Living in a post-biracial America

Where Does Affirmative Action Leave Asian-Americans?

For the purposes of this article, Alex Chen, an 18-year-old senior at the Bronx High School of Science in New York City, is the “typical Asian student.” Alex has a 98 percent average at one of the city’s elite public high schools, scored a 1,580 on the SAT and, as far as he knows, has earned the respect of his teachers. Alex is also the vice president of technology for the Bronx Science chapter of the National Honor Society, the director of graphics and marketing for TeenHacks L.I. (“the first hackathon for teens in Long Island”), a member of the cross-country team, the vice president of the school’s painting club, the president of the Get Your Life Together club (visitors from various businesses come talk to students) and the senator for his homeroom. In his free time, he plays Pokémon and goes on long jogs through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. His parents, Qiao and Su, emigrated from China in the ’90s and worked their way through commuter colleges in Queens. They live along with Alex’s little brother in a modest apartment in outer Queens….

The piece is very long. It mostly focuses on East Asians for various reasons. But one thing that I think confronts South Asians is that many of us are quite dark-skinned, and though not African American, are more liminal physically to that identity than East Asians. To be entirely frank one perverse, but predictable, aspect of American-style affirmative action is that a dark-skinned South Asian doesn’t obtain the same status and benefits as a white person of Latin American origin.

13 thoughts on “Living in a post-biracial America”

  1. “And so I saw in Alex the stereotype of the Asian grade-grubbing machine.”

    I don’t know much about Harvard admissions (beyond following this issue), but I have some experience being on both sides of med school and residency admissions. If you are a “stereotypical Asian” (eg STEM-minded, introverted, tennis-playing, involved in tons of clubs, etc) you will be punished for it, and scrutinized more harshly than another race would have been for the same “offense.”

    1. Sorry, that should read “tennis-playing.”

      Anyways, the converse of this is that if you’re an atypical Asian applicant (like myself), and can articulately discuss your unique points, you will get people’s attention.

  2. America massively discriminates against Asians in favor of caucasians (including non Latino caucasians) through race based affirmative action similar to how Malaysia discriminates against Indians and Chinese on behalf of the slight majority that are Bumiputera.

    To a lesser degree liberal arts programs in America discriminate against females in on behalf of males for gender “equity”.

    Many High School and undergraduate age Asian Americans are too scared to speak about this for fear that caucasians will attack them as:
    —“white supremacists”

    It is time for all Asians and Latinos to be considered “white” for all legal and affirmative action purposes.

    1. With all due respect, this idea is completely ridiculous. Not because Asians or Latinos are particularly disadvantaged on average, but because it ignores economic and social inequalities within both groups. Why should an upper-middle class Taiwanese American from a rich suburb be treated the same as a Hmong American who grew up with refugee parents in an inner city ghetto? Likewise, what do white-passing Cubans in South Florida have in common with DACA recipients in Central Washington?

      1. khuzifenq,

        Thanks for your incitement comments. Loved your points.

        All affirmative action should be socio-economic except for people with over 60% Sub-Saharan African DNA happloid admixture. All caucasians, Hispanics (most of whom are caucasians) and Asians should be treated alike.

        The reason for the DNA test is to ensure that bi-racial and mixed people don’t get race based affirmative action.

        1. Hmm, I can better see where you’re coming from now. If you’re going to make affirmative action purely SES-based, it should be done equally for all Americans regardless of race. Also, implementing a DNA ancestry threshold for black applicants ignores two realities:

          1) most African-Americans have a significant amount of non-African ancestry (~20% on average)

          2) black representation at elite schools is disproportionately by African immigrants and their children, who often come from similar educational and class backgrounds as their Asian equivalents

          Your proposal would put African-Americans (for whom affirmative action was originally intended) at a disadvantage, and give relatively privileged black immigrants an unfair advantage. I see no reason why competent, qualified black Africans/West Indians should be denied opportunities because of their race, culture, or SES. It’s just that policies that favor “diversity” don’t necessarily have the same priorities as affirmative action. Not that one is necessarily better than the other.

          1. khuzifenq, very incitement comment.

            I should rephrase, I think all affirmative action everywhere in the world should be based on socio-economics (and gender in poor parts of the world and the Islamic world) with an exception for people with over 60% Sub-Saharan African DNA haploid admixture.

            This is because the socio economic empowerment of sub-saharan Africa and people with sub-saharan African ancestry is one of the largest priorities in the world today.

            It is also one of the main reasons Asians and Latinos are often accused of white supremacy, nazism, fascism, racism, hate, oppression, exploitation etc. by caucasians.

            The entire world needs to urgently collaborate to surge sub-saharan African ancestry socio-economic outcomes. No single country can solve this problem by itself. The solution needs to be global. This is one reason why immigrant blacks should be given affirmative action in the US based on race.

            Another reason is that examples of foreign people with sub-saharan African ancestry being successful will inspire Americans with sub-saharan African ancestry to aspire to success. One example is worth a million words. We need more examples of successful people who have sub-saharan African ancestry all over the world.

            Yet another reason is that America has a massive skill mis-match problem because of race based affirmative action. Bringing in immigrant blacks ameliorates this problem.

            Another reason is because a large number of successful immigrant blacks might change American culture for the better.

            Another reason is that Immigration flows are a great way to increase per capita African American academic outcomes and per capita income.

            Finally we have no other choice. We can’t risk another global outbreak of Black Lives Matter. Race based affirmative action cannot be changed in the short run.

  3. I had very similar stats and activities to that guy in the article. I got in Vanderbilt, Michigan, and just took the full ride at my state school because I didn’t qualify for much aid, due to the upper middle class status of my parents and their refusal to fork over more dinero, except for an HYPS type place.

    I was waitlisted at Dartmouth, Wash U, JHU, and U Chicago. I was rejected from HYP, columbia, penn, and brown.

  4. In some ways, American culture keep selecting people (for advancement and upper mobility) who defy their parents, don’t they?

  5. Numinous’s comment is very true; I’d also point out that the martyr/scapegoat complex has incredible ancient roots.

    Strangely, that also explains the growth of Christian higher education where ritually killing your parents is not a popular choice.

    Also a reminder that affirmative action in higher education is really arguing about maybe 50-60 colleges nationwide. Everyone else is essentially open admissions. Of course if you upper middle class those 50-60 schools weigh heavily on you.

    The article was good, but could have used a better understanding of the legal framework underpinning this. The original Bakke decision (which it does reference) is the original sin of affirmative action. Moving to a diversity based model makes sense for elite institutions, but making the argument that an elite institution needs to be able to use race to ensure diversity does really make for strict scrutiny under equal protection doctrines.

    He tries — strong hints that Harvard’s case in nonsense –and perhaps his fault that nobody on harvard’s legal team will go out and say “We are allowed to discriminate based on race because of the compelling state interest in having a elite that reflects this country”.

    1. ” that affirmative action in higher education is really arguing about maybe 50-60 colleges nationwide. Everyone else is essentially open admissions.”

      I would say top 100.

      Affirmative action takes different forms outside the top 100 colleges. Affirmative action in favor of caucasians at the expense of Asians goes down, since Asians disproportionately attend the best universities and colleges. However affirmative action for African Americans and Hispanics remains. And it is an enormous challenge since most of the best candidates have already been siphoned off by the top 100 colleges.

      Andrew Yang emphasizes how only 59% of Americans who attend college graduate. Part of this is because the quality of students at tertiary institutions in general across all socio-economic demographics. Part is because of affirmative action at secondary and tertiary institutions. A lot of multi-generational African Americans who should not be attending any college attend secondary institutions and fail out. The situation is far worse at tertiary colleges.

      For definitional purposes:
      —elite is the top 100
      —secondary is 100-200
      —tertiary is 200 and down

  6. Appropriately, the article brings up legacy admissions, but while most people who favor racial affirmative action dislike legacy admissions (outside of, notably, Justice Sotomayor, who outright supported legacy admissions when Michigan’s racial affirmative action made it to the Court), the two things are complements, not substitutes. Legacy admissions are frequently named as a reason to have racial affirmative action (for “balance,” even though both work against Asians and others), and racial affirmative action and achieving the right overall demographic mix seems to provide a shield for legacy admissions.

    One proof is that schools that don’t have racial affirmative action also don’t have legacy admission boosts. Some schools, like CalTech, never had either (and basically don’t care about athletics either), but public schools in California and Texas, once voters ended racial preferences, were forced to eliminate legacy preferences as well. It’s an interest cascade of effects from political coalitions.

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