As an Asian, I am obligated to comment on this issue.
Affirmative action in college admissions is no longer federally protected after two Supreme Court decisions in June 2023: a group named Students for Fair Admissions sued both Harvard and the University of North Carolina for violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act during the admissions process, in which they discriminated against Asian Americans. With a conservative majority, the court voted in favor of the plaintiffs.
Seeking to provide more opportunities for the allegedly underrepresented groups in education and employment, affirmative action has been a very divisive topic in the US. A recent Pew Research poll found that, generally, more people disapprove of the practice. Unsurprisingly, Whites and Asians hold the highest disapproval. Black and Hispanics, on the other hand, hold more positive views. Of course, the biggest division can be found in the partisan realm: Republicans are largely against it, while Democrats are strongly in favor.
You might already be familiar with the arguments from both sides regarding this issue. Admittedly, it is unnecessary for me, a non-citizen, to worry about how affirmative action would have affected my college application process, as it does not address international students. Speaking of the practice itself, it is understandable the idea gained popularity after the Civil Rights Movement, given that Black Americans were historically discriminated against. However, it is disappointing that some Supreme Court cases, such as Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), ruled race quotas unconstitutional but allowed race to remain a factor to consider in admissions. I believe that no form of racial discrimination in education or employment should exist.
Affirmative action can have bad consequences.
Is affirmative action really effective? I read this Harvard article in favor of affirmative action: the author, Leah Shafer, says evidence shows Black students who have benefited from affirmative action are more likely to receive higher degrees and incomes than those who have not. The article also claims White and wealthier students have become more inclusive toward minorities, but it provides no data to support this assertion.
I find the study’s results to be flawed. Having “more positive racial attitudes” is not something quantifiable: there is no criteria for describing someone’s inclusivity. How do you define what is a racist or an inclusive person?
The article also left out important aspects to discuss, such as the performance of Black students in college and the workplace. The dropout rate for Black students is 35%, compared to only 10% for Asians. Without selectively admitting students based on race, we would expect all races to perform similarly since everyone would have to meet the same academic standards. With the practice, if we see Black students lagging behind their peers academically, wouldn’t it enhance stereotypes?
Notoriously, Asian students need much higher standardized test scores than other racial groups to be admitted. Even still, colleges admit Asians at a lower rate. Not to mention the US government uses the term “AAPI” in censuses, which collectively includes people with origins from both East and South Asia, the entire Middle East, and all the Pacific Islands. That is 60% of the world’s population, thus I have distanced myself from this nonsense. Sadly, under this categorization, an ethnic Hawaiian with a poorer background can be held to the same high standards as a wealthy second-generation Taiwanese immigrant, and somehow the elites are not outraged by this.
Here is an absurd statistic: 34% of White students have lied about their race to receive more benefits in admissions and financial aid. In other words, affirmative action has promoted dishonesty.
On a different note, I reject the notion of racial diversity in and of itself. It is merely a neutral attribute the Western World happens to have, and it is sad to see that nearly all major institutions and corporations in America have fallen for it. You can have amazing racial diversity on the UT campus and a 99% White town in rural Texas, and there is nothing wrong with it in either case. It will be laughable if you advocate for racial diversity in other countries such as Nigeria or South Korea. I also have never seen efforts to push diversity in athletic hiring, and I wonder why.
Schools may circumvent affirmative action bans
You may be surprised, but California already outlawed affirmative action in college admissions back in 1996 by Proposition 209, and an effort to reinstate the practice by a referendum was beaten in 2020. However, schools, due to pressure, have found numerous ways to circumvent this restriction.
The University of California system released a guideline for race and gender equity in 2015. I can tell from the language used that the administrators are not very satisfied with the existing color-blind requirements. The article specifically states that universities can use neighborhoods or high schools’ racial and gender demographics in undergraduate admissions. For graduate admissions, schools require applicants to submit a Diversity Statement, describing their own experiences and contributions to diversity. Last but not least, the UC system also dropped standardized testing requirements in 2020 after hearing from civil rights groups that claimed only mostly wealthy and White students can afford test preparation. By selecting applicants through these criteria, the UC schools are still implementing affirmative action de facto.
Frankly, one of UC’s policies is right, which is to recruit more students from lower-income families. I believe the best alternative to affirmative action is to focus on those applicants who are economically disadvantaged, regardless of race, but have proven themselves academically. Apart from that, common sense admissions policies are essential, such as requiring a test score, a minimum GPA, and implementing color-blind practices. Being name-blind is even better, so the admissions office does not get any hint of the students’ ethnic backgrounds.
We cannot allow universities to get around laws and discriminate, and, thankfully, the Supreme Court has set a bright future for us. Good riddance, affirmative action!