Oct 22, 2021Liked by Jeff Schneider

Mr. Schneider,

About 7 years have passed since I first took your AP US History course at Midwood High School at Brooklyn College, and it continues to have a large and looming influence on my life to this day. I will keep my identity private on the interwebs, but since being a teenage girl at Midwood High School, I never acknowledged the weight and privilege of being the daughter of two immigrants from the People's Republic of China, and an American--first-generation and native-born.

I have bristled over the trends of Critical Race Theory, notions of "white privilege" and "white adjacency" in education. My own father was born in the city of Changsha, infamous for its association with the dictator Mao Zedong--whose Cultural Revolution my father is a survivor of, and whose economic campaigns led to my grandmother's sad demise. It was the United States's notion of freedom and equality, even in a country that had such a law as the Chinese Exclusion Act, that led my father to immigrate to the United States, to New York City, all by himself--divorcing his ex-wife and abandoning his daughter--in the 1990s. It was after the Tiananmen Square protests and during a time when there continued to exist a policy as cruel and as radical as the One-Child Policy--which ended in 2015, the year of my graduation from Midwood High School, and even more drastically in 2021, only several months ago. At the age of 17, when I received the Dr. Arthur I. & Gladys Bernstein Award for Achievement and Excellence in Advanced Placement U.S. History, I was only a teenage girl whose most pressing concerns were school and grades, and never understood the weight and gravity of receiving such an award in the context of the trauma related to my family's immigration histories. The only person in my family who knew how to read at a high level was my father, and he worked at a Chinese-language, Taiwanese-owned publication in Queens that was sympathetic to the Chinese pro-democracy movement, while taking English courses at the City University of New York. The rest of my family are from rural Canton, with my great-grandfather, of peasant stock, living in a cramped apartment in the Chinatown of the Lower East Side, when he first immigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s, during the height of Mao Zedong's campaigns against not only students and intellectuals from the cities, but farmers from the countryside who wanted to earn their daily bread, almost immediately after the immigration laws were liberalized under Lyndon Johnson. I still remember being a teenager who took the subway from Brooklyn all the way to Manhattan almost every week because I relished reading the publications the New Yorker and the New Criterion, and their articles greatly inspired my essays in your course. I never understood the gravity of it, with academic freedom and freedom of the press being nil in the country of my ancestry and parents' birth. At a time when relations between the United States, one of the world's oldest democracies, and the People's Republic of China, now the world's second-largest economy, are heightening, hate crimes related to the pandemic against Americans of Chinese ancestry and Asians generally are rising, and Beijing is invested in an ideological, woke-propaganda war against the United States, the time for reiterating patriotism and rejecting racial grievance from someone with a background as mine has never been more important. I will always remember, at only the age of 15, growing up in the Confucian culture and feeling like I had disappointed my Chinese immigrant father for not having been admitted to a Specialized High School in NYC, how much confidence and faith you had in me and how your pedagogy and enthusiasm for teaching inspired me to rigorously apply myself and helped me discover my passion for political theory when I was only a teenager from the outer borough of New York. I remember my father, born in 1955, inquiring about my studies and my relaying to him about my involvement in Amnesty International in high school, and my interest in human rights, and he gravely and bluntly told me, "In China, there are no human rights." I have felt like a fraud at times, but when I think about my father's journey from Changsha to New York, with its Statue of Liberty, and his reasons for immigrating to the United States--"because I wanted to have more children"--the love I have for my two younger brothers, the immigration history of my entire family, and the rigorous education I received at Midwood High School, my belief in my country has never been greater. Not all women, millennials, ethnic minorities, or the children of immigrants are prone to left-wing radicalism or the new politics of identitarianism, especially someone as I, whose ancestors--as proximate and immediate as my own father--are survivors of Maoism and the extremes of Marxist-Leninist thought. I have thought of you over the years and will always have immense gratitude for your dedication, commitment, and faith in your students. I hope you have been enjoying your retirement, and will continue to be a loyal reader!


A former pupil.

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I do this Substack writing because I miss you all so much and want to share my ideas with others. Thanks for the generous and thoughtful comments.

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