Saratoga isn’t as diverse as we think

October 4, 2017 — by Ryan Kim

Saratoga High is centered in the Bay Area, a hodgepodge of different cultures and ideas originating from all over the world. But even in the height of its racial diversity and tolerance, the school has only a certain kind of diversity.

According to statistics in US News, even though we have a 72 percent minority enrollment, a vast majority — 59 percent — are Asian. Whether they’re Indian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese or Korean, most students on campus are Asian. It sometimes feels as if the larger Caucasian “majority,” which is a mere 28 percent, is on the sidelines.

Furthermore, the school is only 5 percent Hispanic, 0.1 percent African American and 0 percent Native American or Pacific Islander. In contrast, a nearby school like Palo Alto High is more diverse, with a student population of 3 percent African American, 50 percent Caucasian, 30 percent Asian, 1 percent American Indian or Alaskan native and 1 percent Hawaiian native or Pacific Islander.

Perhaps a significant factor in this racial diversity depends on economic diversity. Saratoga is generally filled with well-off individuals, so most students come from wealthy families that are directly connected to nearby jobs — many in the technology industry. The economic disparity between Saratoga residents, who are mostly Caucasian or Asian, and, for example, Pacific Islanders may be a major influence in the diversity in the city.

Comparatively, Palo Alto High has a variety of students from both different racial and economic backgrounds, including children of tech leaders and East Palo Alto residents, a comparatively poorer area.

When famed director Steven Spielberg graduated from Saratoga High in 1965, he reported a history of bullying because he was Jewish amid a school filled with White Anglo Saxon Protestants (SHS was pretty much an all-white school in the ‘60s). Even today, there are problematic incidents where students can sometimes be heard casually spouting racial epithets around in the hallways in a joking manner.

What’s most interesting is that because of the vast Asian majority on campus, a lot of school culture seems to overemphasize Asian traditions or themes over underrepresented cultures like Native American or Pacific Islander. We now have three cultural clubs — Korean, Chinese and Indian Cultural Awareness Club — that regularly have meetings and events around campus. Just last year, Korean and Chinese Clubs joined together for a schoolwide Lunar New Year celebration, and ICAC has regular dance performances at the McAfee Center, with dozens of Indian families coming to watch their Bollywood dances.

The effects of Asian culture can be seen around other parts of campus life as well. School lunches often offers “Chopsticks,” a menu of chow mein, egg rolls and orange chicken or teriyaki. In language departments, Chinese is the second-largest foreign language behind Spanish, and in our Homecoming dances, cultural dances like Bollywood and K-pop abound.

Although we often think of ourselves as the peak of acceptance and diversity, we have a long way to go before we can truly reap the benefits of the Bay Area’s diversity. Step out of the Asian shadow and look around at different cultures we aren’t usually exposed to — and the potential economic reasons behind the lack of background diversity here.

We shouldn’t flaunt our racial diversity over other groups or even schools like Los Gatos when we only know a narrow kind of diversity. Before we start judging others for their apparent lack of diversity, perhaps we should first consider how truly diverse we are — and how that might affect our judgment.


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