Letters to the Editor

Right to Protest

The pro-independence protests that Tibetans around the world kicked off this past week should be allowed to continue in a peaceful manner. Timed to coincide with the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s escape from Lhasa, Tibet to Dharmasala, India, these protests stand for an impressively sustained defiance against the Chinese political machine. It is most disappointing that neighboring India has decided to detain protesters for no apparent reason. It demonstrates India’s willingness to bow to China’s political wishes for the sake of maintaining relations. While this may be the correct diplomatic move, no individual who cares for the well-being of other human beings should be able to genuinely accept it. It is a heinous crime. The monks have the right to non-violent protest and let them exercise it, be it in Lhasa, New Delhi, Kathmandu, or Washington, D.C. If human rights are sacrificed so easily now, what will happen in the future when the economic clout of certain countries grows? As the Olympics approach, let us all remember we are human beings and not let others be treated so trivially in the name of superficial purpose.

‘21’ Casting Discrimination is Inappropriate

After reading the March 14 Tech interview about the upcoming ‘21’ movie (due out March 28), I came across some eyebrow-raising news about the film’s casting process on various blogs. For those unfamiliar with the film or interview, the movie is based off the best-selling book Bringing Down the House, about the real-life team of mostly Asian American males who won big in Las Vegas. The two main characters in the book, ‘Kevin Lewis’ and ‘Steve Fisher’, were Jeffrey Ma ’94 and Michael Aponte ’95, two Asian American males.

The Hollywood version stars Jim Sturgess, and according to the book author Ben Mezrich in a Tech interview dated Sept. 30, 2005, the Hollywood casting directors initially wanted to completely exclude any Asian male characters from the film:

“Mezrich mentioned the stereotypical Hollywood casting process — though most of the actual blackjack team was composed of Asian males, a studio executive involved in the casting process said that most of the film’s actors would be White, with perhaps an Asian female. Even as Asian actors are entering more mainstream films, such as “Better Luck Tomorrow” and the upcoming “Memoirs of a Geisha,” these stereotypes still exist, Mezrich said.”

I think this is pretty outrageous, and is just as questionable as when Brian Dennehy played Kublai Khan in HBO’s recent “Marco Polo” movie.

While there have not been too many complaints in mainstream media over these developments, one cannot help but wonder what the backlash would have been like if, for example, Hollywood had made the movie “Coach Carter,” with a Caucasian actor replacing Sam Jackon’s role, which was also based on a real-life story. In terms of marketing or box office numbers, it is also puzzling why they would cast Sturgess (a relative unknown) as the lead student instead of Aaron Yoo (also in the film as a minor role), when the movie already had cast such big-name stars as Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne.

MITCO Shouldn’t Spoon-Feed

My experience with MITCO was quite different than what Sarah Levin described in Tuesday’s Rants and Raves. When I decided last minute to apply to medical school, I too walked into the Careers Office clueless about my future and the application process. I too was given statistics and a checklist of questions. But instead of taking so personally their objective criticisms, I took advantage of MITCO’s resources to strengthen my chances. MITCO was accommodating in scheduling mock interviews, giving feedback on my essays, and answering my many questions. I left the Careers Office that day with a stack of handouts, brochures, and a clearer sense of what further steps I needed to take. I understand, though, how my experience would be disappointing if I believed MITCO’s responsibilities to be sugarcoating and mollycoddling.

What I love about MIT is that we’re not spoon-fed all the answers; we learn how to figure things out ourselves. We’re not told, “Follow steps 1, 2, and 3, and you will succeed,” like we may have been in high school. I am most disappointed when students feel entitled to that success while making excuses such as “MIT does not have grade inflation” or “it is harder than most other schools” to not work harder, become better, and exercise more assertion in pursuing what they want. At MIT, we’re not told that we’re not good enough, as Ms. Levin claims. Instead, we’re told what more we’re capable of doing and how much further we can push our limits. We can either be defeated and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can listen carefully and take personal initiative to benefit from all the resources MIT has to offer so that we can fulfill our dreams.