Inaugural “Youth From Every Quarter” Speaker Frank Wu Talks Race

“Within our lifetimes, this nation will undergo a transformation never before made on the face of the globe in human history. We will cease to have a single identifiable racial majority,” said Frank Wu as he concluded his All-School Meeting presentation on race relations and civil rights, primarily concerning Asian-Americans, in the United States.

Wu is a Chancellor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law and the author of “Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.”

In his presentation, Wu addressed the racial prejudice still present in modern American society. Growing up, Wu’s family was the only Asian family in a predominately white neighborhood. “Back then, I’m ashamed to say, I was embarrassed of my parents… because we stood out and were different, in a time before diversity was ever celebrated,” said Wu in his presentation.

Although Wu said that a racial majority in the U.S. will soon disappear, racial prejudice will remain. “I take very seriously this question they ask, which is: ‘why are we still at it?,’” said Wu. “I don’t think it will ever be finished. As an optimist, as a believer of the American Dream, I would insist that none of this is ever over,” he continued in his presentation.

In an interview with The Phillipian, Wu said that, as a minority, there comes a moment when a decision must be made about whether or not it is necessary to intervene when someone makes racial comments. Whether consciously or not, all people participate in stereotyping.

“Just think about democracy for a moment, what makes the United States that city upon a hill… what we seek to offer to others. Democracy is a process, not an outcome. Democracy depends on our active participation. Maybe diversity is the same,” continued Wu.

Wu specifically remembers when this process became part of his life, marked by the death of Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American. Chin’s murder, in 1982, was a turning point between Wu’s childhood bitterness about being Asian-American and his current passion for racial equity.

Chin was brutally beaten by two white men with a baseball bat in Detroit on the grounds of racial discrimination. Chin’s skull was cracked open onto the pavement and he fell into a coma, dying two days later. Chin’s assailants were put on probation for three months and fined $3000 each, according to Wu.

“That moment caused a movement to begin,” said Wu during his presentation. “The death of this man led to the birth of Asian-Americans, in some sense.”

Aya Murata, Faculty Advisor of Asian Society, selected Wu as the inaugural Youth From Every Quarter (YFEQ) speaker. YFEQ speakers will present annually, similarly to the Kaleidoscope, Martin Luther King, Wellness Week and Finis Origine Pendet speakers, according to Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students.

“[Wu] is an eloquent thinker, writer and advocate of exploring and understanding issues related to race and racial identity within and beyond the typical black-white dynamic,” said Hoyt, in an e-mail to The Phillipian.

“It’s a process,” said Murata about Wu’s comments on racial discrimination. “We have that same conversation and dialogue here on campus. We have a [Community and Multicultural Development] office, and we’re ‘super diverse,’ but we forget that we’re an evolving community, so you never get to that perfect place. There’s always going to be a role for students who want to engage in those kinds of conversations.”

Wu’s visit was funded by the Hosch Family Fund and sponsored by the Asian Society and CAMD.