In the suburbs – ronny (13)

[A version of this was published in the Almaden Resident newspaper (Aug 14, 2009, page 10) under the title “Ethnic melting pot in middle school? Not exactly” and caused quite a stir. It was subsequently followed by executive editor Dale Bryant’s  editorial in the Almaden Resident (Aug 27, 2009, page 12) addressed to the community.]



You have probably heard about the great diversity of the Bay Area, but in my school, diversity doesn’t seem to be the way to go. At lunch, everyone branches off into their racial groups. The Mexicans sit by the cafeteria, the Caucasians sit on the steps and on the walls, and the Asians sit behind the library. I sit with the Asians, in K-Town.

The story of the formation of K-Town is actually quite amusing. At the beginning of the school year, there were two Asian Towns. There was Chinatown, in the shade near the office, and Korea Town, which was by the library.

Chinatown was aptly named based on the ethnicity ratio (9/10 were Chinese), the overpopulation (about 60 kids sat in a space the size of a living room), and because of the horrible littering (after lunch, you could walk on trash for 30 feet if you tried). Kids who were assigned Trash Duty would go directly to Chinatown to fill their trash bucket in seconds.

Korea Town, on the other hand, was composed of only 10 kids (myself included, although I’m Indian) – 8 were Korean, one was Chinese, and then there was me. Korea was always striving to increase the population. There was a bitter feud going on between Korea Town and Chinatown. Our “leader” Kim Jong-Il was always talking trash about the “Chinatown Boys”. We wouldn’t even loan each other lunch money.

Besides the population, there was one major thing that separated Korea Town and Chinatown – the trash. Korea Town was always clean. Every day, we would pile up our trash in a lunch carrier, and one person would throw it away. Chinatown members just put their trash on the ground, and left whenever a yard duty attendant came by to reprimand them. Soon enough, the Chinatown area was declared off limits by yard duty. The Chinatown members had nowhere to go but Korea Town, because we were Asian and we had plenty of space. Our “leader” allowed the Chinatown people to sit in Korea Town on one condition: Chinatown was history, and all the members would unconditionally become Korea Town members. So now almost all the 8th grade Asians in the school sit in this mass of Asians.

Korea Town is now divided into a couple of parts. There is the “Sacred Circle”, a ring of the original 8 Koreans. Then follows the main mass, a jumble of Chinatowners that make up the bulk of Korea Town. Finally, there are the suburbs, which are groups of people that aren’t exactly in the mass, but are a little distance away from them.

All people in Korea Town must be:

  • Primary Asian (meaning small-eyed and yellow-skinned)
  • Secondary Asian (Indian, Pilipino) with at least 3.5 GPA 🙂
  • Non-caucasian  (exception: 4.0 GPA with partly Asian Heritage)
  • In the suburbs, Caucasians with 3.5 GPA or higher are allowed

Koreans are known as “Originals.” People of other races can be “ambassadors” or “members.” People that were part of the original Korea Town that weren’t Korean (like me or Chairman Mao) are ambassadors from their original country. I’m an Indian Ambassador. It’s pretty funky. Everyone that joined post-Off Limits Act is just a member, but they can rise up to become an ambassador through rites of passage, e.g., writing your name on the library wall with your backside, with at least 5 originals or ambassadors watching.

Ironically, the littering in Korea Town is now very heavy, and whenever a yard duty attendant comes by, we pull an “Asian Migration” and drift away before being ordered to pick up trash.

My original friends remain in the sacred circle, but we’ve drifted apart.

Me – I’m living in the suburbs and at peace with it.


About ronrik

Ronny, born in New York, is interested in piano, chess, soccer and reading. (Intense!) Rikki, born in San Jose, loves monkeys, soccer, drums, art, legos and wildlife! (Dude!)

9 responses to “In the suburbs – ronny (13)

  1. Neel

    wow! this is stark. i can see this article in the new york times. a sensitive subject and very well written. the note on the beginnings and the matter-of-fact tone of this article made it really stand out. keep writing your thoughts, ronny. good stuff.

  2. Su Mukund

    Wow ……………..i can relate to your story 100% as I live between all your ‘towns” with a slight diversity down n under in Auckland- NZ. And yeah……………..I can clearly picture where you are coming from as we also experience the huge trash after lunch in our school!!!Though “towns” located closer to senior management areas /deans and main office are slightly cleaner than the others where policing is more strict!!!
    Rumki pishi @ A secondary school in auckland

  3. Anonymous.


    You are a very well written young man. Although, I am deeply opposed to your article. I am familiar with you, which makes seeing as having had attended the 8th grade with you. I find this article to be extremley racist and profoundly ignorant. Who are you to speak of diversity when you yourself are ethnically ignorant?

    • Anon

      I agree, and would like to add that just because something holds true for you and your narrow, limited point of view does not mean it holds true for all.

  4. Pingback: Tut, Tut … Read the Resident

  5. Ronny,

    I concur largely with Neel’s comments. A very nice piece of work. Your post has that dispassionate, almost deadpan vibe that makes “The Way We Live Now” columns so effective in the NYT.

    The Holden Caulfield style works in daily reportage. For a more involving and literary affect, a good short article model is the Talk Of The Town section in the New Yorker. The sentences are longer, the writing more sinuous. But also more immersive. They take you there.

    Malcolm Gladwell – whose incessant glibness makes him easy to disregard – observes that to be an expert at anything you need to do it for ~10k hours. I don’t know if the claim is verifiable. But it sounds about right. So whatever style you use, keep on writing.


    PS – Got here through your dad’s Facebook page. Who needs an agent, huh?

  6. Anon 2


    Thank you! I agree.

  7. ronrik

    To my anonymous critics: please read executive editor Dale Bryant’s editorial in the Almaden Resident, August 27, 2009 (page 12) – it is linked from the top of the post and says it all – Rohit

  8. Esther

    i love this article
    im a chinese who hangs out with the white kids in my b block suburb, where we all are smart and i was the token asian
    now its being invaded by the asian invasion.. because even though we are supposed to be ‘diverse’ my white friends are the only people my chinese friends deem approachable that are non asian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: