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"Racebending" - Stanford Supplement - Short Essay - Intellectual Vitality

alyssadlee 4 / 10  
Dec 30, 2009   #1
Right now, I have spent literally 4 or 5 hours writing the response to this prompt because I had to change it:
Stanford students are widely known to possess a sense of intellectual vitality. Tell us about an idea or an experience you have had that you find intellectually engaging.

I wrote it all stream of consciousness at first and it was over 5,000 characters! I've gotten it down to 2,117 but the limit 1,800. Much help is appreciated! And I am worried that it does not fulfill the prompt. Certainly I myself find it "engaging" but I don't know if it is objectively. Also, I hope it doesn't come off as too cynical.

My eight-year-old brother Julian told me about a school project asking him to discuss his name. "Why don't you talk about your Korean name Hanul?" Furrowed eyebrows and a pout immediately showed his aversion. I asked him why not. "I don't want people to know that I'm Korean."

I have accepted that my pride in my heritage is not the norm considering that my formative years were spent in Los Angeles, a hotbed of multiculturalism, while Julian has always lived in Turlock, a white-dominated town. I did not realize until then how intimately he felt the brand of "minority" or its tacit burn of shame.

While skimming Entertainment Weekly, my attention landed on a spread about the upcoming live-action film for the show Avatar: The Last Airbender, of which Julian and I are proud advocates. Avatar exhibits not only beautiful animation, complex storylines, and antagonists as fully realized as the protagonists, but also an eloquent interpretation and display of Asian cultures.

A big fuss for a show on Nickelodeon but Avatar is the kind of program my brother should embrace, one whose "ethnic flavor" is not derived from shallow stereotypes like kung fu fight scenes and rice and chopsticks. To see the main character as a monk with a name like Aang, not out of some gimmick of Asia but out of true integrality to the plot, seemed to show Julian that even as the only Asian boy in his class, he could be a hero in his own right. My enthusiasm for such a program was thus equally met with displeasure upon seeing the line-up for the actors of the main cast.

Every single one was white.

I must wonder what this says to kids like Julian. When an Asian is not good enough to play his own role, when the only actors of color are the "enemies" and the extras, when the casting call requests "Caucasian or other ethnicity" rather than "all ethnicities," Julian can only feel that Asian is not equivalent to normal. I lament the media culture that perpetuates the attitude "Caucasian is the default race." If an award-winning show cannot be sold with an Asian as the hero, why should my brother feel pride in being called Hanul?

RHDFinney 2 / 15  
Dec 30, 2009   #2
I think this actually works pretty well at answering the prompt: it definitely addresses an intellectual issue, and does so from a very personal perspective. That said, the cynicism comes off a little grating.

You might want to soften your stance a little, and at leat give legroom to opposing views, as that is what 'intellectual vitality' means to Stanford far more than an interesting idea.

You might like for instance, to replace 'displeasure' with 'disappointment'.

From an intellectual/critical standpoint, you might like to cut the second paragraph, as if you're looking for cuts, this one contributes the least, as well as seeming the most ideologically uncompromising, even abrasive.

You might like to consider how your brother's age affects his attitude to his race. Having grown up in a white-dominated town, it's only natural for him to notice and fear differences about himself and his surroundings, something he'll probably grow out of as he ages. This might be more important than the media culture. I only say this because rewriting the essay with it in mind might lend itself to a less cynical, and more palatable style. Colleges like you not to be too idealistically sure.

I hope this hasn't been too harsh - this really is an effective essay, making you stand out as engaging.
If it's not too much trouble, I could really do with some help with my CommonApp Essay.
RHDFinney 2 / 15  
Dec 30, 2009   #3
On re-reading, I really like this essay. The cynicism is less of a problem than I initially thought. I think that this is an essay which will look better if College Admissions look at it again.

Still, I think the 'caucasian is the default race' could do with some softening, as it sounds a very little bit judgemental - I think the best improvement would be to shift the focus from outrage to mournful a tad more.

Also on re-reading, I think it's very well flowing in the central section.

Thank you for the short answer, and mty essay thread is reopened, if you acan help:
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Jan 10, 2010   #4
Hello Allysa and Roraig. I'm sorry I missed the deadline and did not get a chance to participate in this thread in time, but I wanted to say Roraig's thoughtful feedback is very impressive, and so is this essay... Julian is lucky to have you!
J724 2 / 5  
Jan 10, 2010   #5
Certainly I myself find it "engaging" but I don'tdo not know if it is objectively. Also, I hope it doesn't come off as too cynical.

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