AAPI groups support affirmative action
The Wall Street Journal jumped on the Ivy League story and other publications followed suit. The stories made it look as if Asian Americans were against affirmative action. (Full disclosure: I am a beneficiary of affirmative action.)
Many of the groups behind the complaint are comprised of newly arrived immigrants whereas many of the groups that support affirmative action policies are of second, third and fourth generation.
“Most of the groups who filed the federal complaint are newer organizations comprising foreign-born immigrants, largely from China,” writes David Noriega of BuzzFeed. “The groups who led the opposition to the complaint tend to be older civil rights groups with American-born leaders and long-standing relationships with black and Latino activist groups. ‘From a sociological standpoint, that makes sense,’ C.N. Le, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told BuzzFeed News. More recent immigrants, he said, ‘are coming from an idealized image of American society as a meritocracy where everybody should have an equal chance … So, from that point of view, they see affirmative action as this mechanism that discriminates against Asian Americans.’”
“Efforts to dismantle race-conscious admissions programs are short-sighted. They ignore the historical context for such programs and also serve to marginalize currently underserved communities, including many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” said Stewart Kwoh, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles.
“We oppose quotas on any racial or ethnic groups, which already are prohibited by law. The truth is that affirmative action does not constitute quotas — it simply takes into account whether an applicant has overcome significant obstacles and institutional barriers, such as racial and ethnic discrimination. We strongly support admissions policies that are inclusive of all underrepresented communities.”
To counter the impression that the AAPI community is against affirmative action, last May 22 an open letter of support for affirmative action as signed by 150+ AAPI organizations and several hundred AAPI individuals. Again, no major media picked it up even though the organizations included some of the oldest, most stable and most active AAPI civil rights organizations.
The letter states:
We stand together as organizations across the United States representing Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, in strong support of race sensitive affirmative action policies in higher education.
We believe that equal opportunity is a cherished principle in American society that must be protected, and that our universities should reflect our diverse democracy and expand opportunities for students who have overcome significant barriers. Rather than letting ourselves be divided, we must come together to ensure increased opportunities and success for all students in our nation.
Affirmative action is a holistic approach that promotes diverse educational learning environments essential in our multiracial society. Affirmative action should be firmly upheld in our nation’s institutions of learning, including in Ivy League universities such as Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale.
Affirmative action does not constitute quotas
Unfortunately, there continue to be attempts by some to engage in divisive wedge politics by using misguided, misleading tactics to attack equal opportunity by calling for an end to race sensitive admissions policies at educational institutions such as Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale, as well as Harvard University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Opponents of affirmative action have wrongfully and disingenuously equated affirmative action with quotas.
The truth is that affirmative action does not constitute quotas.
Affirmative action does not exclude or limit the admission of students from any specific racial or ethnic background. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court long ago prohibited quotas in the higher education admissions process, including banning limits on the admission or enrollment of any racial or ethnic group.
To be clear, we oppose quotas, discrimination, and bias against any racial or ethnic group.
Affirmative action promotes equal opportunity for all
We support affirmative action which, as noted above, does not constitute quotas, discrimination, or bias against Asian Americans.
Currently, affirmative action at universities consists of race sensitive holistic admissions policies. These policies promote equal opportunity in a society where racism still exists and racial barriers continue to unfairly limit educational opportunities for students of color. For example, our schools are more segregated today than they were in the late 1960s. Students of color, particularly African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Southeast Asians, are much more likely to attend under-resourced K-12 schools. Implicit bias and stereotyping also further impact and harm the educational learning environments and opportunities of students of color. Universities should consider these factors when reviewing applications for admissions.
All students – including Asian Americans – benefit from the racially and ethnically diverse learning environments fostered by race sensitive holistic admissions processes, including the benefits of increased cross-racial understanding, reduction of stereotyping and isolation of minority students, and training for a diverse workforce and society.
Affirmative action simply takes into account whether an applicant has overcome significant obstacles and institutional barriers, such as racial and ethnic discrimination.
Affirmative action simply takes into account whether an applicant has overcome racial and ethnic adversity as one of several factors in a holistic review of an applicant’s qualifications, leadership, and potential. Holistic admissions processes also consider, for example, whether an applicant has endured poverty or is the first in her family to attend college.
Moreover, in the context of college admissions, “merit” cannot be quantified by grade point average, SAT scores, or number of activities alone. Instead, life experiences such as overcoming racial and ethnic adversity are critical factors in a student’s leadership and potential contribution to the university and to our society. In addition, numbers, like grade point averages and standardized test scores, are not colorblind and often reflect and magnify K-12 educational inequities.
Equal opportunity strengthens our democracy
Affirmative action policies help to level the playing field and promote diverse university learning environments that are essential in our multiracial and multicultural society.
Our democracy benefits from a diverse and educated populace and workforce.
Those who are truly committed to equal educational opportunity should demonstrate real leadership and reinvest in higher education throughout the nation to expand access, affordability, equity, and student success. Decades of disinvestment in higher education across the country have made college less accessible for all students, especially students of color. We call for unity in standing up for the future of our diverse youth and realizing the promise of equal opportunity for all in the United States.
We also call upon our leaders in higher education institutions to uphold race sensitive affirmative action policies in their admissions processes. Especially at this pivotal time of national discourse about the need to fulfill the promise of our democratic ideals for communities of color, it is imperative that universities carry out their important role of advancing inclusion, equity, and educational opportunities for all students in our multiracial democracy.***
This time the Wall Street Journal did mention the letter … kind of. This is what it reported:
“Support among Asian-Americans isn’t monolithic. A group calling itself Asian Americans Advancing Justice issued a statement on Monday saying it fully supports affirmative action in higher education.”
The phrase, “A group calling itself …?” putting the question into the minds of the readers that the AAAJ was not a legitimate organization. There was not even a mention of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) or the Organization of Chinese Associations (OCA), two of the oldest civil rights organization in the AAPI community, who also signed the letter. Maybe the problem lies with the Wall Street Journal’s view of the world that would do away with government and let the free market reign even if it means creating an oligarchic society where the very few rules over the vast poor masses.
The different viewpoints between recent immigrants and the more established AAPI groups became evident in the case of former NYPD officer Peter Liang and the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley.
The more recent immigrants wanted justice for Liang, who they felt was the sacrificial lamb for all the abuses committed by police.
The AAPI groups and individuals who sided with Gurley’s family and their supporters were the more established organization that had long working relationships with African American justice groups, including Black Lives Matter.
The divide between recent immigrants and AAPI who have been in this country for a generation or more is more complex story that needs to be explored, but don’t expect the Wall Street Journal to write about it.