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Rich Cho and the "Bamboo Ceiling"

Rich Cho was fired today, and it has nothing to do with his performance, his exceptional swindling of Michael Jordan at the trade deadline, or any specific incident of misconduct.

Larry Miller cited "chemistry reasons" and "communication style" as the reason for Cho's unexpected firing. After hearing those vague justifications, the first thing that I thought of was a very interesting article in New York Magazine that I read last week entitled "Paper Tigers: What Happens to All the Asian-American Overachievers When the Test-Taking Ends."

To me, Cho's firing fits precisely into the subtle pattern of subconscious discrimination that the article describes, calling it the "Bamboo Ceiling." The article is a really long read, but it makes a compelling case for the societal barriers that block Asian-Americans from success at the top levels of our society, especially in corporate settings.

Take Eddie Huang: "Huang had a rough twenties, bumping repeatedly against the Bamboo Ceiling. In college, editors at the Orlando Sentinel invited him to write about sports for the paper. But when he visited the offices, “the editor came in and goes, ‘Oh, no.’ And his exact words: ‘You can’t write with that face.’"

I think Rich Cho just became the poster child for the "Paper Tigers" phenomenon. Let's just hope that his next employer doesn't tell him, "oh no, you can't manage with that face." He seemed like a consummate pro and the Blazers organization will be lucky to find someone of his caliber to replace him.

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