Best Reads About Affirmative Action – December 2017

Below are great reads about affirmative action.

You’re not going to get accepted into a top university on merit aloneThe Conversation.

“…We should discard the notion that admissions is a meritocratic process that selects the “best” 18-year-olds who apply to a selective university. When we let go of our meritocracy ideals, we see more clearly that so many talented, accomplished young people who will be outstanding leaders in the future will not make it to the likes of Harvard, Stanford and Yale.”

Harvard student’s story offers window on ‘diversity’ in the US college admissions. Asia Times.

“Vietnamese and Filipinos in the US, according to Thang, typically face higher educational hurdles than Chinese and other Asian groups due to the scars left on their cultures by Western colonialism…”

The Price of AdmissionSlate.

“I believe affirmative action is a necessary policy to counter systemic racism and provide students with a diverse set of peers. But after seeing Asians take center stage in the debate in the months since I’ve graduated, I can’t stop thinking about the disquieting incentives that the college application process is creating for Asian students in America, as it once did for me.”

 

On Affirmative Action, Asian Americans ‘Are Not Your Wedge’

By Stewart Kwoh and Mee Moua

In a watershed decision last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions program. The Court’s decision is profoundly important for at least two reasons. First, as our nation grapples with significant racial disparities and tensions, the Court’s decision acknowledges the significant role race plays in our society and allows universities to foster racially diverse, complex learning environments. Second, the Court’s opinion squarely addresses — for the first time — the impact of race-conscious admissions programs on Asian Americans and flatly rejects the notion that Asian Americans do not benefit from them.

Much has been written on the first point, but the second point merits equal analysis. The Court did not merely conclude that UT Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy did not discriminate against Asian Americans. Instead, the Court recognized that it “may be beneficial to any UT Austin applicant — including whites and Asian Americans,” debunking the myth that Asian Americans necessarily lose out under affirmative action.

In numerous surveys, large majorities of Asian Americans have supported race-conscious college admissions and rejected efforts to use Asian Americans as a wedge group against other communities of color who support affirmative action.

Most recently, a 2016 national poll conducted by Advancing Justice, APIAVote and AAPIData.com found 64 percent of Asian-American voters favoring programs designed to help blacks, women and other minorities access higher education. These results should not surprise, as many Asian American groups, second perhaps only to white women, have been among the greatest direct beneficiaries of a variety of affirmative action programs. Indeed, over the past 50 years, the dramatic increase in Asian American representation at elite schools such as Yale was made possible because such schools included Asian Americans in their race-conscious admissions.

However, in recent years, the anti-affirmative action movement has attempted to co-opt Asian Americans, ignoring the historical gains our community has made as a result of affirmative action. Anti-civil rights activists like Edward Blum, the lawyer behind the Fisher litigation and several lawsuits seeking to dismantle voting rights for people of color, have openly fished for Asian-American clients to further their attacks against holistic, race-conscious admissions programs at prominent universities.

Despite having suffered a history of de jure discrimination, including the banning of Chinese immigration and the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans, some Asian Americans are now being exploited by primarily white players who stand to benefit from current inequities in higher education. They stoke the insecurities of newer Asian immigrants, provoking them to lash out at the very programs that have helped communities of color, including Asian Americans, gain access to higher education.

Fortunately, the Court in Fisher II got it right in holding that a carefully-studied and narrowly-designed affirmative action program like the one at UT Austin does not discriminate against Asian Americans.

A close review of the data bears out the Court’s conclusion and refutes the misconception that college admissions is a zero-sum game in which African American or Latino students “take” the place of an Asian-American student with higher test scores. The evidence shows that after UT Austin started considering race as one of several factors in its holistic admissions program, there was no drop in Asian-American admissions (indicating they were not being “replaced” by African Americans or Latinos) and the difference in mean test scores between Asian Americans and other groups remained the same, indicating that any “test score gap” could not be attributed to any consideration of race.

Justice Alito’s dissent in Fisher II repeats racially-charged, inflammatory claims that the consideration of race at UT Austin harms Asian Americans, and whites as well. Yet it selectively ignores evidence in the record, which was cited by the majority and highlighted in amicus briefs filed by groups like ours and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, showing that such claims are “entirely unsupported by evidence in the record or empirical data.”

Instead Justice Alito takes pains, during a period of significant racial conflict in our society, to look outside the record to irresponsibly pit Asian Americans against other communities of color. Even then, he also inadvertently undermines one of the main arguments used to bolster claims of discrimination against Asian American applicants — that SAT scores are the best measure of merit — by acknowledging that SAT scores reflect racial, cultural, and socioeconomic biases.

Also, while Justice Alito rightly recognizes the tremendous diversity among ethnic groups that fall within the “Asian American” label, he fails to acknowledge that holistic admissions programs have benefited and can continue to benefit more disadvantaged, underrepresented Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (e.g., Cambodian, Hmong, Samoan). The value of considering race and ethnicity as part of a holistic admissions policy is precisely to obtain the rich diversity of perspectives brought by students of varied backgrounds, including varied Asian and Pacific Islander ethnic groups.

The Fisher II decision offers a promising path forward. In today’s turbulent racial climate, the Court did the right thing in continuing to allow the consideration of race in college admissions. As Asian-American civil rights leaders, we believe the decision both protects the broader interests of our ethnically diverse community and creates the right environment for students to develop into future leaders of a racially complex and diverse society.

With the Court’s historic decision siding with race-conscious admissions programs, we hope affirmative action opponents will stop pitting Asian Americans against other communities of color and focus instead on the real prize of increasing admissions opportunities overall for all students.

Original Post on NBC News.  

Stewart Kwoh is the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, and Mee Moua is president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC.

Photo of John Cho

#StarringAffirmativeAction: How #StarringJohnCho Debunks Recent Asian American Complaints Against Ivy League Universities

This is cross-posted from Reappropriate.co. The original post is here. 

By Guest Contributor: Christopher M. Lapinig

Are you all about the #StarringJohnCho posters, the Photoshop phenomenon that reimagines posters for recent Hollywood blockbusters with actor John Cho in their leading-man roles? Then you should be equally as excited about supporting race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions, too.

To understand how John Cho relates to college admissions, let’s first take a closer look at why #StarringJohnCho matters.

#StarringJohnCho and its counterpart #StarringConstanceWu are reactions to the abysmal underrepresentation of Asian American actors in lead roles in both television and movies. #StarringJohnCho ponders why Asian actors continue to be shut out of lead roles in entertainment, even when “studies show that films with diverse casts result in higher box office numbers and higher returns on investments for film companies.” #StarringJohnCho challenges Hollywood to break out of tired templates and think more expansively about casting and storylines.

Of course, there have been some signs of progress — on the small screen, at least. For example, Fresh Off the Boat — recently renewed for a third season — became the first sitcom focused on an Asian American family to thrive past its first season. Critically acclaimed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend not only features an Asian American man as the protagonist’s primary love interest, but showcases a Filipino American family for the first time in network television history. And Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Netflix hit Master of None—which, in one episode, poignantly depicts relationships between immigrant parents and their U.S.-born children— recently won a Peabody Award.

All of these recent breakthroughs resulted from intentional actions to depict characters and stories that have historically been shut out of television.  These breakthroughs only happened because network executives intentionally took a chance on airing the first Asian American family sitcom on television in twenty years. They happened only because show creators actively chose to cast an Asian man as their romantic lead — in part because that was something they had never seen on television before.  And they happened because writers decided to translate their own relationships with their immigrant parents into a script.

For studios, the lesson is clear — diversity pays off.

These breakthroughs don’t just benefit the Asian Americans working on and off camera; they benefit audiences, too. Not only do the characters and stories begin to look more like our country as whole, these changes in the industry make for better stories.  As the New York Times recently wrote, “The less homogeneous TV is, the less boring it is.”

What Hollywood needs — and what #StarringJohnCho demands — is more affirmative action. For decades, race-conscious college admissions has been the Fresh Off the Boat — or even the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — of higher education. Race-conscious college admissions acknowledges that many groups — women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals, and others — have historically been denied access to college.  Affirmative action is a conscious effort — just as casting John Cho as James Bond would be — to include “characters” and “stories” that have long gone ignored in higher education.

And just as in entertainment, the benefits of this inclusion inure to the entire community. After all, the less homogeneous a college is, the less boring it is. More diversity, in other words, leads to richer conversations inside and outside the classroom.

That’s why the recent complaints filed by the so-called Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE) against Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale are misguided. The complaints overlook the myriad ways in which Asian Americans have benefited from affirmative action in education and elsewhere in American society.

Indeed, for example, Asian Americans have been direct beneficiaries of affirmative action at Yale. The rich Asian American community that Yale boasts today only exists because of the gains in representation that Asian American applicants received through affirmative action. And Yale still can do more to improve Asian American and Pacific Islander representation — certain ethnicities, including Southeast Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander ethnic groups (all conspicuously absent from AACE’s list of coalition members), remain woefully underrepresented on campus. As Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown have all recognized, strengthening student body diversity is in everyone’s interests. Just as all viewers benefit from diversity in Hollywood, all students — Asian American or otherwise — benefit from a diverse student body that enriches classroom discussions and campus life.

So your excitement about #StarringJohnCho likely reflects just how much Hollywood needs affirmative action. College campuses still do, too. And defending race-conscious college admissions deserves just as much of your enthusiasm as casting John Cho as Captain America.

Join Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles in defending affirmative action by signing our open letter here.