On Oct. 31, the Supreme Court heard affirmative action-related arguments in two cases filed by the Students for Fair Admissions organization against Harvard and the University of North Carolina. Claims have been that racially aware admissions discriminates against Asian American and white students, preferring instead black and hispanic students, even when Asian and white students have higher qualifications.
This is a basic misconception about how Affirmative Action and any sort of race-conscious admissions system works. Race is not the only factor considered, but one that puts each other in context.
I grew up quite privileged my whole life. I was privileged to attend a well-funded public school that offered opportunities that I could not have had in the district right next to ours. My parents could afford to pay for SAT prep classes, drive me to the library where I volunteered, and to the office where I used to intern. My parents can afford to pay my tuition.
My parents, two Indian immigrants who have worked long and hard to get where they are, have given my sisters and I an advantage that many do not have.
I now attend one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country and that is because of all the opportunities and amenities that have been offered to me as a result of my parents’ education and employment and of course their hard work.
The children of Asian immigrants who complain that affirmative action is robbing them of the opportunities they worked for ignore the fact that their parents would never have made it here if they weren’t the people positive action is meant to benefit from .
Without them we wouldn’t have been here Immigration and Naturalization Act 1965 that was passed because of the activism of the Black people who led the civil rights movement. Immigration law made it possible for highly qualified professionals to immigrate to the United States. Affirmative action originally originated as a Kennedy administration idea to address systemic discrimination in education and employment, but the current definition of affirmative action is the consideration of race as a factor in admissions to higher education institutions such as Harvard College/University. Asian Americans were brought here specifically for their academic and professional achievements, leaving many of them already a notch higher in class and wealth than other minority groups already living in the United States who have historically been targets of systemic racism.
Asians who complain about affirmative action also fail to recognize the diversity within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) group and the fact that AAPIs have the largest wealth gap of any group in the US. Members of the upper-middle or upper class are more likely to have the time to focus on college applications and SAT preparation, so Students for Fair Admissions requirements do not even apply to all AAPIs. The students and parents who complain about Affirmative Action are clearly wealthy enough to have time to speak up.
For Black and Latinx students, who are meant to benefit the most from affirmative action, this is not the case. Admission to Harvard College/University could be life-changing for some members of marginalized groups. They are historically underrepresented in these institutions and suffer from systemic discrimination and disadvantage. Affirmative action isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a step to put them in a position where they can find opportunities beyond what they otherwise could. Considering their race and context is critical to understanding the opportunities they have been denied. More diversity in the student body is a step towards overcoming systemic discrimination.
In comparison, APPI students get more opportunities in elementary school and high school because of their identity, according to research by scholars Min Zhou and Jennifer Lee. AAPI students were seen as hardworking and intelligent because of the stereotypes people have about Asians.
Strangely, Students for Fair Admissions has no similar complaints about unqualified applicants when it comes to old admissions. Legacy admissions, by definition, confer an advantage on white applicants, since it is mostly white people who have historically been admitted to these institutions.
The decision to take a stand against Black and Latinx students, who are grossly underrepresented in these institutions, only serves to exacerbate the problem. A history of white supremacy and discrimination in these institutions is the real problem, and this is not addressed when we choose to target affirmative action as opportunities are being stolen from us.
While affirmative action is definitely a step in the right direction to level the playing field in higher education, her uncompromising defense also perpetuates the problematic assumption that equal opportunity in education is the only solution to addressing the way black people, Latinx and other minority groups have suffered from systemic racism. Every member of a minority group deserves a better life and equal rights in every situation, and that will only be achieved if systemic racism is truly addressed in all areas: housing, mass incarceration, employment opportunities and education.