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
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>.