Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Courage of One Overseas Chinese Student

For an overseas student, it took more than academic knowledge and a moral high ground to challenge your professor in the classroom. Liao Wenxia was able to do just that, with courage and a belief that racism should not be left unattended in the name of free speech.

Liao, then a student at the University of Toronto pursuing her Master's Degree when a white professor David Waterhouse preached in a class she took that there was no appreciation of beauty in ancient Asia. Although there had been 8000 years of written literature before Waterhouse's ancestors in Europe learned to use utensils at dinner table (or cover their naked bodies in public), Waterhouse claimed only Caucasians were sophisticated enough to develop philosophical thinking.

Waterhouse's scholarship is laughable at the best. His 'study' found 'beautiful' was an exclusive European concept because that was the 'first aesthetic response in history" that Adam and Eve in Bible found the trees in the Garden of Eden 'pleasant to sight', yet the Japanese word and Indian word 'beautiful' did not originally mean what Adam and Eve felt.

Liao disputed Waterhouse's absurd theory. The classroom exchange on ancient philosophy didn't end in the classroom. Waterhouse downgraded her assignment score to a B. After Liao protesting the grade through a formal channel, Waterhouse changed it to a B+. Then, in an amazingly, incredibly bold move, Waterhouse quietly wiped out half of Liao's credit hours. When he got caught, Waterhouse claimed it was an unintentional mistake, then continued his chanting of how Caucasians knows better about 'beauty'. When Liao was applying for PhD study, Waterhouse impersonate as her program supervisor to weigh in his negative opinion.

It's not about racism because it so evident that no one could argue otherwise. Actually, no one did. However, it was the posture of an entitlement of a professor looking down on a student from different race and the tolerance of Waterhouse's colleagues at the University of Toronto totally disgusted the Seagull.

According to University of Toronto, Liao was expelled from the school because she made a life threat to Waterhouse. It happened when Liao, after learning Waterhouse secretly wiped out half of her credit hours, which was not only unethical but also illegal and in normal cases an offense so severe that one could be fired upon, told Waterhouse he couldn't get away from it. Waterhouse along with his white colleagues and white administrators at University of Toronto take a liberal interpretation of the words and claimed it was a life threat. The Seagull did not know how many white professors and white administrators at University of Toronto at the time actually endorsed Waterhouse's racism conduct, but what became the history was the fact that they chose to stood by who bears the same color of skin. Birds of a feather, flocking together, no wonder.

The incident happened back in 1991, though only recently it came to the attention of the Seagull. The segregation in higher education did not end overnight after the civil rights movement. Even today in the US, 50 miles apart in many places, there are one college for white and one college for black. There is a long way ahead for colored people to achieve an equal treatment status. It is especially difficult inside the ivy towers.

Curious readers will not be able to 'Google' the case. Searching 'Liao Wenxia David Waterhouse' returns nothing. However, you can go directly to two sites (LIAO'S HUMAN RIGHTS CASE IN CANADA AND USA:, A Chinese Proof: Racism and hypocrisy of the Western democracy) where Ms. Liao gathered an extensive pile of documents (including Waterhouse's paper on beauty, Liao's term paper, Waterhouse's remarks on her paper, court filings, etc.) surrounding the case, and made your own judgment.

Chinese was known as a race of obedience, who never complain about mistreatment. In history, Chinese must thank for Blacks for the Civil Rights movement, and thank Latinos for the attention to poor social status of new immigrants. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, every Chinese in the US should have Blacks and Latinos in their mind when they are allowed to sit in the same room with white superiors. However, Chinese should be worried: after Blacks and Latinos get what they want, who else can Chinese piggyback on? Ms. Liao has been fighting the one woman's battle for almost twenty years against racism in Canada and in the US, in courts of law and in the cyberspace. Overseas Chinese should also have Ms. Liao in their mind, on Thanksgiving Day.

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