for those of us who are "above average" we will not accept drop outs--not for our kids. So "other people's" kids drop out. 

But if we ignore this graduation crisis, we do so at our own peril. We need more college grads to make our economy work, to make the USA competitive in the global market. CompletionCrisis

So helping others graduate IS our business---all students need our support to graduate. 

A few random facts about college education:

  • Estimated that the state of California will have 2.3 million shortage of degree holders for jobs created in the state by 2025. 
  • 65% of all US jobs will require a college degree by 2025. Less than 39% of all US adults are college educated today.
  • This gap will require about 23 million net new college grads above and beyond what we produce today!
  • 88% of all 9th graders who start high school in LA county do NOT get any college degrees. This is lower for higher for low income students.
  • Low income students who qualify for college have few choices. Private schools don't take many qualified and competitive low income students so the burden falls on public institutions. Consider that UC San Diego has more low income students than Georgetown, Duke, MIT, University of Chicago, Penn, NYU and Stanford combined! 

There are silly debates about "the value of a college education." Look everyone needs more education. Everyone has to continue to learn and to grow educationally. Anyone who stops a formal learning process is DOA. I am not an education snob. Well maybe I am. :) But I am not saying that all people should go to a university, but it is very tough for anyone to get and keep a good job without the sheepskin and the socialization of an education. Not going to regale you with the long standing stats on lifetime comp, the ROI of an education, or the lower unemployment rates for the educated. These are truths. 

Every individual. Every student. Every human being has the desire and need to grow. To grow their ideas, their ambitions, their sense of significance.  They want more for themselves and their families. The only way to achieve these things is to adopt a lifelong love of learning. To engage in continuous education. To adopt an education mindset. This can start before and during college. 

How do we help people adopt this mindset, graduate and then start their next educational program? It is not easy.

Because you are never done learning. Not talking about how to use Office 2010 or your new iPhone. I am talking about the process of opening your brain to new stuff that reveal more about what you don't know. 

Great mentors do not let others get away with laziness, or giving up on graduation. Great mentors don't accept excuses or allow exceptions to education for those they care about. Great mentors hold others accountable. They push and pull their mentees so that graduation is the only option. 

 So what else can we do:

  1. Help low income students around us seek all of the financial assistance available to them to make their college education more affordable. It is estimated that LA County students left over $100 million of financial aid grants on the table last year. 
  2. Help all students find a college option that meets their needs. An educational institution that matches their interests, not their parents interests. A college that has a track record of supporting students to graduate. 
  3. Hold our alma maters, our local schools, our school boards accountable to graduation rates for all students, especially low income students.
  4. Help students we know get in but THROUGH college. Provide them with moral and financial support that lasts well beyond the freshman year but all the way to commencement. Giving small one time scholarships to start college is only a start. Multi-year scholarships make a huge difference.

College access is just the beginning, we need graduates! What are you going to do to help people graduate?!

Every student who pursues post-secondary education is precious. We can't afford this graduation crisis. We need to mentor all students so they don't end up with just debt and regret. We need their dreams and degrees.

The graduation crises is all of our problem. If we accept the average, we will become it. 

Thanks for reading. John


Final Advice to the "Freshman"

Dropped my third child, my son,  at the dorms to start his freshman year this weekend. Three kids and three kids in college! That's what my wife and I set out to do. What we planned and hoped for. Of course, their graduation and successful employment will be the next steps. But we celebrate this milestone.

As you might imagine, my kids have received a pretty steady stream of observations, guidance, and advice from me. My wife and I have tried to give our kids an edge in preparing them for their futures. The edge of confidence to become who they are. The edge of unconditional support so they can take chances. The edge of parents who don't get in the the way of their kids' DNA and talents.

I said we tried. We had our victories and our defeats. Parenting is the hardest mentoring assignment of all! :) It is a marathon of change. You wrestle with how much you push and how much you pull. You ride the emotional roller coaster of puberty and the emerging demand for independence. Parenting is about second guessing, worrying, over compensating, and enjoying the incredible twists and turns. 

In the end, it is a small miracle that our kid's survive their parernts. After doing this a few times I am still not convinced that the nurture is any stronger than the nature. We think the wild stallions need to be tamed, but I have seen the beauty of the stallions and learned how to watch them run.  Pegasus2

In the end, you can only do the best you can. No time for regrets or shouldas. The next chapter is the best chapter and your role evolves. 

Took my son out to dinner for one last session with Dad. We had a manly meal and talked about his future. I told him how I see him and the story of of his growth and development Here  is a summary of what we discussed and my last words of advice before college:

We have tried to teach you and show you how to live your life.You know right from wrong. How to be respect others. You are now responsible for your own actions. We trust you. 

You have a slight head start in the game of life, don't waste it. Your great grand parents sacrificed to come to this country. Your grand parents were placed in internment camps on your Dad's side and escaped North Korea on your Mom's side. Your family has given you the opportunity to go to college with no financial pressure. Make something happen.

Escape certainty--Certainty will be your enemy to learn. If you think you know everything about a topic or have decided not to understand the "other side" of an issue--college is a waste. Open your mind. It is amazing to learn what you don't know. Gravitiate to opinions and perspectives different from yours. Trust yourself but question everything.

Ask for help--The most important thing you can do is to ask questions. Never pretend to know things you don't know. No stupid questions just stupid people who don't ask questions. Seek advice. Takes courage to ask for help because you can't do it by yourself.

Get involved but shop-- Pick organizations and causes that interest you, not just what everybody is doing. Augment your classroom work with experiential education. Internships, volunteering, and jobs can be powerful learning opportunities.

Beyond the minimum--If you get bored, you have not done it long enough. Let yourself get lost in topics and subjects that interest you. Dive deeply into your classes to see where your passions lie. 

It's not your major, its your mojo and your mind.  Explore yourself and everything around you. Take the classes you want. Don't take courses because you think they will help your career. You don't have a career. Your major is secondary. You are looking for purpose and passion not a job.

We had a good discussion about careers and jobs. He asked me which were my favorites jobs. I have been lucky because I have sought these jobs or they sought me. I approached all of them as college degree programs and tried to master them. We will all be a "freshman" many times during our lives. So each of my careers and jobs have been my favorite for the time I did them. But my purpose has been to help people become the best in the pursuit of a cause bigger than us. 

I gave him three things that I had already given him. Three documents I wanted him to re-read anew. He looked at me with those eyes of compliance, not acceptance..... :)

Johnny Bunko, The Last Career Guide You Will Ever Need--Daniel Pink

7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens--Stephen Covey

Pyramid of Success--John Wooden

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.  attributed to Hodding Carter

We can only give our youth and anyone we care about roots and wings. The roots of heritage and humility. And the wings to fly further, faster and free-er. Time to let go now and watch my son fly!

As in all mentoring, the mentors gain the most. We hope the mentee gained something, enough to become their own mentor and the mentor of others. 

Thanks for reading. John


Know and Love Thy Neighbors

Neighbor -- literally translates to nearby dweller. Someone "situated" near us.

In all parts of your life you have neighbors. People who live, work, exist near you. You may share a common fence, a cubicle wall, a pew, adjacent parking spaces, offices or floors. You probably have many dozens if not hundreds of "neighbors". Neighbors you don't know and perhaps will never know. Some of us will search the Internet, trawl the club scene, attend mixers, travel great distances to meet people and yet,we won't meet the people who literally live next door! Go figure! I have learned the hard way that your neighbors have to be part of your due diligence when you buy or rent a house, condo or apartment. That neighbors, especially the ones you share property lines or walls/ceilings/floors with can increase or decrease your enjoyment and your property value. No one told me this. Maybe it sounds obvious, but I did not know I should meet all of my potential neighbors before buying/renting my home. I was young and naive when I rented and bought my first couple of houses. Focused on getting a good deal and THEN met the neighbors. Neighbors I would live next to and with for many years! Never fails that you have a few surprises and I have been pretty lucky. In buying property or renting an office I meet the neighbors FIRST! These are people that will watch your back. They are people who can be helpful and you can help. That's the definition of neighbors.Neighbors

While we can debate the state of community in increasingly technological world, we all know that all relationships can be enhanced with regular face to face interactions. So why is it we avoid our neighbors. A very recent study showed that only 25% of people know their neighbors names (meaning 75% don't) and one out of 12 have never met any of their neighbors! So if you are following along 3 out of 4 of us don't know our neighbors names and 11% of those people never met any of them. So we go through life acknowledging people in a friendly manner, my friend says "phony nice", but avoiding any substantive conversation (including sharing the very personal information such as our names!) Some of you are feeling quite smug because you are part of the top quartile of people who know your neighbors names. Congrats! But when is the last time you shared a meal or got to know them beyond the morning salutations? Knowing their names is so basic but while that is a fine start you have to get to know them and their families.

Every person you meet will open up a world of difference and commonality. Every connection you make help you become a better person. It never surprises me when I meet people and discover a shared life experience and the world shrinks, especially when they are next door.

A few quick neighbor stories:

1. Hey That's My Priest!--We invited our new next door neighbors over for a meal and to meet our good friend Father Jim. And our neighbor recognized Father Jim, because Jim assisted with their wedding in Hawaii 30 years ago. Long story short,Father Jim presided over OUR wedding a couple years later in northern California! Say it together, SMALL WORLD!

2. Keep your Enemies Close--My wife Sarah met a neighbor at our block party last year. Sarah asked what this elderly gentleman did and he said he used to operate the cable tv fanchise in town but his dreams to grow his business were squashed by a company called Falcon (my employer 30 years ago). He expressed his dislike for the CEO (my boss). And then he recalled, "...there was this "Asian kid" who was always with him too." Sarah quickly and astutely pointed at me at another table and said, "think that Asian kid is my husband John." the man's jaw drops open as Sarah summons me to reconnect with my long lost arch rival, who has lived down the street for 45 years! And we have reminisced a few times since.

3. An Office Transplant--Just moved into new offices this month. I got into the elevator and noticed the woman next to me pushed the same floor button as I did. I knew that there was only one other occupant on our floor (I had checked them out before we moved). So I stuck out my hand and said, "Hi, I'm John, I guess we are neighbors." She runs the training and research for the largest organ transplant operation in the US--One Legacy. This has led to multiple meetings, introductions and encounters in just 3 weeks. I know that she will become a friend as well as a neighbor!
 
There is no excuse for not knowing your neighbors and I mean more than their names! I won't detail all of the selfish reasons you should do this for safety and support. But who watches your place when you are not there? Having the people around you know who you are is crucial in times of crises and need.
 
A few tips on meeting neighbors:
1. If you have been living next door to people for a long and don't know them, find an excuse to bring over some food and introduce yourself. Invite them over for an impromptu bbq. Or if you are having a bigger event invite the neighbors. Food is the greatest connector!
2. Welcome any new neighbors with some cookies and introduce yourselves.
3. Get involved in the home owner association, the local book club, neighborhood watch--excellent way to engage and to meet people.
4. Get to know the people around you everyday at the office, in the elevators, where you park, and certainly at your kids' schools, at church, and where you play.
5. Stick out your hand, smile and introduce yourself! Don't settle for the impersonal robotic "hi, how are you?" unless you follow-up with an intro and a conversation.
Your network has to begin with proximity.
What puts the goodness into your hood----neighbors! Meet and get to know the people who "dwell" near you.
Thanks for reading and being more neighborly. John

Roommates and Racism -- Guess who's coming to live with you?

I just got back from attending my daughter's college orientation. She was going to stay over night in the dorms and started to fret about the possibility of getting a "freak" roommate. She, of course, was matched with a lovely young lady, with whom she will stay in touch. I was reminded of my trepidation about my first college roomie. Remember the form you fill out to ascertain your preferences for a roommate. You know, smoking, sleep and social habits, music and noise tolerance, play an instrument, hygiene etc etc. Have you seen the questions they ask today? Anyway, I asked for a non-smoker, non-music, serious, and clean freak. 180px-Pig-pen_peanuts My roommate, I'll call him Alvin, was a rock and roller bass player with electric amp, pot head,  who worshiped dust and debris--sort of the Pig Pen meets Led Zeppelin type. In short, the opposite of what I expected. But as I have come to learn, we can acquire great insight, self understanding, and experience from those that are different from ourselves. And Alvin was an interesting person with deep thoughts, a different perspective and played a mean version of Deep Purple's music. While living with him presented a range of health, safety, and reputational concerns, I did maintain a friendship with him after I found more suitable accommodations. 

My point is we meet people randomly all of the time. And when we do, we are often confronted with our own views, stereotypes, prejudices, and cultural biases. One of the great and sometimes forgotten opportunities of a college education is the chance to interact with different people. People from different perspectives, geographies, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, etc etc. Colleges that seek student diversity as part of their excellence are providing superior educations and the graduates are better prepared for the real world. Schools with homogeneous populations will never compete with these institutions. The Ivy league schools and the top educational institutions in the world have known this for a long time. That's why none of them admit students based solely upon scores and GPAs. They know that intelligence is not measured that way AND that the true goal of a liberal education requires a truly diverse class:

Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings. Association of  American Colleges and Universities

Diverse apple The only way to do this is to recruit and maintain diversity in the academy.

Back on roommates. So as my daughter and I have discovered, the roommate assignment process is random. You get what you get. The NY Times ran a story this week Interracial Roommates Can Reduce Prejudice. This study found that African Americans with high SAT scores who roomed with White students had consistently higher grade pt averages, regardless of the SAT score or GPA of the roommate. One conclusion drawn was these black students became better acclimated to a predominantly white school. To be honest, when less than 15% of the students at Indiana University are non-white, not sure how significant this study is. For example, UCSB, an average California school in terms of diversity, has a majority minority in the entering freshmen class and 43% will be the first in their families to graduate from college. Now that's diversity! I think the study by faculty at Princeton and UCLA, The effect of university roommate contact on ethnic attitudes and behavior, is much more relevant.  A four year study of the impact of rooming with a student from a different ethnic background. Did this random, highly personal, 9 month relationship change the views and attitudes of the roommates?

Here were the key measures: 
  1. Random roommate selection
  2. Social dominance--Is equality a goal? Should some groups be at the top and the bottom? 
  3. Friendship heterogeneity--Do you have close friends from different backgrounds? 
  4. Inter-ethnic dating--Have you dated someone from a different group?   
  5. Inter-group unease and competence--Does any group make you feel uneasy and incompetent in dealing with that group? 
So what did they find? This was a complex study with many variables and there were differences between the racial and ethnic groups, especially for Asians ( I will cover this in future posts). But the bottomline was: 
Greater heterogeneity of the roommates caused more positive views of all other ethnic groups. Almost all of the measures improved for almost all groups.J0439454

In other words, having ideas and thoughts about other people will change when you get to know them. Like many prejudices, they are exaggerations and generalizations that do not apply to individuals. We find that our differences are more interesting than dangerous and then discover how much we have in common. When we are open to learning about each other in random and not so random circumstances, our eyes, minds, and hearts are also opened, our view of the world expands, as well as the possibilities. 

Here's to my old roommate Alvin, my daughter's future roommate, and to your next encounter with someone different. 

Thanks for reading. John