The Bigger Picture

Blaming Affirmative Action for college rejections epitomizes anti-blackness

Amy Qiao, Layout Editor

In conversations concerning college acceptances, remarks like “he only got in because he’s Black” or “she only needed a 1300 on the SAT to look competitive” are often thrown about carelessly. However, the students (often Asian or white) making these claims fail to recognize the gravity and ignorance of their sentiments. It is time to address how these widely used lies, recently fueled by a lawsuit against Harvard’s Affirmative Action policies, perpetuate harmful anti-blackness in our communities.

Affirmative Action programs were built on notions to diversify campuses, eliminate stereotypes and, most importantly, provide equal opportunities to historically oppressed minorities, and they do just that. According to Janelle Wong, the director of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland, Asian American success post-college is attributed to their admissions in higher education through these exact policies; they fail to recognize that they are direct beneficiaries of Affirmative Action. 

Moreover, in 2016, researchers found that omitting African Americans and Latino applicants from admissions processes only increases an Asian American’s chances of admission by 1%. This would make it unlikely that a rejected Asian American student would be admitted even if Affirmative Action wasn’t ruling.

Scholars state that Asians were able to gain success in America after whites started treating them as equals. Nathaniel Hilger, an economist from Brown University, found that Asian Americans were able to close the wage gap with their white counterparts simply because they were treated better. Brown correlates the increase in Asian income with the disappearance of discriminatory institutions from World War II and the alleviation of racial prejudices. Today, there is no doubt that Asians and Blacks alike still suffer from racist violent attacks and slurs. However, racism against Blacks is still ingrained in our very own foundational systems (prison-industrial complex, police brutality, etc.) and has not been lessened like discriminatory programs against Asians have. Not to mention, Blacks are still recovering from the impacts of decades of slavery and segregation.

“We, [Asians], need to stand in a higher moral ground and make some sacrifices,” said Li Wei, Rollins College’s Coordinator of Asian Studies. “The system isn’t perfect, but we must work with the people, and understand [America’s] history. This country owes a great deal to Black Americans.”

When a Black student is admitted into a school, they are often ridiculed instead of celebrated. Not only does this invalidate their high school merits, but it pits them against their Asian peers when they should be working in solidarity.

For decades, the “Model Minority” notion has been disguised as a compliment for Asian Americans, praising them for their success that was seemingly achieved with diligent hard work and strong family values. However, it is all a myth. The commonly generalized “rags to riches” narrative is not applicable for every Asian American, and it is dangerous to assume every person’s experiences are the same. By stereotyping all Asians in this way, it fiercely categorizes Blacks as “lazy” in contrast to Asians and assumes all Asians are successful, which is far from true. In fact, 12.3% of Asian Americans, consisting mostly of Southern Asians, live below the poverty line. Conservatives often use Asians as their mascot to dismantle Affirmative Action, an

action that would significantly benefit whites. UC Berkeley Professor Ling-Chi Wang states that “at no time has anyone in the Asian American community linked concerns to the legitimate affirmative action program for the historically discriminated minorities.” Asian Americans must stop believing that Affirmative Action policies that help other minorities discriminate against them. White conservatives continuously attempt to divide Asians and Blacks from each other just so they can prevail, and it must be stopped.

When Asian American and white students aren’t admitted into their school of choice, they often direct their anger toward their peers who were offered admission, blaming Affirmative Action to be the sole cause of their rejection. However, they fail to point their fingers to the substantial number of students who receive admission solely based on their familial connections: legacies.

The legacy admission system is an inequitable cycle that continuously rewards affluent (often white) families that are not in need of an advantage in social climbing, let alone deserve it. Legacies take up an overwhelming amount of the student body makeup. In fact, NPR reported that in 2018 over 14% of Harvard’s undergraduate school consisted of legacies.

In a 2011 project studying 30 of America’s most selective schools, a Harvard researcher found that legacy applicants had a 23% higher chance of admission than a regular applicant.

Moreover, a “primary legacy” applicant (a student with a parent who was an undergraduate) had a 45% higher chance of admission.

“It’s a terrible system because most students are not qualified to get in,” senior Julee Sharma said. “Also, immigrants don’t have that luxury of having someone go to college before them.” This system reinforces the idea that a child needs well off parents to flourish later in life.

However, true ambition, merit and embracement of diversity should trump any nepotistic standard held by college admission processes. Upholders for legacy admissions claim that they fund colleges and programs for financial aid. However, researchers found in 2010 that there is no significant evidence that suggests legacy preferences impact alumni funding. If we want to build a future where Blacks can close their poverty gap, we must give them the means to do so—means that Asians have been given. Race conscious policies are crucial to end systemic racism and support underrepresented minorities. We should focus on derailing the inequitable legacy admissions process, not Affirmative Action.