You might not have known it, but discriminating against Asians is an absolutely necessary aspect of the fight against discrimination in this country. That’s the takeaway from some arguments coming out of higher education this week. At Harvard, one student writer, dismissing the concerns of Asian students who are being discriminated against by racially selective admissions policies, implored her fellow Asians to “back off of affirmative action.” Stating that Asian-Americans “have a responsibility to ourselves and other communities of color” to submit to anti-Asian affirmative action, the writer claims that discarding the practice would usher in “an era of near-segregation as prestige becomes an excuse for racism.”
Activists at Yale were preaching the same thing recently; one Asian advocacy group on campus rejected the perceived tactic of being used as “model minorities” in order to “disparage and diminish the opportunities of other people of color.” Another openly disdained the idea of being a “meritocracy,” the horror. At a Boston protest this week, meanwhile, students waved signs reading: “Asians Will Not Be Tools For Your White Supremacy.” Well, okay then.
The argument here is deceptively simple: Pro-affirmative action activists believe that, if Asians challenge racially discriminatory hiring policies, and if those policies are successfully dismantled either by statute or by court, then the result will be devastating to other minorities, particularly black Americans. As the writer at Harvard put it: “[W]hile 81 percent of Asian-American students had access to college-preparatory math and science courses, only 57 percent of black students enjoyed the same privileges…If college admissions were based on merit alone, black students would have a disproportionately mammoth task ahead of them: not only ensuring that they meet Harvard’s standards, but overcoming unfair resource distribution to do so.”
There are several things wrong with this approach. For starters, it’s somewhat absurd to demand that students who are woefully underprepared for college material should be admitted to college anyway. This is a recipe for academic disaster; we shouldn’t be throwing young men and women into a university environment when they’ve been denied important preparatory materials. (Activists might make the argument that this lack of preparatory materials has no ultimate affect on a student’s ability to handle college material; if that’s true, then a “merit alone” system should suffice perfectly.)
More importantly, it ignores the root of the problem in favor of the highest branch. If some minority students are being shortchanged prior to college, then the solution is to reform our primary and secondary school systems so that everyone gets a better education. Discriminating against any minority group in order to rectify the errors of our public education system is not a defensible solution. Admitting students based on merit is a perfectly fine way of doing things; it shouldn’t be abolished because of the failures of American lower education, and Asian students shouldn’t have to suffer simply because of the color of their skin, silly and hollow liberal arguments notwithstanding.