Asian American Discrimination in Admissions
For many years, from atop our soapbox in college admissions, we have been shining a spotlight on the discrimination that Asian American applicants too often face in America’s elite college admissions process. When admissions officers proclaimed that they didn’t lump Asian American applicants together in the admissions process, we pointed them toward the science of implicit bias. We reminded them that admissions officers are people too and, as they sang it in Avenue Q, we’re all a little bit racist. Yes, even you.
Yet when groups allegedly representing the interests of Asian American young people — including, at the time, our federal government — chose to sue the likes of Harvard, Yale, and UNC Chapel Hill over Asian American discrimination in admissions, we didn’t think it was the best strategy. We also didn’t think that the people who brought the suits truly cared about ending Asian American discrimination in admissions so much as they cared about outlawing the practice of Affirmative Action. These folks, in our view, were using Asian Americans as pawns to advance their own agenda of banning any consideration of race in admissions.
It is our firm and deeply held belief that systemic racism is alive and well in America and until this racism is rooted out, a system must remain in place that uplifts underrepresented groups, including African American, Latinx, and Native American young people. To fight to end Asian American discrimination in admissions at the expense of African American, Latinx, and Native American young people makes no sense to us. We’ve also always been dismayed why these folks set their sights on dismantling Affirmative Action rather than legacy admission or the admission of recruited athletes. Both of these groups, of course, are overwhelmingly white and affluent. Admits in both groups fill many seats in incoming classes. Yet it’s Affirmative Action that remains the target of these groups purportedly representing the interests of Asian American young people. We’d be left scratching our heads if we didn’t understand their true motive.
After all, these folks who are committed to dismantling Affirmative Action have filed numerous suits in the past, though always with white plaintiffs. The change in strategy to file suit with a group representing Asian Americans was, in our view, a no-brainer since Asian American discrimination in elite college admissions is very real, as Judge Allison Burroughs’ ruling upholding Harvard’s admissions policies made clear. Yes, the judge ruled at the time that while Harvard’s admissions policies passed constitutional muster, they were imperfect. She even cited some of the ways Asian American applicants were stereotyped in the Harvard admissions process, including through all those notations by admissions officers that came out in the trial and became fodder for so many news stories on the case.
But, as we said at the time, we don’t believe any lawsuit can bring about the end of Asian American discrimination in elite college admissions. No, we believe change in America — real, systemic change — begins not in our courtrooms but in our streets. In places like Selma, Seneca Falls, and The Stonewall Inn. For many years, we have asserted that until Asian Americans fight to end this unjust discrimination through organized protest, no real change — no enduring change — will ever be achieved. And thus, in these weeks of March 2021, we are delighted that our nation has begun to reckon with its history of Asian American discrimination, which existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic. We wish the heinous events that have led our citizens to take to the streets in the fight for equality never happened. But Asian American discrimination has captured the zeitgeist. Maybe just maybe this is the moment when Asian Americans can achieve the change we’ve long wished to see. Here’s hoping!
And, for our readers, we are aware that the topic of Affirmative Action — more so than any other topic we discuss on college admissions — engenders great passion in the Comments section. We are aware that many don’t agree with our position. And that’s ok! We just ask that you kindly keep your comments civil.
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