I was hearing a few stories about the ivory towers of academia and some of the micro-aggressions on display was just shocking. Two that immediately come to mind are:
(1.) there was a particularly famous Desi academic who was holding court in one of the colleges. Many desis came to pay homage to him prompting one (white) academic to sniff to another, “it feels like a Delhi saloon bar here.” This was in full hearing of the coloured academics.
(2.) a particularly (in)famous colonial administrator had visited a college in the 50’s and noting the wild behaviour of the undergraduates, joked “I thought the natives came only in shades of brown.” The implication being that the undergraduates were acting like careless natives in the sun. This is an oft-repeated and humorous joke in certain rarefied circles.
I was livid when I heard this but it prompts me to reflect that regardless of the stress on equality and fairness; the elite churn only enough to preserve their power structure.
What makes micro-aggression so powerful of course is that it is the aggressed who feels trapped. How does one respond since the Model Minority Asian is far too busy assimilation/integrating/succeeding and doesn’t want to cause a fuss. It’s all well and good having a rant on Twitter or a blog but it’s not very likely that a #metoo movement is going to emerge vis a vis micro aggression.
Another interesting observation is that Asians are particularly vulnerable to micro-aggressions because we are a longer-term delayed gratification sort of population; we are looking at that promotion, salary raise to ever truly want to make a commotion.
The art of pushing back banterously without escalating the matter too much should be taught in all citizenship classes..
After the jump my own short thoughts on the staying power of elites.
Some time back I rifled through Orhan Pamuk’s autobiography where he recounted his early childhood in Istanbul (just off Taksim Square in what is now it’s most prominent district) and his squabbling Ottomanish relatives. What is interesting is that even though OP’s paternal family is no longer prominent in the Republic (his mother was of Circassian ancestry from what I remember to general bemusement of his father’s side); he is probably Turkey’s most famous novelist.
Elites are nebulous and immortal constructs; the same upper crust surnames survive in Oxbridge. A young postgraduate at my wife’s colleges who I had clocked as Jewish turned out to be Boston Brahmin (the surname is a dead giveaway).
Of course being a member of an elite also carries with it a “historical memory.” If one knows that they have aristocratic antecedents, there is a sub-conscious lift towards emulating the greats. A good friend of mine discovered very recently that his deceased grandmother was the closest descendant of Mungo the Explorer; it’s now become part of his family lore.