An Asian-American perspective of Affirmative Action

From “Model Minority”:

Asian American status in affirmative action

Because of their high degree of success as a group, Asian Americans do not benefit from affirmative action policies the way other minority groups do. In fact, most schools routinely choose lower-scoring applicants from other racial groups, including European Americans, over Asian Americans, in an attempt to promote racial diversity and to maintain some proportion to the society’s racial demographics. [11]
A 2005 Princeton study showed Asians (not whites) bear nearly 80% of the cost of affirmative action in college admissions. Nearly four out of every five spots given to any other race in an affirmative-action regime would go to Asians in a purely merit-based system. 1


From “Affirmative Action Bake Sale”:

Asians not counted as minorities

Asians are generally not included in the minority-discount category in bake-sales because they do not benefit from affirmative action policies. For example, some schools have had restrictions on the proportion of Asian students admitted, in favor of lower scoring students of other racial groups.1 African-American Dr. Walter E. Williams, a libertarian professor of economics at George Mason University further elaborates that:

“A minority group is not (counted as) a minority if, as a group, it is successful. Asian median family income is $55,525, the highest of any racial group in America. More than 44 percent of Asians age 25 and over have bachelor’s degrees; the rate for all other Americans was 26 percent. Other indicators of group success include low crime rate and high family stability.” [1]

From “Affirmative Action in the United States”:

Libertarian view

Some free market libertarians argue that employment discrimination is only made possible by pervasive market failures. Under a regime of highly competitive labor and goods markets, companies would not be able to afford to hire on any basis other than merit. According to Libertarians, this would render affirmative action unnecessary.
Regardless of the willingness to pay and profitability for private persons or groups to discriminate, other libertarian-oriented persons further argue that affirmative action and non-discrimination policies violate individual rights of freedom of association and the enforcement of such statues violate individual freedom of speech. They argue that such central authority to dictate moral and social improvement is a power that will be fought over on all sides and ultimately cause more harm than good. For example, private female-only gyms have been forced to hire male workers, American colleges have discriminated against Asian students (on the grounds that they are “overrepresented”), and in Washington DC, individuals have been forbidden to advertise that they wish to share an apartment with another Democrat, homosexual, or with someone of similar faith. They conclude that application of affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws to the conduct or property of an individual or a private group is a threat to civil liberties.[20]

Centrist view

Certain people have a different point of view about specifically first world affirmative action which, for lack of a better word, will be referred to as “centrist” here. They claim that affirmative action makes sense, but only to the point where it helps the disadvantaged members of minorities, as opposed to the middle and upper class. They believe that affirmative action, as it is now, is not fulfilling its original purpose (to bring minorities out of poverty) as the vast majority of minorities, in the first world at least, are already middle-class. There have been cases of middle-class minorities receiving better jobs or college acceptance rates than whites of equal or lower income or social standing. According to this point of view, affirmative action should be eliminated and joined with the normal welfare system that helps both whites and blacks that are lower-class. They believe that affirmative action should only be used to bring the lower class, not a specific racial group, out of poverty. This view is particularly associated with the liberal academic and author Walter Benn Michaels. [21]


Why am I posting this? Well, with going back to school next week and hearing a discussion about affirmative action on The Ed Norris Show right now, this is a side to the debate that I do not hear people talk about!
When I first moved from Dayton, OH to Baltimore, MD in the mid-nineties, my parents had to fill out some paperwork to transfer me to the school system here. They did it all and I had nothing to do with it. I remember when they were done, they had a talk with me. They said an issue came up that hadn’t been talked about when we lived in Ohio. They didn’t know what to put down for me under the Race Category. Should they put down Asian, Caucasian, or Other? (There was no choice to put down more than one or specifically what you are if you’re multi-racial). The school counselor strongly urged them to put down Asian because this would stay on my records for years and this would supposedly help me greatly as far as getting into college. The counselor also told them to tell me I should always put down Asian on my applications to colleges in the future, so that I would have an easier time being accepted. I was slightly surprised at this because I had rarely (if ever) even heard about affirmative action until that day. I would have put down Asian regardless of all this, but now I was told this was my only choice. I just said that was fine and that was the end of it. It was done.
Fast forward a few years to my senior year of high school. I was in a class and we were having a heated debate about affirmative action. I was the first non-Caucasian person to raise my hand. When the teacher called on me to discuss this, there were these comments from classmates that went: “Of course, you like affirmative action. You benefit from it.” This was before I started talking. Then I told them something that surprised them. I said that I thought being Asian-American actually hurt my chances of getting into college more than if I were any other race. I told them the reasons I felt this way (the reasons that are stated above) and almost everyone told me I was crazy. At the time, I didn’t have the facts and figures to back up my claim. I hadn’t even heard anyone else state they thought this was true and I had certainly never read an article on this. My teacher, on the other hand, agreed with me fully! And this teacher almost never said what his opinion was on any topics. He usually stayed neutral. But he let the class know he thought I was right in this matter. He said he had known this for years. He said he knew college professors who had told him this was true. He knew Asian-American students in the past who should have been accepted to colleges but were rejected, while students of other races (including Caucasians) were accepted to those same schools and programs during the same time even though they were much less qualified.
Of course, I am not trying to re-enforce the stereotype that all Asians study hard and get good grades. Yes, I was always a good student who was on the Honor Roll/Dean’s List and took higher-level classes (Honors, Gifted/Talented, Advanced Placement, etc). But I have been told for years that for an Asian,  I’m not that studious. (Of course, that is an annoying statement). I don’t excel at math! I don’t stay at home every weekend to study – I have a social life. And this describes a lot of other Asian-Americans, not just me.
But the fact of the matter is, as a whole, we get high scores. I have heard jokes from friends that they hardly see Asians in Baltimore, but when they go into their college library, they see the most they’ve seen in their lives. (Meaning there is a much higher percentage of Asians in college than there are Asians in the general population).
I’m not saying we’re a smarter race. I’m just pointing out facts here. I think a big part of it has not only to do with the fact that standards in schools are higher in many other countries outside of North America, but also that a select population comes to this country from Asia. Think about it. It’s a lot harder for someone from Asia to move to this country than it would be for someone who lives in a neighboring country. Driving here is a lot easier and cheaper than flying here. The languages are a lot different from English than Spanish vs. English or Italian vs. English.  This makes it a lot harder to learn the language. (I know not all Asians are immigrants. There are some who have been here for years and are second, third, etc. generation. But you get my point). So you’re not going to get as many Asians coming to this country as you would of people from counties which are closer. You’re going to get those who really want to come here and work hard to do so. You’re going to be more likely to get the “top” people of their communities because they are the ones who have a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed.
Here’s my point. Asian-Americans are discriminated just as much, if not more, as other “minorities” do right now. We have been treated unfairly in this nation’s past. Sure, most public schools do not teach this. They talk about how African-Americans or Jewish people have had it hard, but they usually skip all the stuff that happened to Asians (and other groups). But just because they don’t teach it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen! If you don’t know, look it up. I’m not going to say that we had it as bad as slavery, but there were some major injustices. We were segregated. Most people I talk to aren’t even aware of the internment camps, which happened as recently as the 1940s! This wasn’t talked about in school. We celebrate Black History Month, but do any of you know when Asian Pacific American Heritage month is? Did you even know it existed at all? Because I didn’t until I was curious and looked it up on the internet about ten years ago. The ch word or the g word is spoken on television but the n word or the k word are almost always bleeped out. I could go on and on about discrimination of Asian-Americans (and I probably will in a future post), but the point is this: Affirmative Action was put into place to help “even out” the injustices of discrimination. But this hurts us and if you believe in affirmative action, I would think you would agree we have been discrimated against and therefore should benefit from this. Right? I am making sense here?
I believe if we are going to keep Affirmative Action, things need to change. Not only because of the Asian-American issues. But it seems like some of the wrong people are benefiting from affirmative action. I hear reports about how many privileged, African-American students from well-off families (who don’t  need as much assistance) will be able to use this to their advantage while poorer, under-privileged African-American students who are much more disadvantaged are turned away even though they are intelligent, hard-working, and well-achieving students. This has been said about other minority groups. So who are we really helping? We might be hurting people more than we are helping certain others.
We can have the debate whether or not affirmative action should exist at all. But that’s another discussion. If it is going to exist, it needs to adapt to the changes of society. Rules about other things change based on changes in the world and changes in time and affirmative action should also be adjusted accordingly. Just exactly how should we change things? That’s a complicated matter that doesn’t have a simple solution. All I do know for sure is that something does need to be improved.

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8 Comments to “An Asian-American perspective of Affirmative Action”

  1. I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. I think that the system needs to be reworked.
    I also think that a lot of people whine about shit too much rather than work. Or they pull the race card too often.
    But as for Asians doing well in school this is no surprise to me, a lot of the asian kids I knew when to study groups on saturdays. I mean their parents cared you know ? I also had one friend that went to math camp. Ok ? But this kid was smart anyway.
    So I don’t think that Asians are smarter, they as a group tend to value education more though.
    BTW can I link to this ?

  2. I agree. And yes, some people do pull the race card unnecessarily. Which is a bad thing. Because then when something happens that actually is racism, people don’t listen. It’s like the boy who cried wolf.
    Absolutely, you can link to it. Thanks for asking.

  3. Couldn’t Go To UCLA Because of this
    I had a 3.2 GPA w/ 1100 on the SAT (for Asian standards I’m an idiot), no I wasn’t one of those super Asian students, my dad was more of a liberal arts, follow what you love, arts kinda guy (total opposite of my momma), a Mexican girl with a 2.8 GPA got in!!!!! And she didn’t even break 1000!!!!!
    Living in Korea, it’s crazy, nowadays from 1st grade on, kids go to after school schools!!!! They call it “Hagwon”, it’s good but at the same time kids lose their childhood. Senior year in high school I call it “HELL YEAR” cuz they don’t pay attention in school because all their time is spent on preparing for the College Entrance Exam, once a year this will determine what college they go to thus their future!!!! There are annual suicides (a handful) because of this!!!

  4. Re: Couldn’t Go To UCLA Because of this
    That’s ridiculous. 3.2 and 1100 is still better than most students in the U.S. and it’s not like you were even applying to an Ivy League school. We shouldn’t be only judged against other Asian-Americans, we should be judged against the American population as a whole.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if it was even harder for you to get in since you applied to UCLA and there are more Asians and Asian-Americans living in that area than in most other parts of the country.
    Here is an idea. Maybe I should call up some reputable news organization (wait, does that exist?) and do an investigation with them. I should apply to schools as Asian and apply to those same schools as White. And see if it makes a difference in getting accepted.
    In high school, I had a 3.8+ weighted GPA and had an 1180 SAT. Not amazing, but compared to the general population, it’s considered honorable. Compared to only the Asian-American population, it’s crap.
    I’ve heard stories about how tough it is in Korea right now academically. I think it’s good to vaule education but there needs to be a balance. You don’t want children to lose their childhoods!

  5. Bad Rep
    This is why a lot of Korean students view other Koreans who go overseas (the US primarily) to study with a lot of disdain and disrespect. #1 they view it as a cop out because the academics are alot easier (I subscribe to this philosophy also) cuz alot of the folks send their kids overseas cuz their kids can’t cut it here #2. Because they experience freedom or more likely free time they never experienced before and this is why a lot of Asian students in the US (the ones without parental supervision) go crazy when they go overseas, I don’t blame them yet at the same time it’s a reflection of the parents that didn’t do their due diligence in the home training dept.
    I just wish there was one honest parent that would say my kid’s an idiot and I don’t want to look like an idiot amongst the other braggart mothers so I sent them away. I met one dude who was honest where he told me his dad knew he was a dumb f**k so he sent him to the US, I respected that dude ever since.

  6. Re: Bad Rep
    I can’t really say that I blame them. Because I don’t think that I could handle that, either.
    But I agree that they should at least be honest. However, I guess they are just afraid of what other people think.

  7. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm Had No Idea? MMMMMMMMMM Interesting!

  8. That’s what I’m here for.

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