Nearly 20 years after the Supreme Court decided Grutter v. Bollinger, which narrowed the use of race as a mere factor to be considered in college decisions, students are once again front and center in the fight to protect affirmative action.
Now, the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions hopes the Supreme Court will undo over 40 years of precedent in two consolidated cases, Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College.
Michaele N. Turnage Young, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, previously told NewsOne that affirmative remains an important tool in ensuring diversity in society. There remain educational benefits to diversity.
“Affirmative action is really just the very limited consideration of race as one of the hundreds of factors that universities consider when deciding who to admit,” she explained. “The legal argument that we’ve made on behalf of our clients —25 Harvard student and alumni organizations— is that if colleges are to pursue the educational benefits of diversity, they need to be in a position to have the freedom to assemble a class that is diverse along many lines, including racial diversity.”
Student leaders with Harvard’s Affirmative Action Coalition shared statements with NewsOne, ahead of oral arguments in the two cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions. Some see the lawsuits as thinly veiled attempts to drive a wedge between Black and Asian students.
Muskaan Arshad, co-student lead for the Affirmative Action Coalition, coordinator for TAPAS, intern for CDH
My experiences with diversity changed throughout my time at Harvard. Initially, I lived in Arkansas, and I never had any positive experiences with my identity outside of the white, homogenous population that I lived in at the time. When I came to Harvard, I realized that diversity was a good thing, and I didn’t have to hide my Asian American identity.
It wasn’t something to be embarrassed of. I found amazing friends from different backgrounds, races, and religious traditions to learn with, learn together, and learn from. We all know the tangible benefits of diversity. I, as an Asian American, refuse to be used as a ploy for white supremacy.
No racial or ethnic groups have a monopoly on talent or intelligence, but some students have a monopoly on opportunity, and affirmative action or race-conscious policy accounts for that discrepancy. This isn’t just Harvard, it is universities around the country. This can have an incalculable impact, so we have to fight. We have to fight against white supremacy and fight for solidarity, for now and forever.
Kylan Tatum, co-Lead of the Affirmative Action Coalition + Co-Educational/Political Chair of the Harvard Radcliffe Asian American Association
There are many reasons why upholding affirmative action precedent is important and essential to me, but the two that stick out most are the necessity of diversity and cross-racial solidarity. SFFA has attempted to portray Asian Americans as a monolithic group universally disadvantaged by affirmative action. This notion simply isn’t true.
Certain subgroups that fall under the umbrella term of Asian American, such as low-income or multiracial groups, are severely underrepresented in institutions of higher education. There is also no evidence of a significant scoring difference in the personal category (which is often incorrectly perceived as a personality score) between white and Asian American applicants to Harvard.
SFFA advances an essentialized picture of Asian American experience that erases a significant portion of the people that they (incorrectly) claim to represent. In fact, a significant majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action. The disinformation surrounding this case is almost certainly intentional and exacerbates historical and present efforts to maintain interracial tensions between minority groups, often at the expense of both groups.
As someone who is both Black and Asian, I’ve often been witness to this cultivated division. The idea of universalizing and weaponizing Asian American socioeconomic and educational success against other “problem minorities,” or the model minority myth, obscures the social, political, and historical struggles of Asian Americans while seeking to explain the social position of other minority groups through frameworks of laziness or inherent inferiority instead of as a product of institutionalized barriers to success.
The ability to achieve grades, test scores, honors, or extracurriculars that make for a “competitive” application in today’s admissions process is deeply inequitable across both racial and socioeconomic lines. Preventing universities from considering race as one of many factors in the admissions process continues to paint subjective criteria like grades and test scores as objective indicia of merit while explaining the resulting underrepresentation of minority populations as an ability gap and not an opportunity one.
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Asian American Students Sound Off On Protecting Affirmative Action Ahead Of SCOTUS Oral Arguments was originally published on newsone.com