Thursday, July 6, 2006
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Subject: A Call To Arms
Friends and colleagues, I write you with something that may initially appear nonsensical and scatterbrained but will quickly develop into a riot-inspiring manifesto. Please bear with me.
To preface, my name is Jason Kim, and I’m a 24 year old Korean-American Investment Banker at a bulge-bracket in New York City.
This morning began as any other weekday in my life does. I woke up, took a shower, wrangled for 5 minutes with the plastic covering my freshly dry-cleaned and starched shirts, and got dressed. I did what I always do—I stood straight as an arrow in front of my full-length mirror (my Mom always said what I lack in height I can make up for in posture!) and traced with my eyes the razor-sharp pleat of my right pant-leg from mid-thigh to the bottom, where it gracefully sat upon my well worn-in loafers. I pinched my pant leg tenderly and tugged gently upwards, exposing the opulent golden links below and freeing them to twinkle briefly in the incandescence of my room. *twinkle*
I then applied Bed Head gel generously to my damp hair, making sure to cover all strands so that not a single one would have to endure even a minute of the day unspiked or unshiny. I momentarily ruffled my hair with my fingers and smiled at the Asian Brad Pitt I saw in the mirror. But then, as always, I reverted to the trusty, conservative 60 degree angle outward spike. Still pretty hip, I’d say.
Now it may have been the fumes from the product seeping into my dome or the fact that I used the same gel-covered hands to clean and wash my contacts, but somehow I got the inkling it was going to be a bad day.
Anyway, I got into work without incident and said what’s up to some people and plopped down at my desk with a coffee and started computering away diligently. Things were going fine, and I chugged along diligently. Chug chug. But then I got stuck on one of those terribly brain-teasing bits of arithmetic that only exist in banking.
So I did what I do when I need to think hard, I reached into my pencil case (yes I still have a pencil case even though I don’t really write on anything anymore) to pull out my trusty Pentel PD345. I’m sure all of you remember this seminal piece of product design, it was a clear mechanical pencil with the clicker ingenuously positioned right where you’d keep your index finger. Sadly, it’s recently been discontinued and replaced by some disgusting, bloated new version (the PD345-A).
So I reached into my pencil case to get out my thinking pencil—the pencil you can’t buy anymore; the pencil I’d had with me since middle school; the pencil that I used to get a 1600 on the SATs despite it not saying 2HB on it; the very pencil that I had planned on getting an 800 on the GMAT with. Had planned on. I reached in…and it was gone.
“Shibseki!!” I said to myself. Someone took my pencil and didn’t return it?!
How was I going to think? How was I going to tackle the increasingly complex adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing that I had to do everyday to deliver at my job? How could I do anything without being able to twirl my Quicker Clicker between my index and middle fingers like a fan or being able to spin it repeatedly around my thumb like a helicopter? I didn’t know. I still don’t know.
Now I’m not terribly confrontational (they use this to their advantage), so I just sat and stared at my computer and fumed. I looked over at Frank, a Chinese kid that sits near me, and I knew he felt my pain. He was a good guy—a solid dude. He shook his head in disbelief. He would obviously never do something like this.
And so I sat there, and the anger over the pencil built up inside of me for 45 minutes. Then, after about an hour, I simmered down slightly and realized that maybe this blatant act of theft was acceptable. Fine. It was an understandable mistake, I guess. Whatever.
But, more importantly, what I realized was that this total lack of respect for our love of fine writing instruments represented something much bigger than me losing a dear friend—it was symbolic of the White man’s total disregard for the Asian man in this fine industry we call Finance.
I was set off. The rage and pain and angst I’ve been feeling at this job for the past year has built up inside of me for the past 2 hours and now I’m sitting here writing you all this email, hoping that each one of you takes a second and asks yourself this question:
“Do I really need this shit?”
Is it not enough that they call me the human modeling robot?! And that I am expected to bring the diligence of the 24 hour Chinese restaurant and same day dry cleaning service to pitch book creation while Chester and Madison and Oliver prance off in seersucker to their time-share in the Hamptons to play bocce?
Is it not enough that I have to roll up the sleeves of every single one of my shirts because the sleeves are too long? (On a side note: Turnbull & Asser or someone else, please pioneer the shirt for the Asian Banker. We have several innovative breast pocket insignias to offer: the ying-yang, a golden dragon, or any of the 18 billion Kanji characters. You are guaranteed to capture the meathead college wrestler turned asset-backed securities trader market as well).
And is it really not enough that the only real Asian-American we have to look up to is that retard Carlyle dude Paul Chung? The Tribe and the Desis have so many epic young ballers for their little rockstars-in-training to venerate, can’t we at least get one American-born, 28 year old MD named Chang or Tran or Kim (that didn’t take the MCATs)? [note: contrary to popular belief, Harold from Harold and Kumar is not to be venerated][note: Henry Tang looks like my uncle].
I lay myself prostrate before you my brothers, we have to do something about our situation here on Wall Street, because frankly, we are still the mud-people of this industry, and the situation is not going to avail itself. Our numbers are strong and our accents are rapidly fading; we could soon become the dominant force, my friends.
Please, forward this to any other Asian bankers you know, post this up on your Xanga pages, and let’s band together to end ignorance and rise up from the dregs of the Analyst classes!
But let’s try still to do it kinda gingerly because my Mom really likes telling everyone at Church her son works in investment banking…