From Invisible to Visible (and Not Just in STEM)

Diana Fong, J79

Diana Fong, J79.

By: Diana Fong, J79

I wrote this 1982 op-ed for the New York Times as a young 24 year old woman.

Much has changed since then, but Asians in America still have a way to go.

I want to elaborate a bit about what I meant in the op-ed about race limiting occupational choice.

We‘re brilliant at maths, remember? So tick a box: engineer, architect, research scientist, computer whiz, accountant, medical doctor, health professional or complete failure. No doubt, parental expectations played a role in driving us into maths and science, but so did insititutional and structural racism.

There were two notable career exceptions to STEM that were just emerging in my time: broadcast journalism and classical music. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma showed that young Asians could follow their passion for Western music without being disowned by their parents. TV presenter Connie Chung paved the way for attractive young Asian Americans in media. I won‘t get into commercial TV's premium on hair and looks here, but Connie did inspire me. My first job was an internship for a PBS affiliate and I've been a science journalist. At least I fulfilled part of what's expected of being Asian.

Nowadays, Asian Americans can be lawyers (unusual in my day), go into politics (even more unusual), become novelists (extremely unusual before Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club), and God forbid, even pursue a acting career (virtually impossible in the old days). I won‘t get into whitewashing in Hollywood either, but things have improved. Part of this has to do with relatively greater numbers of younger Asians who are more American than I am or ever was.* I'm a tad envious of young folks who have more opportunities than I did, but also so glad for them. They have become much more vocal and visible than their elders. More power to them!

*Although I‘m grateful to have acquired citizenship by happenstance of birth in the US, I didn't really experience mainstream American life and have largely lived overseas.

Read other contributions of the personal stories of Tufts alumni informed and inspired by their heritageand shared in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.