Asians Americans v. Affirmative Action


By Risha Sinha

We’re all worried about getting into college, as proven by the numerous vapid and superfluous “passion” projects adopted by juniors and seniors in a last-ditch attempt to bolster their resumes. High-schoolers like these feel obligated to engage in such performative activities to secure their spot in their dream colleges, trying to win in the rapidly changing game of college admissions.

On June 29, admissions procedures changed once again as the Supreme Court decided that colleges cannot use race as a consideration for admission. This ruling effectively put an end to 40 years of race-conscious admissions practices across the nation, largely on the argument that affirmative action discriminated against white and Asian people. 

Asian students have become the anti-affirmative-action poster child, but this wasn’t always the case. 

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), the organization that sued Harvard and University of North Carolina for discriminatory practices, is led by Ed Blum, a white man and conservative activist, and it’s not his first rodeo. Back in 2008, Blum’s handpicked poster child was Abigail Fisher, a white woman. But Abigail Fisher lost her case, so Blum recast his lead, pitting minority groups against each other. 

The competitive nature of college admissions pits us against our peers, reinforcing an every-person-for-themself mindset. Blum tapped into this festering animosity — he used educational equality as a guise to reverse decades of progress toward diversity. The idea peddled to Asian Americans is that our spot at an elite college is being stolen from us by a Black or Latino student. 

The unfortunate reality is that elite colleges remain elite by being fastidiously, anally selective. For my fellow Asians, that means that our years of Kumon/RSM, obligatory violin/piano lessons and insane course loads won’t guarantee us a spot anywhere. 

Blum and other opponents of affirmative action argue that factoring in race when reviewing an applicant is a civil rights issue. They pretend that they are the white knights of Asian Americans, but we are just pawns in their crusade against Black and Latino communities. 

According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, almost 70% of legacy applicants are white, and these students are six to seven times more likely to be admitted than a non-legacy applicant, which basically makes legacy admissions affirmative action for the white and wealthy. 

Take Harvard for example: a survey by the Harvard Crimson found that 36% of students in the class of 2022 were legacy admits. 18.1% of admits in the class of 2022 were Asian. 

If the goal of Blum and SFFA was to achieve racial equality or justice for Asian American students, their lawsuit would have been against legacy admissions, not affirmative action. 

It’s such a shame that the vigor, perseverance and strength our parents instilled in us through the Asian-prefered method of math practice problems has been convoluted into a weapon used to put down other minority groups because Asian American-led legal action has the capacity to be really amazing. 

In fact, every English as a Second Language (ESL) program in the US sprouted from a Supreme Court case filed by Asian plaintiffs: Lau v. Nichols. In the late 60s and early 70s, children of Asian immigrants were struggling with language barriers in public schools, and the schools were providing no assistance. Groups like “Chinese For Affirmative Action” came together to file a class action lawsuit that resulted in the ESL programs seen in nearly every school today. 

Unlike the recent Affirmative Action decision, Lau v. Nichols made education more equitable thereby making a better future more accessible. 

Affirmative Action was never a perfect solution to the ingrained racial inequities in our public education and social services programs. These inequities permeate our systems like a computer virus. The software needs a reboot. Who better than Asians to lead the way?

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