It is no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of the current President of the United States and his administration. However, I finally received at least one good piece of news regarding a politically contentious issue: affirmative action. The Justice Department is planning to investigate colleges for anti-Asian bias.
I do not say this lightly, but this is good news.
I support having a diverse student body on college campuses — whether racial, socioeconomic, or in other terms — so long as the students are academically qualified and admitted under a fair system. On the other hand, I get disappointed when I read studies that show that Asians have to earn higher test scores compared to members of other races. As additional evidence of anti-Asian bias, the proportion of Asian students at the University of California system has skyrocketed after racial preferences were banned (so has the California Institute of Technology, though I don’t think they explicitly ban racial preferences). The rate of admitted students has exceeded the rate of increase in the Asian-American population as a whole.
This seems at odds with a policy that is designed to ensure fairness to racial minorities in this country. As most of us know, Asians were often the victims of Whites in this country — anyone remember the Internment of Japanese Americans? The treatment of Asians also reminds me of how Jews once had to be held to a higher standard than non-Jews.
I think it would be nice to definitively clarify how we should treat Asian applicants. In addition, what about the thorny issues that arise from multiracials such as myself? For instance, as a half White, half Asian person, do I help or hinder diversity? I am still not sure, and clarification would be nice. (The tech industry, for instance, does not generally celebrate Asian males as contributing to a diverse workforce.)
My preference would be to abolish affirmative action (as well as legacy preferences, consideration of geographical region, etc.) in favor of a simple metric: is this applicant (a) clearly well-qualified academically and (b) did he or she make the most of his/her opportunities given the context of his/her life?
The first factor, (a), establishes the fact that an accepted applicant is academically qualified. The second, (b), would help to ensure a degree of fairness in the process which indexes the applicant’s performance to opportunity, which is precisely what affirmative action was ostensibly designed to do, except that it would not take race into account unless there is good reason to do so, e.g. an inferior neighborhood due to racial segregation.
Yes, I have read the criticism that Whites are using Asians as a “wedge” to advance their “racial agenda.” Yes, it is true that many Asians do support affirmative action to provide more opportunity to members of other minority groups, but that’s precisely why I have that second item (b) as part of my proposed admissions metric. As someone who grew up without financial concerns, even though I wish every day that I had gone to an elite science school in New York City or Silicon Valley, I understand that I had more academic opportunity than the average American child. I do not have any basis for a college admissions committee to give me extra points for overcoming poverty. I understand and accept this, which probably explains why I got rejected from (for instance) Harvard, Princeton, and MIT. I just don’t want the reason for rejection to be partially (mostly?) because of my racial background.
Ultimately, in order for me to consider supporting affirmative action, I would encourage supporters to explain why Asians should be held to a higher standard compared to other races in order to address past sins of Whites.