AA on AA

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Affirmative action is often misunderstood, especially on college campuses.

Stepping back to look at the history behind affirmative action…. the policy, crafted in the 1960’s, was meant to decrease discrimination and inequality in educational institutions and job applications. Initially, it was created under President Kennedy in an attempt to address the discrimination that Blacks still faced in society.

The process is still evident in college admissions processes and in the job market today.

So why, when the policy became more and more prevalent, did the universities’ populations become 10-15% Asian Americans while the same ethnic group constituted only 3% of the general American population? With such a huge amount of their offspring being educated at higher learning institutions, Asian Americans should be thrilled? Right??????? Wrong. The ethnic group often referred to as the “model minority” due to their academic success and social behavior quickly became split on the effects of the policy. In fact, there is a huge disconnect between Asian Americans’ stance on affirmative action.

It was all fun and games until the institutions realized the growing amount of Asian students began to heavily outweigh other minorities. Overly qualified Asian applicants began to be denied from institutions solely because they were Asian and the institutions wanted to leave room for underrepresented minorities. **Cue the problems**

The denied Asian American students jumped on the anti-affirmative action movement with the white students that saw their rejection as a result of their race as well. This division of the ethnic group, along with the whites, began to see themselves as victims of affirmative action. The whites’ use of Asian Americans in their anti-affirmative actions advertisement and marches pitted the Asian American ethnic group against other minority groups such as the blacks and Hispanics. If the deeper-rooted issues in the Asian American ethnic group are addressed, “it represents greater political opportunity to affiliate with the other groups whose cohesions may be based on other valences of oppression” (Lowe). Rather than choosing sides, the inequalities in each group should be acknowledged and addressed in order to relate to the struggles of other minority ethnic groups, such as blacks and Hispanics. Through their eyes, affirmative action only benefitted blacks and Hispanics and hurt qualified Asian Americans.

In reality, the Asian American ethnic group was being homogenized. Lowe exerts that, “we (Asian Americans) are perhaps even more different, more diverse, among ourselves” (Lowe). “Asian Americans” encompass individuals from different generations, cultures, nationalities, tongues, and histories. Giving all of these individuals one box that puts them in one category homogenizes the group and oversimplifies their widespread backgrounds. While Chinese Americans suffered from affirmative actions, Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asian segments of the “Asian box” on applications was severely underrepresented. These students came from rougher, underprivileged backgrounds and didn’t have the same opportunities as other Asian American groups.

So what is the answer? Should there be more than one “Asian” box on applications to ensure the acknowledgment of every subaltern group in the Asian American ethnic group? Is affirmative action an effective way to bring a diverse student body? How much is too much of one ethnic group?

In all honesty, the overarching question is this: why is it expected for all Asian Americans to have the same opinion on affirmative action? More often than not, Asian Americans come from many different backgrounds, countries, and families. Their heritage, tradition, language, and age can alter their view, so to think that they would all have the same perspective is preposterous and only proves Lowe’s point homogenizing the American Asian ethnic group is a misrepresentation of the group as a whole, which is comprised of many unique and different individuals

 

 

Work Cited

Lowe, Lisa. “Heterogeneity, Hybridity, Multiplicity: Marking Asian American Differences.” N.p., n.d. Web.

“What Exactly Is Affirmative Action?” Affirmative Action : Asian-Nation. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <http://www.asian-nation.org/affirmative-action.shtml&gt;.

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3 Comments

  1. Claudia, this was really great to read:

    Assuming the question is rhetorical, you are absolutely right: “why is it expected for all Asian Americans to have the same opinion on affirmative action?”. They should not all have the same opinion, after all. They come from a variety of countries and different levels of privilege that (should) either boost or inhibit their academic prospects.

    As you have expressed, Affirmative Action is, indeed, not the most effective way to bring about a diverse student body. It has its flaws, which you have explored through Asian-American students’ experiences: it can be dangerously exclusive in its attempts to be inclusive, ironically.

    To speak from my own experience: I was told to NEVER tick the Asian box on SATs and the Common App, because my teachers told me it would lump me into a group that was far too competitive and numerous. I wish there was a Middle Eastern box. That would put me in the proper group, and it is a case of more labelling that should come to fruition (this can tie into Patrizio’s blog post). It irked me having to tick either the ‘white’ or ‘other’ box, when I wanted to be neither.

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  2. Good post, Claudia. I myself have experienced these differing opinions on affirmative action, especially coming from an Asian family. The idea of affirmative action is not without its merits, but many have the opinon that it reduces many minority groups to simply bodies used to fill quotas, while, as you said, excluding those of racial or ethnic groups with more qualifications if the institution to which they are applying percieves an overrepresentation of these applicants. While it is indeed admirable that this initiative was taken so that more minority students could be enrolled in institutions of higher learning, there has arrived a point at which the original system has begun to fail; it worked very well for Asians when they were still underrepresented, but once the Asian population on campus began to tip past that point, it, as you have pointed out, actually begun to work against them. Like Fares, I was also instructed not to check the “Asian-American/Pacific Islander” box. I imagine for white students this problem also exists, as the system even from the beginning seems to leave qualified majority students as less of a necessity in favor of campus diversification. So ultimately, there is a need for universities to recognize the importance of diversity, while at the same time not putting those who have earned the right academically to attend at a disadvantage because of the color of their skin or from where their parents came.

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  3. Claudia, what your post reminds me of is the detrimental effect of the “model minority” myth. I remember, back when the whole Ferguson things was happening last year, that there was a lot of dialogue about the role Asian Americans should play in support, apathy, or opposition. I myself learned a lot about the actual construction of the model minority myth–it didn’t arise out of nowhere, but was actively fostered in order to enforce certain kinds of racial hierarchies in the US. Here’s a good link for those who want to know more: http://time.com/3606900/ferguson-asian-americans/

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