Don’t make Asians the next target of discrimination

Don’t make Asians the next target of discrimination

Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has stated “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”  The United States has long been attempting to solve the problem of racial discrimination. This problem has permeated schools for many decades, minorities consistently performing below standards. Educators involved in college applications looked to solve this problem through a modification to the selection process called affirmative action. They preached that having lower standards of acceptance for minorities would encourage fairness and equal opportunity. This was effective during the mid-1900s, soon after the civil rights movement, when many minority groups were looked upon as lesser by those more successful. Diversity in United States academia increased, and most people were happy.

But later in the 20th century, the emergence of an exceptional ethnic group shocked America. This group of Asian-Americans baffled experts with their academic excellence. From 1990-2000 they were the fastest growing ethnic group, with a rate of 63.24 percent. Into the mid-2000s, 86 percent of Asians in the U.S. 25 years and older have at least a high school diploma, and 50 percent of Asian Americans have at least a bachelor’s degree. These statistics are outstanding compared to the 28 percent of the total U.S. population with a bachelor’s degree.

Despite these impressive statistics, there has been recent controversy on the subject of racial discrimination — not against those who fail to meet standards, but against those who fly above. Colleges have been accused of using unnecessary affirmative action measures, taking race too heavily into consideration during applications. Thomas J. Espenshade, a sociologist at Princeton showed in his research that Asian-Americans needed SAT scores that were about 140 points higher than white students, all other variables being equal, to get into elite schools.

Lawsuits have been brought by those feeling that affirmative action policies are no longer necessary and fair. In 2006, Jian Li, a Chinese-American student filed a complaint against Princeton. He claimed discrimination on the basis of race, due do the fact that he scored 2400 on the SAT and 2390 on subject tests in physics, chemistry and calculus, was denied admission by Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This complaint broadened into a compliance review in 2008 by the Education Department of whether Princeton discriminates against Asian-Americans.

Another investigation of top colleges was spurred by an Indian-American student in California who was near the top of his high school class but was rejected at both Harvard and Princeton. Daniel Golden, reporter during this case wrote: Like Jews in the first half of the 20th century, who faced quotas at Harvard, Princeton and other Ivy League schools, Asian Americans are over-represented at top universities relative to their population, yet must meet a higher standard than other applicants based on measures such as test scores and high school grades, according to several academic studies.” Many of these top schools have admitted problems with their admission procedures, but never admitted the specific wrongdoings.

The Supreme Court recently agreed to tackle a case titled Fisher v. University of Texas. Fisher is a white woman who was denied acceptance to the University of Texas at Austin. She knew that UT considers race during applications if the applicants are not within the top ten percent of their respective high schools. The Court has agreed to hear this case in February of 2013, but many of the justices have already given their opinions on the matter during the oral arguments. They stated that the principal of affirmative action was based on fairness, but does that notion still apply today? The lawyers for the University of Texas did not defend themselves by citing a need for more equality during applications, but instead a need for diversity on campus. Without diverse college classes, they argued students will learn less and society will lack for future leaders. The decision to emphasize diversity over fairness is one that affirmative-action advocates have long decided on, and it is a big reason they find themselves in such a vulnerable position today. Americans value diversity. But they value fairness more. Most people oppose a college rejecting an applicant who appears qualified for the sake of creating a group that demographically resembles the country. The demographic makeup of the country does not indicate that the same group of people should be represented in all facets of life if they are not as qualified as others are.

Even if the excellence of some Asian Americans gives some reason to discriminate against them using affirmative action, these policies do not take  into account many groups of southeast Asians and pacific islanders who arrive in America fraught with poverty and lacking sufficient language skills. These people groups are classified as Asians, but do not conform to the traditional view. They are the ones who need help from affirmative action, but get shafted because of their race.

The inappropriately termed affirmative action is no longer a method of giving opportunity to the underprivileged. It is neither needed nor helpful. It is now a yoke, holding back many of the nation’s elite and holding back the success of the nation itself. We are holding back the future of leaders. This yoke is also selective, allowing only certain races to escape its hold. I speak for students who span multiple grades and ethnicities, adults looking for a job in today’s economy, and most importantly for my fellow Jefferson students. Asians are not machines built overseas and programmed to take tests. We are all the same under the impervious umbrella of humanity, under the law of the United States of America, and in the eyes of each other. And the same equality should be applied to education

In a few years, my peers and I will be applying to colleges. Many of these colleges have previously come under fire for racial discrimination during applications. Thankfully, many of the states have realized the prevalence of this issue, with three blue states, California, Washington and Michigan banning race based preferences in previous years. Going back to a true meritocratic selection process would allow the best students into the best colleges for them. I hope our nation can demonstrate its dedication to fairness in this controversial issue to set a precedent of equality and show the world we do what we say.