My mom and I have never really had the kind of relationship where we talked extensively about politics. However, one of my earliest and most valuable political lessons came from my mother.
My mom grew up in China and Taiwan during the Cultural Revolution, and was taught the history of both countries from Chinese and Taiwanese teachers. She believed herself well-versed in the history of these countries; that is, until she immigrated to Canada, and discovered how much of the history she had learned had been subjective — filtered through the lens of national pride and patriotism. The experience of finally reading more balanced and objective histories of China and Taiwan was a sobering one for my mother, and she instilled a pertinent life lesson on me drawn from that moment.
“Always think about who is teaching you what you are leaning,” she said, “because you may not be learning the unbiased truth.”
The practice of teaching subjective history is not limited to Asia. In America, we also grow up with an incomplete (oftentimes prejudiced) history of America and other world powers, and information is often filtered through Westernized sensibilities, politics, and patriotism.
I found Chapter 1 of Affirmative Action in China and the U.S. fascinating because it helped to reveal the inadequacies in my own education of Chinese political history and Marxist-Leninist-inspired philosophy. This is valuable because, as with all consideration of contemporary issues, a complete understanding of historical context is crucial if we are to engage in a meaningful and nuanced consideration of the subject of this book — affirmative action in China and the U.S.