After moving from South Korea to Boston at the age of six, Sparky Yoo ’18 realized that his race influenced the way his peers interacted with him at school. The continuous influence of his Asian identity on his educational experience inspired Yoo to research topics in race as part of the Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) Scholar program.
“I actually read an article from 2016 in [‘Pacific Standard Magazine’]. It was written by Anjali Enjeti and… she talked about how in her town of Johns Creek, Ga., the white population was plummeting,” said Yoo in an interview with The Phillipian.
Yoo continued, “Something about the anecdotes really spoke to me, and I just wanted to explore it more in an academic manner.”
Yoo shared his findings with the community last Friday in his presentation, titled “The New White Flight: A Paradox of Ethnoracial Achievement.”
Yoo’s project focused on instances in which white families in California relocate their homes to avoid schools with high Asian and Asian-American populations — the new white flight. According to Yoo, this phenomenon is partially driven by the Asian “model minority” myth, which leads people to believe that schools with high Asian populations create cultures of unhealthy competition.
In his presentation, Yoo said, “The racial prejudice can be discerned by the logic of whites moving away to whiter schools of similar academic rigor in towns only miles away… It is evident that white parents are associating Asians and Asian-American students with an undesirable student culture.”
In researching the effects of racial stereotypes, especially those regarding the Asian race, Yoo also reflected on his own experiences. According to him, the idea of Asian excellence had been introduced to him at a young age.
“I remember [in] fourth grade, I was really good at math because in Korea my dad taught me some multiplication or something. Then, my friends [in the U.S.] called me ‘the calculator.’ And they called me ‘the Asian calculator.’ ” said Yoo.
He continued, “Being conscious of these stereotypes has helped me better express myself, and through this CAMD Scholar research, I think I came to an even better understanding of how these racial mechanisms can play out in different contexts.”
In addition to a presentation, Yoo organized a discussion panel featuring Cedric Elkouh ’18, Claudia Meng ’18, Emily Ndiokho ’18, Reader Wang ’18, and Magdalena Farnsworth, Associate Dean of College Counseling. These panelists spoke about their own experiences with racial stereotyping at Andover and touched upon race in the college application process.
During the panel, Farnsworth said, “I think racial stereotyping in the college admissions process is horrifyingly problematic, because there are so many various aspects that are taken into account in admissions. Unfortunately, it’s the one that people can visually see… It’s much more a case of, ‘Well, I know that kid got in, and they must’ve gotten in because they were black or because they were brown.’ ”
Yoo said, “I think my presentation came at a perfect time when college decisions are coming out — maybe even too perfect of a time — but I think that Ms. Farnsworth made a good point that racial stereotyping becomes very prevalent during a time like this… I wanted people to become more aware of how these kind of thoughts can impact other people and change landscapes.”
Much of Yoo’s research process consisted of reading studies and articles. In addition, he reached out to professional sociologists such as Willow Lung-Amam, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland.
Yoo continued, “I mentioned Dr. Willow Lung-Amam frequently in my presentation. She actually sent me a manuscript of her research before she even published it, which was amazing because I don’t think I would have even done that.”
Noah Rachlin, Instructor in History and Social Science, served as Yoo’s faculty advisor during his research. Yoo also received guidance from Emma Staffaroni, Instructor in English and CAMD Scholar Program Coordinator.
In an email to The Phillipian, Rachlin wrote, “Sparky’s approach to his project demonstrated that there is no substitute for a high-quality process. He was very thoughtful and methodical, asked me tremendous questions, and worked diligently to exceed the high standards and expectations that Ms.
Staffaroni and I both had for him.”
Rachlin continued, “One thing that I really appreciated about Sparky’s presentation was that he incorporated a panel of individuals from the [Andover] community to demonstrate that the topics, themes, and questions that were at the center of his work aren’t just for theoretical exploration on campus. They exist in very real and tangible ways at Andover.”
Alice Ren ’19, an attendee of the presentation, also commended Yoo’s panel.
Ren said, “I personally really enjoyed hearing the panelists… just talking about their personal experiences, which sort of contextualized a lot of the points that were brought up in Sparky’s presentation.”
In presenting “The New White Flight,” Yoo wanted audience members to become more aware of the severe impacts of racial stereotypes in the United States.
Rachlin hopes that students, in addition to becoming more aware of issues regarding race, will understand the importance of passion in creating meaningful projects.
“I hope that attendees came away from Sparky’s presentation with a sense of how valuable it is to find something that you’re naturally interested in… I am certain that passion and the intrinsic motivation that it provided helped him navigate the more challenging moments of the research and writing process,” said Rachlin.