Why the Harvard Admissions Case Isn’t About Asian Americans

Harvard Admissions, Race in College Admissions, Affirmative Action

President Trump is not a champion of Asian American civil rights.

When one thinks of the African American civil rights movement, leaders like the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, and Rosa Parks may come to mind. When one thinks of the gay rights movement, Harvey Milk may come to mind. But when one thinks of the Asian American fight to end race-based discrimination in college admissions, does President Trump come to mind? Likely not. And yet President Trump and his Department of Justice are among the most vocal champions of bringing to an end the consideration of race in college admissions. But do our nation’s current leaders really care about fostering Asian American equality or are they using Asian Americans simply to make their case that race should no longer be a factor in admissions decision-making?

Trump Administration Supports Harvard Lawsuit

As legal scholar Jeffrey Toobin writes in a piece for “The New Yorker” entitled “The Underlying Attack In The Harvard Admissions Lawsuit,” “A lawsuit claiming that Asian-American students were victims of illegal discrimination in the Harvard College admissions process goes to trial in Boston this week. The plaintiffs assert that Harvard uses what amounts to an unlawful quota system, which results in qualified Asian-Americans being denied admission, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, at its core, the lawsuit reflects the American conservative movement’s legal and political assault on people of color, which has been endorsed and abetted by President Trump. The Trump Administration has sought to limit voting rights, backing voter-suppression efforts; it has demonized immigrants; the President himself has repeatedly targeted prominent African-Americans for abuse. The Trump Administration is also supporting the Harvard lawsuit.”

Trump Administration Seeks End of Affirmative Action

Let us not forget that the person who has spearheaded this case against Harvard, Edward Blum, was previously defeated in his efforts to eliminate the use of race in college admissions decision-making. He was defeated when he tried to challenge the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions policies; his plaintiff was a Caucasian student. Blum just wants to win. Heck, he’s devoted much of his life to the cause of ending Affirmative Action. So it made perfect sense to Blum — just as it makes perfect sense to us — that he would choose Asian Americans as his next plaintiff in the hope of eradicating Affirmative Action. Because it’s easier to prove that Asian Americans, as a class, face discrimination in admissions than it is to prove that white people face discrimination. Frankly, it’s a no brainer.

But folks should not misconstrue the intent of folks like Edward Blum, President Trump, and our Department of Justice to believe they are Asian American civil rights champions. These folks are using Asian Americans to advance their cause, to improve the chances of white applicants in admissions by barring any consideration of race. It’s a savvy move and it’s a move that just might work…just don’t dub these folks freedom fighters in the chapters of future American history textbooks.

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