Guest Bloggers

Why We Should Fight Hard to Uphold Affirmative Action

Michigan Affirmative Action

The Supreme Court of the U.S. delivered a temporary death knell to racial equality in the state of Michigan today by upholding Michigan’s ban on affirmative action policies. In doing so, the Court clarified that the Constitution merely permits, but does not require, the use of the kind of race-conscious programs barred by the Michigan Constitution, and that individual states can choose to ban affirmative action programs. The decision comes on the heels of efforts by the California legislature to revive affirmative action.

I support affirmative action. Contrary to mainstream media claims, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are not the main proponents of ending affirmative action. As a Pacific Islander who has probably benefited from race-conscious policies, I have written at length about the need for affirmative action, as well as why it is constitutional. Here, I outline some reasons for why AAPI groups and individuals should not just support, but fight to restore affirmative action in Michigan, California and across the nation.

1. Allegations that the repeal of Proposition 209 would hurt Asian Americans are false. Affirmative action programs have helped countless numbers of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. As a historically marginalized group that has suffered both de jure and de facto discrimination, many Asian-American and Pacific Islanders have benefited from race-conscious polices in admissions and in the employment context since the 1960s. Additionally, race conscious policies continue to favor Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in fields where they are historically underrepresented, such as government contracting, corporate businesses, law firms, or leadership positions in government.

2. Omitting race-conscious policies would not help to break the bamboo-ceiling. Despite the mainstream notion that banning affirmative action helps Asian Americans, there is no empirical evidence to suggest that race-blind policies led to increased enrollment of Asian Americans in California. On the contrary, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been hurt by the repeal of affirmative action, as projected Asian-American enrollment rates have fallen as a result of Proposition 209 in California.

3. Going beyond the model-minority myth, many Asian-American and Pacific Islander groups are actually not living the purported American dream. Pacific Islander and Filipino students are twice as likely as their counterparts to drop out of high school. More than 50 percent of Pacific Islanders never made it to college. Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese students have twice the average high school drop out rates. Affirmative action programs help to redress these inequities rather than hide it behind the cloak of “model minority.”

4. Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders do not lead single issue lives. Many Asian-American women and LGBT Asian-Americans directly benefit from affirmative action. Moreover, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, and Southeast Asians who also fall into the broad brush of “AAPI” also stand to benefit from most affirmative action programs due to their small numbers and history of marginalization.

5. No Asian American applicant is automatically disadvantaged by affirmative action in general. Rather, affirmative action broadens the qualified applicant pool by acknowledging that minority candidates who succeed despite centuries of systemic discrimination are just as qualified, and often more qualified, to be in the room. Think of it as a game of tug of war–Isn’t the person who has had to tug against 10 people as opposed to a lower number, considerably stronger as a candidate? Besides, we all benefit from a diverse student body.

6. Opposing race-conscious policies entrenches white supremacy. White women are the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action and white men are the primary beneficiaries of legacy admits but neither face heightened legal scrutiny nor political backlash. Rather, the latest fight against affirmative action policies frames the policy as an attack on Asian-Americans as a clever tactic to avoid what is really going on: opposing race-conscious policies to continue upholding and entrenching white supremacy. By pitting various racial minority groups against each other, white supremacy continues to win.

7. Real educational equity at universities will not come by opposing affirmative action. If there aren’t enough seats in the room to accommodate everyone who deserves an education, why not bring in another chair or add another school? Affirmative action is a remedial program, but it will never lead to the kind of systemic change that we need to create a more just and equitable society. That just means we need to make remedial policies better, not get rid of them.

8. Affirmative action is necessary to level the playing field. The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium reports that  white men make up 48 percent of the college-educated workforce, but hold more than 80 percent of the top jobs in U.S. corporations, law firms, college faculty, government, and news media


Avatar photo

By Prerna Lal

Prerna Lal is undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic. As a founder of DreamActivist, Prerna helped to create a robust network of highly-organized and diverse undocumented youth with digital engagement capacity. Since then, her model of organizing has been used by immigration organizations across the country to end deportations. Her work and commentary for immigrant rights has been featured in newspapers such as The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and magazines such as the US News and World Report, as well as international outlets in a dozen countries.

Prerna currently resides in Washington D.C. with her same-sex U.S. citizen partner, and has been a Board Director at Immigration Equality, an organization that works on issues around LGBT immigrants, since 2010. She is currently working on publishing her first book.

8 replies on “Why We Should Fight Hard to Uphold Affirmative Action”

This nation was founded on racial subgation and persecution! The fight against affirmative action is to restore the “balance” that white people were confortable with before the Civil Rights movement. What other minorities don’t realize is that when a policy that benefits their group is attacked, those policy makers go after the oldest and most socially accepted scapegoat: African Americans.

Apart of me hates this country: universities will readily admit black college athletes with a less than 2.0 grade average, work them 40-60 hours a week with no academic support, and make millions off their labor. However, they will readily away a black scholar who is more academically qualified, yet falls slightly under the admittance requirements. The message that these colleges are sending black students is this, “We don’t value your mind, but your labor. Your purpose in life is to entertain us so do not go past your social role.” Do these athletes realize that they are debasing themselves like this? Why go to a school that doesn’t want diversity to begin with? If there aren’t any other minority students outside of an athletic program, it means that school doesn’t respect that student as a human being!

I believe it would be better if minority students expand their college aspirations beyond the Ivy League schools and go to another school or an HBCU. If college is so great at U of M, the school wouldn’t have admitted that its African American students experience daily episodes of micro aggression.

I think the only way to fight back against this is for every community to encourage its members to get politically involved. Minority organizations need to start networking and develop a program that will encourage high school and college graduates to attend colleges that value them. Discourage athletes from attending any of the Big 10 schools–it is free labor and no education!

I’m am absolutely astounded by the idiocy of this article. I’m going to tackle your points one by one.

1. “Affirmative action programs have helped countless numbers of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.” FALSE. No such evidence exist. In fact, countless academic research supports that Asian Americans are disadvantaged by Affirmative Action. In his book, “Mismatch” by Prof. Richard Sander cites his own as well as several other academic research demonstrating that Asian Americans are disadvantaged by Affirmative Action.

2. “Omitting race-conscious policies would not help to break the bamboo-ceiling.” You have a point there. However, maintaining the current race-based affirmative action in university admissions isn’t helping Asians break the bamboo-ceiling either.

3. “Going beyond the model-minority myth, many Asian-American and Pacific Islander groups are actually not living the purported American dream.” This is precisely the reason why we must ban affirmative action. Because institutions lump Asian & Pacific Islanders into one category, many not only do not benefit from affirmative action but are disadvantaged instead.

4. “Moreover, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, and Southeast Asians who also fall into the broad brush of “AAPI” also stand to benefit from most affirmative action programs.” FALSE. No such evidence exists that supports this claim. Instead, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.

5. “No Asian American applicant is automatically disadvantaged by affirmative action in general.” Perhaps. Every individual applicant is unique so we can never know how much their race will impact their admissions; however, statistics from numerous academic papers shows, discrimination against Asians exist.

6. “Opposing race-conscious policies entrenches white supremacy.” This is the most outrageous point among your list. Opposing race-conscious policies actually may potentially lead to “Asian” supremacy, which is equally disgusting in my opinion. Nevertheless, white supremacy is not going to increase due to ban on affirmative action.

7. “Real educational equity at universities will not come by opposing affirmative action.” Fair enough. But, is equity always the end of everything? How about meritocracy, which America is moving away from at a time when we face extremely stiff competition from abroad?

8. “Affirmative action is necessary to level the playing field.” Sure. Most Americans, black, white, and Asian are not opposed to leveling the playing field for those in disadvantaged circumstances. Affirmative action via socio-economic background is a far more equatable and fair means of leveling the playing field than via race.

There is a room for “Leveling the playing field” in university admissions in this country, but not through race favoritism. You cannot possibly believe that the daughters of Barack Obama are in a significant disadvantaged circumstance than an Asian kid from poor Chinese immigrant family. Well, that’s what the supporters of the current affirmative action policy believe. Moreover, on moral grounds, it dehumanizes individuals, categorizes them, and uses individuals as a policy tool.


Show some stats to back up you assumptions. Your opinions aren’t necessarily facts.
“1. “Affirmative action programs have helped countless numbers of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.” FALSE. No such evidence exist. In fact, countless academic research supports that Asian Americans are disadvantaged by Affirmative Action. ”

Really? Where’s your proof to back that up? You provided virtually no statistics,links to evidence to show whether this is true or not. And,FYI, white people have always had their own affirmative action to get into colleges—it’s called “legacy clauses”, in which the children of major financial donors at a college get a shortcut to get in over everybody else. And let’s get real—meritocracy is a joke sometimes—-you know students with rich families get in a little easier than poor students. Plus, white folks have always had AA in practically everything since they’re in the majority and until recently, pretty much ran everything.

Here’s some articles with actual stats and facts concerning Asian-Americans and AA, and the pros and cons on how it affects them:

Sure. The writer of this article made the claim that Asians are benefiting from affirmative action without providing any statistical evidence to back up his claim. I believe the onus is on the person making the claim to prove it with evidence. Nonetheless, I also made the claim that affirmative action is not just neutral, but harmful to Asians, so I’ll back it up here.

Understand that some of the stats will not be available on the web. Not everything that we discussed, especially as nuanced as this topic, will be on the web. You’re going to need to read academic journals and books.

Nevertheless, here’s one online. NYTimes piece about Asians and the Ivy League.

You can google for Asians and Affirmative action and find tons, but like I said, the best stats are in journals and books.

Also, I think you might have missed the part where I introduced a book called “Mismatch” by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor. It’s arguable the best book I’ve read about affirmative action so far. I highly recommend it if you are passionate about this topic, either end of the debate.

In it you’ll find stats demonstrating that Asians must score over 300 points in SAT above blacks to get the same admission rate. Mind you, we’re not talking about just Chinese and Koreans, we’re talking about ALL Asians including Southeast Asians – the supposedly underachievers. Think about how that’s hurting the Southeast Asians admissions.

Here’s an academic paper that is supposedly written by supporter of affirmative action.

The two researchers claim that Asians students will fill nearly 4 out of every 5 seats that are currently being taken by affirmative action if it were to be eliminated. So in effect, 80% of the burden of affirmative action is being taken up by Asians, not whites. Even though affirmative action was originally designed to offset the societal/cultural advantages enjoyed by the wealthy whites, in fact, it is now being used as a tool to pit two races against each other. This is why affirmative action must end.

Legacy and donor issue isn’t a particularly touchy issue because it only represents a tiny fraction of university admissions. Moreover, it is fundamentally not about race. Obama’s daughters, despite being black, will go to Harvard as legacies. Whether legacies and donors’ children should automatically receive admission is another topic that’s worth debating about, but it has nothing to do with racial preferences that is the problem of affirmative action.

BTW, speaking of white students, every time we have discussions about affirmative action, people speak of them like all of them are sons and daughters of politicians and fortune 500 executives. How many white friends do you have that fit this stereotype? I sure don’t have any white friends like this. I wish I did. Most of my white friends are from ordinary middle-class family like mine. I’m currently at Harvard, and I can tell you every one of my white friends here earned their seat, none of them are legacies.

Finally, why is it so important that we combat inequality in education through race ? Why can’t it be done through socio-economic class? Can anybody who support current affirmative action policy please answer that? This is not sarcasm or an attack, it is a genuine question, and I have yet to hear a good answer. Why not socio-economic background?

Legacy and donor are actually 70% of ivey league admissions (40 and 30% respectively.) Legacies are de facto whites as less than 10% of legacies at the ivey leagues are non-whites due to white only policies. How would you know, your friends may lie to you about their real origins in the school. In fact their are articles saying just that legacies who lie aqbout their legacy so their acheivement isn’t questioned.

Was discrimination that said only whites can attend schools or get jobs based on race or socio-economic status? Is a rich black person immune from discrimination or is it worse when his white neighbours call the cops on him for entering his own house?

You did conveniently leave out that Asians must score hundreds of points higher than whites to enter.

If Asians are taking the brunt of Affirmative Action likelihood would be due to entrenched white supremacy as the author describes. Affirmative action designed to replace underqualified whites with more qualified minorities could have had the unintended consequence of replacing Asians. How and why? Well it is possible, but not certainty, but possible that whites simply took the asian spot through white supremacy and blamed it on the minority. Ie. School admits 100 students pre aa

80 whites (but only 30% are actually qualified as the other 70% are legacies and donors, kids of the rich and famous, children of white staff and so on)
5 African american
5 latino american
10 asian american

In a merit blind system you’d really have
24 whites
and the rest is kind of a blank, we don’t really know what the people near the borderline would look like and the border would likely drop as such a huge percent of the class is not even merit based.

Affirmative action comes in, white legacies and donor children who make up 70% of the admits in ivey league school decide we ain’t losing our spot, so what happens?

76 whites
8 african americans
8 latinos
8 asian americans

Asian Americans are then lead to believe that affirmative action reduced their numbers. But the question is, did it? The answer is no, the majority of unqualified people are the 52 whites who are not even qualified to be there, not the 3 blacks and latinos. It is the george bush and jfks with ds and b’s making it into harvard and yale who are stealing spots from asians. Not some black guy with an a average and a border line167 lsat. If the legacy and white affirmative action was eliminated, that would be the real opportunity for asians not affirmative action. Asians would be far better served eliminating white affirmative action like legacy and donor benefits.

Why can’t we just get along and go after the real enemy here? Write your senators, call your representatives, and organize a protest on Capitol Hill. As soon as the government recognizes its citizens based on country of origin(s), and consequently affirmative action, this entire shitstorm between underrepresented Asian workers and overrepresented Asian professionals will be resolved… only to come up with more problems to complain about.

The color of our skin shouldn’t matter. Stopping affirmative action is getting us in step closer to that.

Disillusioned people will say what ever the hell they want to discredit affirmative action but for the rest of us…we all know the truth ;thats its still needed.

Comments are closed.