Asian Americans in College Admissions: Applicants or Pawns?
“The main victims of ‘race-conscious admissions’ are now Asian Americans,” say Students for Fair Admissions in a supplemental brief filed with the Supreme Court in December asking the High Court to bar colleges that consider race applicants to receive federal funding. . However, a growing number of Asian American students at Harvard are leading efforts to champion affirmative action at Harvard and throughout higher education.
The Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Society’s Education and Policy Committee is one of 25 Harvard student and alumni organizations that have filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the racially aware admissions. AAA co-chairs Chelsea Wang ’25 and Kylan Tatum ’25 are organizing college-wide educational efforts in conjunction with Asian American Harvard graduate student organizations, as well as a protest in Washington on day of the Court’s pleadings.
“It’s dishonest of Edward Blum to use Asian Americans as pawns,” Wang said, referring to the SFFA founder and president’s comments that he “needed Asian complainants.” , according to a video released by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “He had been against affirmative action for a very long time, and he didn’t seem interested in the prospects of Asian Americans until very recently, when he lost a similar case with a white plaintiff.”
“We don’t want to be used like this,” Wang said of AAA’s opposition to Blum’s case. “We believe in diversity and racial justice. And we believe in solidarity and helping other people of color.
Although the theme of racial solidarity, the cooperation of one community of color in support of another, underlies the support of many Asian American student and alumni organizations for affirmative action, Wang explained that “Historically, Asian Americans have been used as a wedge between other people of color. We are cited as examples of self-taught success.
AAA Co-Chair Kylan Tatum ’25 has described this “weaponization of the socio-economic and educational achievement of Asian Americans against other ‘problem minorities’ as the ‘myth of the model minority,’ which has been criticized as harmful to students of color by portraying “the social position of other minority groups through frames of laziness or inherent inferiority rather than as a product of institutionalized barriers to success.”
Tatum sees the difference between proponents and opponents of affirmative action as a matter of fairness versus equality. Proponents of equality in admissions advocate identical policies in applicant consideration, while proponents of fairness would argue that equal consideration of applicants is not enough when applicants are offered unequal opportunities. Under the idea that equality was the original goal of affirmative action, the SFFA argues that conscious admissions of race lead to a racial imbalance that harms certain racial groups.
Muskaan Arshad ’25, an Asian-American affirmative action supporter and intern for the Coalition for Diverse Harvard, argues that fairness trumps equality. “If certain racial groups and certain people have been massively oppressed for centuries, you cannot pretend that everything is equal and that everyone is equal. It’s a complete lie,” she said.
Wang, Tatum and Arshad argued that affirmative action policies could even help Asian Americans in the college admissions process.
“Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Asian Americans aren’t a monolith,” Wang said. “There are a lot of low-income Asian Americans, multiracial Asian Americans, ethnically diverse Asian Americans, who are actually being helped by affirmative action.”
“I think one of my favorite things about being Asian American is that our cultures are so collectivist,” Wang added, expressing that affirmative action policies recognize and honor her Chinese culture. . “I think if we don’t support affirmative action, we’re giving up on that. We become individualistic. We try to put others down for our own benefit.
Tatum argued that the SFFA misused the “Asian American” label in an attempt to portray them “as a monolithic group universally disadvantaged by affirmative action policies”. She explained that “certain subgroups that fall under the umbrella term ‘Asian American,’ such as low-income or multiracial groups, are severely underrepresented in institutions of higher education.”
According to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, the use of socioeconomic factors to designate certain applicants as “disadvantaged” helps to combat the monolithism of Asian American applicants. The AAA brief states that “being Asian American in the disadvantaged category is correlated with greater likelihood of admission (a pattern that is absent or weakly present for black or Latino applicants, respectively). )”.
Wang, Tatum and Arshad pointed to the lack of evidence in application scoring techniques as their main reason for opposing the SFFA, which presented very few admissions records as evidence.
The ultimate benefactor of the lawsuit would be white people, “people who have historically had a place in this school,” Arshad added. According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in an amici curiae brief, the outcome would actually widen the gap “by disproportionately benefiting white applicants and discriminating against certain Asian American applicants…As a result, the gap between the white and Asian-American shares of the admitted class would widen if race-conscious admissions were eliminated.
Considering how a decision against affirmative action would affect higher education, Arshad thought of “all the people who benefit from admission who are so smart, so smart – from diverse spaces, races and ethnicities – n “Just don’t have a chance to get that education. I think that would be a huge disservice to America, to the world, to Harvard.”
Madeline Proctor ’25 ([email protected]) edits News for The Independent.