Apparently in Silicon Valley, only non-Asians are allowed to have fun


By Leeland Lee

The New York Times recently published a collection of photographs by Laura Morton depicting the “entrepreneurs, geniuses, idealists” who have flooded Silicon Valley in search of vast riches.

In image after image, we see millennial techies in situ, both at work and at play. But only some of these techies are drinking beer and smoking stogies and, well, enjoying life. Those would be the white techies. The Asian techies, most of them, just look utterly miserable.

Entitled “The Silicon Valley Hustle,” the photo montage is an interesting study of contrasts. The white techies, mostly young men, are dressed in plaid or light-colored shirts. They strike animated poses, they point, they laugh, they are the cynosure of attention.

Meanwhile, there’s a photo of their Asian counterparts, an undifferentiated mass competing in a recent hackathon. These techies stare intensely at their laptops and wear boring T-shirts. They’re surrounded by human detritus and penned in like farm animals. These little techies won’t be allowed to go home tonight.

Moving back to white person world, we see a young techie coding from the airy rooftop of his Sunset apartment. We see techies chasing after venture capital tail at an industry mixer. And of course, what would this photo collection be without an image of white techies posing in—what else?—the backyard of a fraternity.

Want to see something really depressing? Scroll down a little farther and you’ll see an Asian techie asleep at her computer. Her mouth is agape, she is burnt out from hours of non-stop coding. Do white techies sleep as well? Why yes they do, as evidenced by a photo of a young man resting comfortably on fake grass.

Apparently when white techies sleep, they even do so in a way that’s vaguely photogenic.

Looking through these photos, you might wonder: Certainly, Asian techies must have some fun—sometimes? After all, remember, Asians are also human! And if you look hard enough, finally you see her: A lone Asian woman at a dinner party. She is staring up at her white techie co-worker, who just made a hilariously bombastic remark.

And so there you have it, an insider’s view of how Silicon Valley really operates. As I scrolled through these photos, I couldn’t help but think about our Asian parents, and how they groomed us into becoming academic superstars. Have we forgotten that rote memorization and perfect SAT scores can only get you so far? Have we failed to grasp the value of exposing ourselves and our youngsters to varied and unpredictable social situations to foster valuable communication skills down the road?

As these photos remind us, even in Silicon Valley some of the most crucial moments in life occur serendipitously at its ragged edges, far from the classroom, cubicle or computer.

Photo credit: Original photos by Laura Morton; compiled as a montage by 8Asians from screenshots for this piece

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leeland Lee has written previously for about two Asian Americans set up on a blind date

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