When I read the title of this New York Times article, “Interracial Roommates Can Reduce Prejudice,“ I thought OK, I can see how living with someone of a different race can break down stereotypes. Immediately the film “Remember the Titans” popped in my head and hey, it worked out for them.
Apparently it doesn’t work out for Asians, however. The article states, “One [study] from the University of California at Los Angeles generally found decreased prejudice amongst students with different-race roommates – but those who roomed with Asian Americans, the group that scored the highest on measures of prejudice, became more prejudiced themselves.” So not only does this claim that Asian Americans are the most racist, but it implies that rooming with Asian Americans makes you more racist. Whoa there — that is quite an implication. How much truth is in this really?
Well, the first thing to take into account is that this study is for UCLA, where Asian Americans are the majority. According to UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center, more than 40 percent of their 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. On top of that, California has the fastest growing Asian population. Since I’ve never experienced such a ratio, I’m not sure how this affects the prejudices of Asian Americans, but regardless of your race, being the majority wherever you are must have (what I suspect to be) a negative effect on your perception of minorities no matter how “open-minded” you may claim to be.
From my personal experience, I can see how Asians Americans may seem prejudiced. Growing up on Long Island, N.Y., my high school was about 25 percent Asian, with the majority being white. I remember in our lunch room, the Asians would all sit together on one side, while white students sat at the other. When I went to college at NYU, which is a very diverse campus in a very diverse city, I thought things would change, but I was wrong. Asian cliques were everywhere, and it was common to see Southeast Asians grouped together while Indians formed their own crowd — it’s easy to find evidence of this via Facebook.
Most Asians (in my opinion) are prone to cliques. What this says about our level of prejudice, I don’t know, but as a defense, I can say that many times, the preference for same-race relationships is just a matter of comfort. It’s easy getting along with others who have similar cultural backgrounds. Yet on the other hand, it’s also fair to argue that racial preferences go hand in hand with discrimination. As expected, there is no answer. Racial issues are embedded in all relationships and it will forever remain complicated.