Were Asian Americans Manipulated and Used As Pawns To Overturn Affirmative Action?

Civil Rights Policy Brief #209 | By: Rodney A. Maggay | July 20, 2023
Background photo taken from: prospect.org

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On June 29, 2023 the United States Supreme Court decided the case Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard College. That case held that affirmative action policies used in college admissions programs violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The crux of the argument being made by the Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA) group was that the affirmative action policies discriminated against minority Asian – American students when race was being used as a factor for admission. They argue that this discrimination results in many qualified Asian – American students being rejected from Harvard solely because of their race. Their reasoning starts with the premise that many Asian – Americans are qualified and get accepted in great numbers. They then assert that colleges who have already accepted a large number of Asian – American students conclude that there are already “enough” Asian – American students. So,  those Asian – American students who did not get accepted must score significantly better to overtake a white student for a spot in the enrolling class. As a result, their convoluted and weak argument states that these Asian – American students are being harmed because the use of race for other minorities has diminished their chances to earn a spot at the college.

In the aftermath of the decision, this case was touted as a win for Asian – Americans and the discrimination they faced in college admissions. However, a significant number of Asian – American groups and individuals rejected the Supreme Court decision and are now discussing the strong possibility that genuine Asian – American interests was not the real goal. The true purpose was instead to use, manipulate and use as pawns Asian – Americans in order to have affirmative action declared unconstitutional.

 

Analysis

 

Many, many people from all walks of American life weighed in on the Students For Admissions case and commented on the merits of the case – the legal history of racial inequity in this country, the legal analysis of Chief Justice Roberts and the opposing views of the dissent. However, one thing that may have been overlooked is how the case arrived at the Supreme Court and the one nagging question that the Asian – American community is now grappling with – were they used and manipulated to bring about a result that the Asian – American community may not have wanted at this time?

The Asian – American non – profit group Asian – American Advocacy Fund did not mince words and directly addressed the issue by calling the decision “an example of ‘Asian – Americans’ being used as a “wedge” to erode civil rights.” The group went further and called the efforts by this group as a shield for a “white supremacist” agenda that used “a small number of Asian – Americans against affirmative action as pawns” in order “to divide our communities.” Even noted Hollywood and Star Trek actor George Takei commented on Twitter by calling those Asians who supported overturning affirmative action as having “Asian Sucker Syndrome (ASS).”

So, are the claims that the Asian – American community was used and manipulated by Ed Blum and his Students For Fair Admissions group valid? The signs certainly seem to point in that direction. Mr. Blum and SFFA had previously brought a case to the Supreme Court to overturn affirmative action with a white plaintiff claiming affirmative action had cost her a spot at the University of Texas but he lost the case. That prompted Ed Blum to find a more sympathetic plaintiff who could more plausibly claim discrimination and that is when he focused on finding an Asian plaintiff. However, when word got out that he wanted an Asian plaintiff to bring another case, he found that not many Asian groups supported his efforts. In fact, just a few years previously, more than 150 Asian – American groups signed an open letter supporting affirmative action policies. And it is also notable, that once Mr. Blum’s group started litigating their cases against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, no Asian – American students came forward to testify as having experienced discrimination in the college admissions process. And, in a National Public Radio (NPR) podcast, it was revealed that the data relied on by Mr. Blum to claim anti – Asian discrimination in Harvard’s admissions data was unsupported and that there was an overall feeling from Asian – American leaders that they felt used by Mr. Blum’s efforts. This was not a genuine effort to help Asian – Americans or to advocate for their interests as a community. Even the press release released by Mr. Blum when the decision was handed down failed to mention Asian – Americans anywhere in the text. Instead it is looking more and more likely that SFFA and Mr. Blum manipulated the small number of Asian – Americans who were opposed to affirmative action and twisted their narrative of discrimination in the U.S. to reach for another result – the end of constitutional protection for affirmative action policies, which he got. There are a number of reasons to be angry at the Students For Fair Admissions decision but for Asian – Americans the anger and disappointment is for something else – at being used to dismantle affirmative action policies that most Asian – Americans support. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE


Engagement Resources

  • National Public Radio (NPR) – report on history of Ed Blum’s anti – affirmative action efforts and why Asian – Americans felt used and manipulated by his efforts.
  • Asian American Advocacy Fund – statement from non – profit group condemning Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard College decision.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact rodwood@email.com.

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