21 June 2008

You all are good at math, right?

How many times have I heard that comment? I heard it in grade school, high school, college and even now, as an adult. I shouldn’t be offended. In college, my math prof asked me if I wanted to major in math. So that means I’m good at math, right?

But, I didn’t become a mathematician. No, I became a designer. Not a CAD person or an engineer. A graphic designer to be exact. Seems a bit far fetched from a mathematician, although I do some crazy math to figure out decimal figures of fractions for layouts, or conversions from points to picas to inches.

It would seem from my experience that Asians must be “good at math.” My Taiwanese friend, however, says she is hopeless at math. [And yes, she is.]

What do appearances say about us? As one who is often mistaken for something else, I think we all use our sense of experience, be it personal experience or learned experience from our parents, to evaluate new acquaintances. Do we feel more comfortable when we feel that we know something ahead of time? It would appear that our experience in something comforts us. But are we that predictable?

Society and the media think so and feel the need to compartmentalize. Researchers, too, are notorious for it. [See an example in the post Mistaken Identity.] But the lines have blurred. Despite this, race categories are becoming essential in the US election. Emphasis of one heritage over another appeals to certain groups. When will the race factor just not matter? When will gender not matter?

When will we take an individual for his or her own merits, and not the merits of a particular race or gender?