By Jessica Liu ‘19
“It’s going to be tough getting into the Ivies with their racist admission policies, especially since you’re Asian.”
As an Asian-American high school senior currently completing and sending off college applications, I have heard this sentiment echoed routinely. Not only have I heard protests from my Asian peers, but also from white students worried about affirmative action hurting their college prospects. During our AP U.S. Government discussion on this topic, several students denounced the race-conscious system, deeming it unfair and defending a system of pure meritocracy.
While these criticisms seem logical, they overlook the fact that dismantling the current race-conscious system would mean putting an undue burden on thousands of minority students and supporting the self-serving interests of privileged white men like Edward Blum, the architect behind the Harvard admission
s lawsuit. So, as an Asian-American, I urge you to support affirmative action.
The spark for the current renewed backlash comes from the recent discovery of “personal ratings” by Harvard admission officers, who are accused of ranking Asian students lower on traits like personality or sociability. But for as long as affirmative action has existed, it has faced constant pushback and legal battles. In 2014, Students for Fair Admissions, with Edward Blum as its president, filed a lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants. Blum had pulled this stunt unsuccessfully previously, with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of race being a considering factor in the ruling Fisher v. University of Texas.
Blum learned his mistake, and instead of using a white, relatively average-performing student as his plaintiff, he searched for high-achieving Asian students that were rejected from top universities to support his crusade. Apart from his political projects on affirmative action, Blum has also pushed to overturn gerrymandered districts that favor racial minority candidates. He challenged the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the landmark 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder, which eventually struck down the requirement that cities with a history of voter discrimination need federal approval to change voting laws, likely harming minority voters in the process.
With Blum’s support, the affirmative action case against Harvard case is likely going to make it to the Supreme Court. There, the conservative majority would dismantle the architecture of race-conscious admissions, reversing the racial progress we have made. This is a monumental decision; it is something that any diversity-valuing and equality-preserving citizen should object to at all costs.
While a complete meritocracy might sound appealing, we must overlook our personal biases and instead turn to statistics that point to great educational disparities between the races that must be considered for educational equality. In a 2011-2012 study by UNCF, only 57 percent of black students have access to a full range of math and science courses necessary for college readiness, compared to 81 percent of Asian American students and 71 percent of white students.
In addition, even when black students have access to honors or advanced placement courses, they are underrepresented in these courses. Moreover, black and Latino students have less access to gifted and talented education programs than white students do. These disparities in the educational sphere indict the very idea of race-blind admissions, as they would force black students to meet the high standards of top universities, overcome structural barriers, and fight resource disparities.
An admissions system without racial considerations would plummet minority representation in elite universities, returning America to an era when only the privileged whites would be able to attend. I, for one, understand the desire to find a scapegoat to alleviate the sting of rejection.
But I also recognize that my arbitrary ability to perform well on useless tests does not guarantee me anything, especially since I come from a position of privilege and had everything available to me, from specialized tutoring to SAT prep.
Compared to another equally-deserving candidate who overcame economic, social, and structural barriers (a predicament many black or Latino students face), but who may have had lower grades and standardized scores than me, there is no reason that they deserve to attend a top-ranked university any less than I do.
In this political atmosphere—thanks to Edward Blum and a few other disgruntled college students—looking for retribution for their rejected college applications and overlooking the vast impacts of their actions on disenfranchised populations, the face of American education will likely change for generations to come, unless we take action and fully support our minority peers.